In the Hollywood fraternity, Tracy Keenan Wynn was sure to grow up a super legacy or a super problem child. His great-grandfather was Irish Shakespearean actor Frank Keenan. Granddad was classic comic Ed Wynn. His father, Keenan Wynn, is an actor, and so is his stepfather, Van Johnson. As a kid Tracy swam in Humphrey Bogart’s pool and bummed around with the fast company of Candy Bergen, William Lancaster and Michael Douglas.
So, inexorably, young Wynn also wound up in pictures, starting with a walk-on in What’s New Pussycat? But he hated acting, or at least the casting process, which he found “demeaning. I don’t like cattle calls,” Tracy decided, “and I don’t like someone sitting there and passing judgment on me.” Further, he never regarded performing as “all that creative in film unless you’re at the very top.” Thus Tracy escaped into scriptwriting and popped to the top of that craft with the speed of a jump cut. In his first four years, Wynn, now 29, wrote three Emmy-winning scripts, among them the TV special of 1974 (or of any year), Cicely Tyson’s The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. For the bigger, more golden screen, Wynn turned out the current Burt Reynolds box-office buster, The Longest Yard, and the just-completed Drowning Pool, a sequel to Ross MacDonald’s Harper, starring Joanne Woodward and her husband.
The sweep of Tracy’s credits—from the quasi-historical chronicle of racism in Pittman to the raucous prison melodrama of Longest Yard—honors his heritage. He never met his great-grandfather and got to know his late grandfather only at the end over the backgammon board. “It’s hard to have a rapport between a 12-year-old and a guy in his 80s,” recalls Tracy. “Ed Wynn wasn’t funny in person, but he could be sarcastic as hell.” Despite his parents’ divorce, Tracy was always close to his dad and proudly cast him in his recent directorial debut, the TV movie, Hit Lady.
Nuts about his work (“If I didn’t do this for a living, I’d do it for a hobby”), Tracy knocks off every three months for six or eight weeks. He is highly regarded as a skier, hunter, barroom conversationalist and pinball wizard, not to mention as a bachelor playing the fields of Beverly Hills and Aspen (where he also owns property). Though having done honorably by the family name otherwise, he seems a little lackadaisical about perpetuating the dynasty.