Midnight Run actor Charles Grodin, 86, dies of bone cancer at his home in Connecticut after starring in string of hits including Seems Like Old Times and Beethoven
- Hollywood deadpan comedian Charles Grodin has died at the age of 86
- The character actor passed away at his home in Wilton, Connecticut on Tuesday
- The cause of death was bone marrow cancer, his son Nicholas told NYT
- The Pennsylvania native was best known for his 1988 film Midnight Run with Robert De Niro
- And he was also in the 1980 comedy Seems Like Old Times with Goldie Hawn
- Grodin also played the put-upon father in the two Beethoven films
- He was known for his deadpan comedy that made him a solid sidekick in Hollywood movies and also helped him score roles in theater
Charles Grodin, the offbeat actor and writer who starred as a newlywed cad in The Heartbreak Kid and the father in the Beethoven comedies, has died at the age of 86.
Grodin died on Tuesday at his home in Wilton, Connecticut, from bone marrow cancer, his son Nicholas Grodin said.
The Pennsylvania native was best known for his 1988 film Midnight Run with Robert De Niro and the 1980 comedy Seems Like Old Times with Goldie Hawn.
He was known for his everyday looks and his deadpan comedy style that made him a solid sidekick in Hollywood movies and also helped him score roles in plays such as Broadway’s Same Time, Next Year.
He also found many other outlets for his talents over his lengthy career. In the 1990s, he made his mark as a liberal commentator on radio and TV.
He also wrote plays and television scripts, winning an Emmy for his work on a 1997 Paul Simon special and wrote several books humorously ruminating on his ups and downs in show business.
Sad loss: Hollywood staple Charles Grodin has died at the age of 86. The character actor passed away at his home in Wilton, Connecticut on Tuesday. Seen in 2006
Big hit: The Pennsylvania native was best known for his 1988 film Midnight Run with Robert De Niro. He was the accountant who stole from the mafia next to De Niro’s tough talking bounty hunter
Grodin was born Charles Grodinsky in Pittsburgh in 1935, son of a wholesale dry goods seller who died when Charles was 18. He played basketball and later described himself as ‘a rough kid, always getting kicked out of class.’
He studied at the University of Miami and the Pittsburgh Playhouse, worked in summer theatre and then struggled in New York, working nights as a cab driver, postal clerk and watchman while studying acting during the day.
Grodin and his first wife, Julia Ferguson, had a daughter, comedian Marion Grodin. The marriage ended in divorce. He and his second wife, Elissa Durwood, had a son, Nicholas.
After leaving the University of Miami to get his start in Hollywood films, he had a small role as a drummer boy in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1954.
Grodin eventually became a star in the 1970s, but might have broken through years earlier: He auditioned for the title role in Mike Nichols´ 1967 classic ‘The Graduate,’ but the part went instead to Dustin Hoffman.
He landed his first big part in the TV show The Marrieds in which he played Matt Crane Stevens.
After several guest starring roles on TV shows like The Felony Squad, Iron Horse, NYPD and The Big Valley, he secured a role as Dr Hill in the 1968 creepy thriller Rosemary’s Baby from Roman Polanski that starred Mia Farrow.
A classic: He stood out more in the 1972 movie The Heartbreak Kid where he played Lenny Cantrow opposite Cybill Shepherd. The film was about a newlywed man on his honeymoon who has second thoughts about his marriage and falls for a different woman
Hot pairing: In 1979 he starred with Charlie’s Angels vet Farrah Fawcett in the film Sunburn from director Richard Sarafian Hemdale
He stood out more in the 1972 movie The Heartbreak Kid where he played salesman Lenny Cantrow. The film was about a newlywed man on his honeymoon who has second thoughts about his marriage to his wife (played by Jeannie Berlin) and falls for a beautiful blonde (played by Cybill Shepherd).
The movie was a hit and Grodin received high praise.
‘After seeing the movie, a lot of people would approach me with the idea of punching me in the nose,’ he said of the role.
‘I thought the character in `The Heartbreak Kid´ was a despicable guy, but I play it with full sincerity,’ Grodin told the A.V. Club in 2009.
‘My job isn’t to judge it. If it wasn´t for Elaine May, I probably would never have had that movie career.’
That led to a role as businessman Fred Wilson in 1976’s mega hit King Kong with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange where he played the greedy showman who brings the big ape to New York.
In 1978, he had a supporting role in the big-budget Heaven Can Wait where he starred as Warren Beatty’s devious lawyer.
The following year Charles starred with Charlie’s Angels vet Farrah Fawcett in the film Sunburn from director Richard Sarafian Hemdale.
