Fredd Wayne, TV’s Benjamin Franklin, Dies At 93

CBS/Public DomainWikimedia Commons

One of television’s most beloved classic TV character actors has passed away. Fredd Wayne, the veteran actor who regularly played Benjamin Franklin on stage and on TV, has died at age 93. Wayne died Monday at an assisted living facility in Santa Monica, California, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Wayne made a career out of portraying Benjamin Franklin, both in his one-man stage shown Benjamin Franklin, Citizen, and on numerous television appearances. His 1964 stage show took him across the U.S. and Europe and included his talent of playing the glass armonica, Franklin’s instrumental invention made up of water-glass chimes.

In 1964, Wayne, then 39-years-old, appeared on The Today Show where he was transformed by makeup artist Bob O’Bradovich into a 49-year-old Ben Franklin on-air before performing a segment from his stage show. He later appeared as a 70-year old Franklin on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and performed a seven-minute excerpt from his play, according to the New York Times.

Classic TV fans will remember Wayne’s most famous stint as the Benjamin Franklin, in a two-part episode of ABC’s Bewitched that first aired in December, 1966, the first year the long-running ABC sitcom was shot in color. Wayne played the Founding Father in the two-parter, “My Friend Ben” and “Samantha for the Defense.” The episode featured Samantha’s (Elizabeth Montgomery) confused Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne) conjuring up an electrician to fix a lamp and getting electricity theory phenom Franklin instead. The two-parter had Franklin mistaken for an actor for an ad campaign for Franklin Electronics, and in a comedy of errors, the historical figure ended up on trial for grand theft.

Wayne also played Franklin in a 1986 episode of Simon and Simon, titled “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree,” as well as the series Daniel Boone in 1969 and Voyagers in 1982. He also appeared as his favorite character as part of Bob Hope’s Bicentennial Star-Spangled Special on July 4, 1976.

Wayne’s acting wasn’t limited to Benjamin Franklin cameos. He appeared on two 1961 Twilight Zone episodes, four episodes of Perry Mason, and many other TV shows of the era, including Make Room for Daddy, Hogan’s Heroes, Nanny and the Professor, Ironside, and more.

News of Fredd Wayne’s death comes on the heels of the recently announced Bewitched reboot, which will be helmed by Kenya Barris.

You can see Fredd Wayne in his most famous Benjamin Franklin role in the opening tag for the Bewitched episode, “Samantha for the Defense,” below.