Van Johnson, 92, whose boy-next-door wholesomeness made him a popular star in the '40s and '50s with such films as

30 Seconds Over Tokyo


A Guy Named Joe


The Caine Mutiny

, died yesterday of natural causes.

Mr. Johnson died at Tappan Zee Manor, an assisted-living center in Nyack, N.Y., said Wendy Bleisweiss, a close friend.

With his tall, athletic build, handsome, freckled face and sunny personality, the red-haired Mr. Johnson starred opposite Esther Williams, June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor and others during two decades under contract to MGM.

He proved to be a versatile actor, at home with comedies (

The Bride Goes Wild

), war movies (

Command Decision

), musicals (


) and dramas (

Madame Curie


During the height of his popularity, Mr. Johnson was cast most often as the all-American boy. He played a real-life flier who lost a leg in a crash after the bombing of Japan in

30 Seconds Over Tokyo

. He was a writer in love with a wealthy American girl (Taylor) in

The Last Time I Saw Paris

. He appeared as a post-Civil War farmer in

The Romance of Rosy Ridge

. In 1985, he had a small role in Woody Allen's

The Purple Rose of Cairo


Mr. Johnson, a heartthrob with bobby-soxers - he was called "the non-singing Sinatra" - married once. In 1947, at the height of his career, he eloped to Juarez, Mexico, with Eve Wynn, who had divorced Mr. Johnson's good friend Keenan Wynn four hours before.

The marriage produced a daughter, Schuyler, and ended bitterly 13 years later. "She wiped me out," Mr. Johnson told reporters, "in the ugliest divorce in Hollywood history."

As a young actor, Mr. Johnson had a brief run with Warner Bros. and then got a screen test and a contract with MGM with the help of his friend Lucille Ball.

His big break, with Irene Dunne and Spencer Tracy in the wartime fantasy

A Guy Named Joe

, was almost wiped out by tragedy.

On April 1, 1943, his DeSoto convertible was struck head-on by another car. "They tell me I was almost decapitated, but I never lost consciousness," he remembered.

A Guy Named Joe

was postponed for his recovery, and the forehead scar went unnoticed in his resulting popularity.

Though he hadn't lost his boyish looks, Mr. Johnson saw his vogue fade by the mid-'50s, and the film roles became sparse.

For three decades, he was one of the busiest stars in regional and dinner theaters.

Television provided some gigs (

The Love Boat


Fantasy Island

), and he became a painter, his canvases selling for as much as $10,000.