Dana Wynter was a German-born British actress, who raised in England and Southern Africa. She appeared in film and television for over forty years beginning in the 1950s, her best known film being “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956).
Wynter was born Dagmar Winter in Berlin, Germany, the daughter of Dr. Peter Wynter, a noted British surgeon, and his wife, Jutta Oarda, a native of Hungary. She grew up in England and when she was sixteen years old her father moved the family to Southern Rhodesia. Dana Wynter (as she called herself) later enrolled at South Africa’s Rhodes University as the only female student in a class of 150 and dabbled in theatre. After more than a year of studies, she returned to England, dropped her medical studies and turned to acting. Wynter began her cinema career in 1951, playing small roles, often uncredited, in British films such was “Lady Godiva Rides Again” (1951) in which other future leading ladies, Kay Kendall, Diana Dors and Joan Collins played similarly small roles. She had another uncredited role when she played Morgan Le Fay’s servant in the MGM film “Knights of the Round Table” (1953). Wynter was appearing in the play “Hammersmith” when an American agent told her he wanted to represent her and she left for New York in November 1953. In New York she appeared on the stage and on TV, where she had leading roles in “Robert Montgomery Presents” (1953), “Suspense” (1954, with Otto Preminger) and “Studio One” (1955, with Barry Sullivan), and a 1955 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: “An Unlocked Window”. Wynter relocated to Hollywood in 1955 and signed a contract with 20th Century Fox. There she won the Golden Globe award for Most Promising Newcomer, a title she shared with Anita Ekberg and Victoria Shaw. Wynter then co-starred with Kevin McCarthy, Larry Gates, and Carolyn Jones, playing Becky Driscoll in the original film version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956).
Wynter went on to star opposite Robert Taylor in “D-Day the Sixth of June” (1956); with Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier in “Something of Value” (1957); in “Fräulein” (1958) with Mel Ferrer; in “In Love and War” (1958) with Robert Wagner; with James Cagney and Don Murray in “Shake Hands with the Devil” (1959); in “Sink the Bismarck!” (1960) alongside Kenneth More; in “On the Double” (1961) with Danny Kaye; and with George C. Scott in “The List of Adrian Messenger” (1963). Over the next couple decades Wynter appeared as a guest star in dozens of television series such as “Gunsmoke” in 1967, “Get Smart” in 1969, “To Rome with Love” in 1970, “Hawaii Five-O” in 1972, “Ironside” in 1969 and again in 1973, “McMillan & Wife” in 1974, “City of Angels” in 1976, “Fantasy Island” in 1979, “The Rockford Files” twice in 1979, “The Love Boat” in 1979 and 1981, and “Magnum, P.I.” twice in 1982. Her last television appearance was in the TV Movie “The Return of Ironside” in 1993. During this time Wynter also had a few cameo roles in feature films such as “Airport” (1970) and “Santee” (1973).
In 1956, Wynter married her only husband, celebrity attorney Greg Bautzer. She and Bautzer had one child, Mark Ragan Bautzer, born in January of 1960. Wynter and Bautzer divorced in 1981. Wynter, who was once referred to as Hollywood’s “oasis of elegance,” divided her time between her homes in California and Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. In the late 1980s, Wynter authored the column “Grassroots” for the newspaper The Guardian in London. Writing in both California and Ireland, her works concentrated mainly on life in both locations leading her to use the titles “Irish Eyes” and “California Eyes” for a number of her publications.
Dana Wynter died on May 5, 2011 from congestive heart failure at the Ojai Valley Community Hospital’s Continuing Care Center in Ojai, California. She was 79 years old. Wynter had suffered from heart disease in later years, and was transferred from the hospital’s intensive care unit earlier in the day. Her son Mark said she was not expected to survive, and “she stepped off the bus very peacefully.”