Gretchen Wyler
Wyler in 1977
Gretchen Patricia Wienecke

(1932-02-16)February 16, 1932
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedMay 27, 2007(2007-05-27) (aged 75)
OccupationActress & Dancer
Years active1950–2002
(m. 1956; div. 1968)

Gretchen Wyler (born Gretchen Patricia Wienecke; February 16, 1932 – May 27, 2007) was an American actress and dancer. She was also an animal rights advocate and founder of the Genesis Awards for animal protection.[1]

Seen with escorts Kevin and Don Norte, although primarily known as activists in the LGBT community actively participated in seeing that Proposition 2 legislation was passed to carry on the legacy of The core values of The Arc Trust which included "Cruelty Can't Stand The Spotlight".
Wyler's last public appearance, at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, attending the 20th Genesis Awards on March 18, 2006.


Early life

Wyler was born Gretchen Patricia Wienecke in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the daughter of Peggy (née Highley) and Louis Gustave Wienecke, a petroleum engineer.[2] She was raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and opened her own dancing school there before going to New York City to pursue a career as a professional actress and dancer.

Acting career

She appeared on Broadway in six original productions:[3]

She also appeared at the 1964 World's Fair alternating with Chita Rivera in Wonder World. The Michael Kidd/Jule Styne extravaganza played at the outdoor amphitheater. Eventually she went west to Hollywood to pursue movie stardom, which eluded her, but did co-star in the sitcom On Our Own (1977-1978) and appeared on many television programs, ranging from The Phil Silvers Show (aka Sergeant Bilko) to Naked City to Somerset, Diagnosis: Unknown, Charlie's Angels, Dallas, St. Elsewhere, Remington Steele, Falcon Crest, Santa Barbara, Punky Brewster, MacGyver, Who's the Boss, Designing Women, Friends, and Judging Amy. She made a number of appearances as a panelist on the game show To Tell the Truth; her last television appearance was on Chicken Soup for the Soul.[4]

She appeared in Rick McKay's 2004 award-winning feature documentary, Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There, in which she recounted her "aggressive" nature and an almost Eve Harrington-esque ambition, when she recalled trying on the star (Yvonne Adair)'s outfits when she was merely second understudy in the pre-Broadway touring production of Silk Stockings. When Adair collapsed in the middle of a show one night, and the first understudy (Sherry O'Neil) had surreptitiously gone to New York City to audition for another play (which Wyler knew), Wyler stepped in, and played the role when the show arrived on Broadway. Wyler had already filmed her appearance in McKay's sequel, Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age (2008) before she died.[citation needed]

Animal rights activism

In 1966, Wyler began to work for animal rights causes after visiting a dilapidated dog shelter in Warwick, N.Y.[5] In 1971, she became the first female to serve on the board of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) but later fell out with the board.[6] She filed a lawsuit against the board of ASPCA which was settled out of court.[7]

Wyler opposed animal testing and argued that "animals should have the right to run if they have legs, swim if they have fins and fly if they have wings".[6] Wyler became a vegetarian in 1969 for ethical reasons.[8] She was featured on the front cover of The British Vegetarian magazine, published by the Vegetarian Society.[9]

In 1986, she was Vice Chairperson of The Fund for Animals.[10] In 1991, she founded The Ark Trust, presenter of the annual Genesis Awards for animal protection; this event is now a program of The Humane Society of the United States. In 2005, Wyler was inducted into the U.S. Animal Rights Hall of Fame for her dedicated career in animal advocacy.[11] In 2007, the first Gretchen Wyler Award was given to Paul McCartney.[12]


Wyler died on May 27, 2007, aged 75, from complications of breast cancer.[13]


Year Title Role Notes
1968 The Devil's Brigade The Lady of Joy
1980 Private Benjamin Aunt Kissy
1991 The Marrying Man Gwen

See also


  1. ^ Fox, Margalit. (2007). "Gretchen Wyler, 75, Actress and Advocate for Animals, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 December 2020.
  2. ^ Gretchen Wyler Biography
  3. ^ Gretchen Wyler at the Internet Broadway Database
  4. ^ Gretchen Wyler at IMDb
  5. ^ Gretchen Wyler official website.
  6. ^ a b "Gretchen Wyler, 75; Broadway actress became animal activist". Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  7. ^ "Animal activist Gretchen Wyler dead at 75". Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  8. ^ "The Satya Interview with Gretchen Wyler". Satya. Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  9. ^ "Radical Objects: The British Vegetarian". Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  10. ^ Wyler, Gretcben (Fall 1986). "Bravo! What a fine first issue" (PDF). The Animals' Voice (letter to the editor). 1 (2). Chico, California: 3. OCLC 13990046. Retrieved 2017-01-25. Of course, you must occasionally 'detour' and focus on things like the Silver Spring monkeys since there are many state actions on federal matters.
  11. ^ U.S. Animal Rights Hall of Fame Archived 2016-02-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ The Humane Society of the United States official website Archived 2007-10-11 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Gretchen Wyler, 75, Actress and Advocate for Animals, Dies

Further reading