Joe Flynn: How the “McHale’s Navy” Star Met His Watery End

Comedy character actor Joe Flynn (1924-1974) has the same birthday as me!  There is no one quite like the irascible, diminutive, bespectacled Flynn, a perfect comic foil, for he could work himself into a lather and seem completely ineffectual at the same time.

Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Flynn began amassing film and tv credits around 1950. You can see him in early bit parts in The Seven Little Foys (1955), The Desperate Hours (1955), and the Lon Chaney Jr horror film The Indestructible Man (1956). He was a semi-regular on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1959-1963) and a regular on The Joey Bishop Show (1961-1962) before he landed the role he is best remembered for today: the cranky, red-in-the-face Captain Binghamton on McHale’s Navy (1962-1966).

After McHale, Flynn remained a constant presence in comedy films, especially ones made by Disney. Among them: Divorce, American Style (1967), Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady? (1968), The Love Bug (1968), The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), How to Frame a Figg (1971), The Barefoot Executive (1971), The Girl Most Likely To…(1973), Superdad (1973), and The Strongest Man in the World (1975, posthumous). He was also a frequent guest star on most of the popular tv sitcoms and variety and talk shows of the day, and was a regular on the short-lived The Tim Conway Show (1970).

Flynn had just completed his voice-over work for The Rescuers (1977) when he was discovered dead in his swimming pool by family members. Cause of death is generally given as either/both heart attack and/or drowning (probably the first, followed by the second). He was only 49.

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