And in 1980, he was the stuffed suit next to to Chevy Chase’s smooth talker in the film Seems Like Old Times which had as its star Hawn. The film was a box office dynamo.
Next came 1981’s The Incredible Shrinking Woman and The Great Muppet Caper.
Dog-gone good: And he landed a blockbuster in 1992 with Beethoven about an unruly dog that wreaks havoc on a family living in suburbia. That film got a sequel in 1993. Seen with Christopher Castile, Sarah Rose Karr, Bonnie Hunt, Nicholle Tom
Another one: A look at the sequel Beethoven’s 2nd from 1993. The director was Rod Daniel
In 1986 he tried his hand at TV again with Fresno in which he played Cane Kensington.
He went back to movies in 1987 with the massive flop Ishtar with Beatty in which he played Jim Harrison.
But one of his biggest hits came just a year later with Midnight Run alongside Robert De Niro. Grodin was the bail-jumping accountant who stole from the mafia and De Niro was the bounty hunter trying to bring him cross-country to Los Angeles.
The two bicker as they travel across the country by car, bus and even boxcar given his character’s fear of flying.
Grodin and De Niro improvised in many scenes in the film, revered as among the greatest buddy comedies. Often Grodin was genuinely trying to amuse his more intimidating co-star. One line he threw at De Niro: ‘You ever had sex with an animal, Jack?’
‘I moved a little more toward drama and he moved a little toward comedy,’ Grodin said at the time. ‘And we met on a very good ground.’
Grodin landed a blockbuster in 1992 with Beethoven about an unruly dog that wreaks havoc on a family living in suburbia. That film got a sequel in 1993.
When asked why he took the role in the film aimed at children, he said: ‘I’m not that much in demand. It’s not like I have this stack of wonderful offers. I’m just delighted they wanted me.’
Smart trio: And in 1980, he was the stuffed suit next to to Chevy Chase’s smooth talker in the film Seems Like Old Times which had as its star Goldie Hawn. The film was a box office dynamo
A great pair: Grodin was the uptight district attorney Ira who put demands on his lawyer wife played by Hawn
Hilarious pairing: One of his highlights toward the end of his career was working with Ben Stiller on the comedy While We’re Young in 2014
He also stood out for his roles in Clifford and The Humbling. Other TV shows included Louise and Madoff.
He largely abandoned acting in 1994 and became a familiar face on late-night TV, perfecting a character who would confront Johnny Carson or others with a fake aggressiveness that made audiences cringe and laugh at the same time.
‘It´s all a joke,’ he told The Los Angeles Times in 1995. ‘It´s just a thing. It was a choice to do that.’
From 1995 to 1998, he hosted a talk show on CNBC cable network. He moved to MSNBC and then to CBS’ 60 Minutes II.
In his 2002 book, I Like It Better When You’re Funny, he said too many TV programmers believe that viewers are best served ‘if we hear only from lifelong journalists.’
He argued that ‘people outside of Washington and in professions other than journalism’ also deserved a soapbox.
He returned to the big screen in 2006 as Zach Braff’s know-it-all father-in-law in ‘The Ex.’ More recent credits include the films ‘An Imperfect Murder’ and ‘The Comedian’ and the TV series ‘Louie.’
One of his highlights toward the end of his career was working with Ben Stiller on the comedy While We’re Young in 2014.
His last role was in the 2017 film An Imperfect Murder.
With a friend: Charles with actress Naomi Watts at the Captain Phillips film premiere in New York in 2013
His biggest stage success, by far, was ‘Same Time, Next Year,’ which opened on Broadway in 1975 and ran 3.5 years.
He and co-star Ellen Burstyn were two people who – though each happily married – meet in the same hotel once a year for an extramarital fling. Beyond the humor, the play won praise for deftly tracing the changes in their lives, and in society, from the 1950s to the ’70s.
Critic Clive Barnes called Grodin’s character ‘a monument to male insecurity, gorgeously inept.’
He had made his Broadway debut back in 1962 and received good notices in “Tchin Tchin,” a three-character play starring Anthony Quinn. He followed with “Absence of a Cello” in 1964.
He co-wrote and directed a short-lived 1966 off-Broadway show called “Hooray! It´s a Glorious Day … and all that.” That same year, he made his movie debut in a low-budget flop called “Sex and the College Girl.”
In his writing career, Grodin penned 1989’s It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here, 1992’s How I Get Through Life, 1993’s Freddie the Fly and 2009’s How I Got to Be Whoever It Is I Am.
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