This is a story that I have never heard before....I am not passing judgment on anyone nor am I condemning anyone's sexual orientation. I just think the facts are somewhat bizarre and humorous... and interesting.
CONFIDENTIAL MAGAZINE seemed to treat Van Johnson's sexuality more delicate that others of a similar nature. (They wanted to OUT Rock Hudson but Universal-International sold Rory Calhoun down the river and they published the story of Rory's juvenile crime history and dumped the Hudson story.)
When Johnson signed up with MGM in 1942 Benny Thau, MGM"s personnel chief, asked Johnson's agent, "Do we have a situation here?" There was something about Johnson that had spurred questions about his sexuality from the very beginning of his career. "Later there had been rumors that Johnson was carrying on an affair with actor Keenan Wynn, his best friend. Johnson, an awkward introvert, spent much of his time with Wynn and Wynn's wife, Eve. .....Questions later circulated about the nature of this menage a trois and many Hollywood insiders assumed or became convinced that Van's relationship with Keenan had a sexual component." (I find it hilarious that Van Johnson and Keenan Wynn might have been lovers.)
Keenan's father, comic Ed Wynn, reflected on the confusion. "I can't keep them straight," he said in a 1946 interview. "Evie loves Keenan. Keenan loves Evie. Van loves Evie. Evie loves Van. Van loves Keenan. Keenan loves Van."
CONFIDENTIAL reported that Johnson had revealed his homosexual tendencies when he was called before the draft board in 1941. (Later the army did an investigation to determine whether Johnson was faking his homosexuality to evade the draft.) Van told the FBI that he was making an effort to return to normal living and was continuing his "desperate" effort to rid himself of his abnormality.
But it took a a tragedy in Van Johnson's life to make him "succeed." The tragedy was an automobile accident which left Johnson with a fractured skull and "miracle of miracles" occurred. Johnson not only recovered his health but his heterosexuality and eloped to Juarez, Mexico in January 1947 with Eve Wynn, his best friend's wife.
In 1999 Eve finally explained the circumstances..."They (MGM) needed their big star to be married to quell rumors about his sexual preference and unfortunately I was the only woman he would marry. Mayer (Louie, head of MGM) decide that unless I married Van, he wouldn't renew Keenan's contract. I was young and stupid enough to let Mayer manipulate me. I divorced Keenan, married Van."
Eve Wynn separated from, reconciled with, and in 1962 finally divorced Johnson. Her son, Ned Wynn, claimed the final act was precipitated by Van's affair with a boy in the cast of THE MUSIC MAN, in which Johnson was performing.
Well into his eighties, Johnson, was still somewhat in denial about his sexual orientation and would kid himself, intimate friends stated, that he was never a homosexual. " Van would rather ignore an aspect of his life that might cause controversy or damage his image."
I must admit that Johnson was pretty darn good, and I enjoyed his performance, as Holley in "BATTLEGROUND." And, who can forget Keenan Wynn as Colonel 'Bat" Guano in "DR. STRANGELOVE?"