Joe Flynn (American actor)

Joseph Anthony Flynn III (November 8, 1924 – July 19, 1974) was an American character actor.[1] He was best known for his role as Captain Wallace Binghamton in the 1960s ABC television situation comedy McHale's Navy.[2] He was also a frequent guest star on 1960s TV shows, such as Batman, and appeared in several Walt Disney film comedies.[2]

Joe Flynn
Flynn as Capt. Binghamton on McHale's Navy in 1963
Joseph Anthony Flynn III

(1924-11-08)November 8, 1924
DiedJuly 19, 1974(1974-07-19) (aged 49)
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California
Alma mater
Years active1948–1974
Shirley Haskin
(m. 1955; his death 1974)
ChildrenTwo children

Early years

He was born to a physician in Youngstown, Ohio. Flynn graduated from Rayen High School there and attended for one year the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He then spent three years in the Army Medical Corps during World War II attaining the rank of staff sergeant before moving west, in 1946, to pursue acting and to complete his education. He majored in political science at the University of Southern California.[3]

Early career

Flynn's interest in theater was evident well before his departure from northeastern Ohio. He established himself early on as a ventriloquist and radio disc jockey. Flynn also gained local celebrity as a director by guiding the Canfield Players in such productions as Harvey, Antigone, and Pursuit of Happiness. He broke into television in pre-network days and, in 1948, starred in his own situation comedy, Yer Old Buddy.[3] The show was a local affair, produced and broadcast by pioneering Los Angeles station KTLA.

After appearing in a number of stage plays, Flynn returned to Youngstown, where in 1950, he conducted an unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the Ohio Senate as a Republican.[3] Following his electoral defeat, he pursued his acting career and appeared in nearly 30 films, including many Disney films.[2] Flynn would later recall watching an audience's reaction to his performance in the 1956 horror film The Indestructible Man starring Lon Chaney, Jr.. Although he played a serious part in the picture, people laughed, which convinced him that comedy was his forte.

He also starred in several episodes of the syndicated 1957-1958 series The Silent Service, a show dedicated to the US Navy's submarine service during World War II. He played Mr. Kelley in 15 episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and other classics like The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, The Twilight Zone, and Make Room for Daddy.

Over the years, Flynn achieved recognition in television, earning credits as a regular on William Bendix's The Life of Riley and on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. He appeared at least twice on NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. His appearance on March 30, 1961, was a patriotic program set at sea on a United States Navy aircraft carrier.[4] He guest starred on Walter Brennan's ABC sitcom, The Real McCoys and on the syndicated western, Pony Express.

In 1961, Flynn was cast as a regular on the first season of NBC's The Joey Bishop Show, but left early, reportedly because he was stealing too many scenes from Joey Bishop.[2] That same year, he guest starred on the Peggy Cass and Jack Weston series The Hathaways, an unusual sitcom about a suburban Los Angeles couple that adopts three chimpanzees. He appeared, too, in Edmond O'Brien's syndicated 1960 crime drama, Johnny Midnight and earlier on Jim Davis's syndicated adventure series, Rescue 8.

McHale's Navy

From 1962 to 1966, Flynn played the irascible Captain Wallace "Wally" Burton Binghamton (also known as "Old Leadbottom") on ABC's McHale's Navy, in which he became known for his exasperated catch phrases "What is it, What, WHAT, WHAT!?", "What in the name of: the Blue Pacific/Halsey/Nimitz", and "I could just scream!" He also starred in two 1964 theatrical films spun off from the series, McHale's Navy and McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force.[3]

In the spring of 1970, Flynn co-starred with Tim Conway — with whom he had worked in McHale's Navy and the two McHale's Navy movies — in the situation comedy The Tim Conway Show as the inept operators of the single-plane charter airline Triple A Airlines. The unsuccessful show ran for only 12 episodes.

Besides the two McHale's Navy movies, Flynn's career in feature films included the 1963 comedy Son of Flubber, in which he had a small part as a television announcer; Flynn would later star in the sequels of the Flubber series as Medfield College's Dean Higgins in a trio of Disney Studio films, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972), and The Strongest Man in the World (1975), his final live-action film. Flynn also appeared in Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady? (1968), The Love Bug (1968), The Barefoot Executive (1971), The Million Dollar Duck (1971), How to Frame a Figg (1971) starring Don Knotts, Superdad (1973) starring Bob Crane, and The Girl Most Likely To... (1973), a made-for-television dark comedy written by Joan Rivers.

Later career and death

Throughout his life, Flynn maintained a strong connection to his hometown; and from 1969 to the year of his death, he was involved in northeastern Ohio's Kenley Players. He would often return to Youngstown to visit family residing on Elm Street, on the city's north side. In recognition of his contributions to the broadcasting field, Flynn became the ninth recipient of the Ohio Association of Broadcasters Award.[3]

In the early 1970s, Flynn spearheaded a movement on behalf of the Screen Actors Guild for more equitable distribution of TV residual payments.[2]

He made a dozen appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1972 and 1973. He hosted a revised edition of It Pays to Be Ignorant and was a guest panelist on the hit game show series Match Game '74 on January 17, 1974, (recorded on the 5th of January, 1974), in what was his final game show.

Shortly after completing voice-over work as Mr. Snoops for Walt Disney's 23rd animated feature, The Rescuers (released in 1977), 49-year-old Flynn was discovered by family members in the swimming pool of his Beverly Hills home, the victim of an apparent drowning accident on July 19, 1974.[3] Flynn's June 13, 1974, taping of The Merv Griffin Show had been announced for broadcast on July 19, prior to Flynn's death.[5] His obituary stated cause of death as heart attack while swimming.[2]

He and his wife Shirley (née Haskin), daughter of director Byron Haskin, whom he married in 1955, had two children.

He is interred in Culver City's Holy Cross Cemetery.[6]

Selected filmography


  1. Obituary Variety, July 24, 1974, page 71.
  2. "Joe Flynn Obituary". Archived from the original on March 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
  3. "Actor Flynn Drowns in Pool; Youngstown Native Was TV Comedian". The Youngstown Vindicator. July 20, 1974. p. 1.
  4. "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show". Retrieved November 25, 2010.
  5. "TeleVues", by Bob Martin, The Independent (Long Beach CA), July 19, 1974, pC-12; Times-Reporter (Dover, Ohio), July 19, 1974, pD-6
  6. Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries, p 163
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