Charles Grodin

Charles Grodin Headshot

Actor • Comedian • Host

Birth Date: April 21, 1935

Death Date: May 18, 2021

Birth Place: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

As one of Hollywood's true jack-of-all-trades, actor Charles Grodin amassed a résumé that boasted acting, screenwriting, producing, directing, and television hosting credits over the course of his decades-long career. After beginning his career on Broadway opposite Anthony Quinn, Grodin quickly segued into movies, landing memorable supporting roles in "Rosemary's Baby" (1968) and "Catch-22" (1970) before landing his breakout leading role in "The Heartbreak Kid" (1972). His career gradually slowed down throughout the remainder of the decade, though he had villainous supporting parts in "King Kong" (1976) and "Heaven Can Wait" (1978).

By the time the 1980s rolled around, Grodin had grown comfortable as a supporting player with roles in hit comedies like "Seems Like Old Times" (1980), "The Great Muppet Caper" (1981) and "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" (1981). But he had his greatest success and most memorable performance as a timorous embezzler in the action comedy "Midnight Run" (1988) opposite Robert De Niro. After scoring another surprise hit with the family-friendly "Beethoven" (1992), Grodin shifted gears to become the host of his own news hour, "The Charles Grodin Show" (CNBC, 1995-98), while also delivering political commentary for "60 Minutes II" (CBS, 1999-2005). Mixing both biting wit and comforting wisdom, Grodin's everyman persona earned him the reputation as being one of the country's most respected and trusted public figures.

Born on April 21, 1935 in Pittsburgh, PA, Grodin was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home by his father, Theodore, who sold wholesale supplies, and his mother, Lena, who worked in the family store and volunteered for disabled veterans. Though he attended the University of Miami, where he studied performing arts, he was eager to become an actor and decided to leave after only six month. Grodin instead chose to study acting with Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagen and Mira Rostova in New York, and soon made his debut on Broadway with "Tchin Tchin" (1962), starring opposite Anthony Quinn. His talent and his wry sense of humor caught the attention of Hollywood soon enough, with Grodin making his feature film debut in "Sex and the College Girl" (1964). A few years later, Grodin was the first actor to be cast as Benjamin Braddock, a young man who gets seduced by the lovely Mrs. Robinson in Mike Nichols' classic "The Graduate" (1967). But a disagreement over salary prompted the actor to pull out of the film and the career-defining role went to another up-and-coming star, Dustin Hoffman. Grodin moved on from the "Graduate" setback to work with Roman Polanski on the famed supernatural thriller, "Rosemary's Baby" (1968), in which he had a small, but chilling role as a devilish obstetrician. Two years later, Grodin had the chance to work with Nichols in the film version of the antiwar satire "Catch-22" (1970), starring Alan Arkin, Jon Voight and Orson Welles. Grodin played the despicable Cpt. Aarfy Aardvark, whose incompetence as a navigator seemingly gets in the way of main character Cpt. Yossarian (Arkin) at the most inconvenient times. Even though he turned down "The Graduate," Grodin eventually found his own breakout role as a man who falls in love with the woman of his dreams (Cybill Shepherd) during his honeymoon with another woman (Jeannie Berlin) in the Neil Simon-penned romantic comedy, "The Heartbreak Kid" (1972). His longtime friend and mentor Elaine May, who was also the film's director, knew Grodin was the perfect star for the movie. His portrayal of Lenny Cantrow opposite Shepherd earned the actor a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.

Grodin took a short break from films in the mid-1970s - even turning down Steven Spielberg's offer to play the role of Matt Hooper that eventually went to Richard Dreyfuss in "Jaws" (1974) - in order to direct the play "Thieves on Broadway." He reemerged on the big screen to co-star and co-write the heist spoof, "11 Harrowhouse" (1974), before appearing in the blockbuster remake of "King Kong" (1976) as Fred Wilson, a big shot oil magnate looking to strike black gold on a once-deserted island. With that role, Grodin proved that he could play film villains as well as comedic leads. The following year, he had an unintentionally memorable hosting stint on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) in 1977, where he and the writers decided to play on an intro about him not having comic material. The overall clumsy and unfunny bit failed to go over well with the audience, leading the show to never ask him to host again. He next had a supporting role as the supplicant personal secretary and lover to the wife (Dyan Cannon) of a millionaire who is poisoned to death, only to have his body occupied by an NFL star (Warren Beatty) not yet slated for death in "Heaven Can Wait" (1978).

Though spending a great deal of his career on the big screen, Grodin had some life on television in the 1970s and 1980s, which in part consisted of guest appearances on variety and late night talk shows. Aside from "SNL," he was a frequent guest on "Late Night with David Letterman" (NBC, 1982-1993), where his appearances were often a play on a faux antagonistic attitude toward the host. The prickly persona became the actor's trademark every time he appeared on other talk shows, including "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1962- ), where he was one of very few guests under exclusive contract, as he seemingly bristled Johnny Carson with each appearance. Both host and guest were in on the joke, though audiences believed their antagonism to be real. During the early 1980s, Grodin continued receiving praise for his supporting roles in a handful of films, including "Seems Like Old Times" (1980), in which he played the stuffed-shirt husband of a liberal-minded lawyer (Goldie Hawn), whose loser ex-husband (Chevy Chase) invades their lives while trying to hide from bank robbers.

Following a memorable appearance in "The Great Muppet Caper" (1981), Grodin played the husband of "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" (1981), starring Lily Tomlin. After supporting roles in the romantic comedies "The Lonely Guy" (1984), starring Steve Martin, and "The Woman in Red" (1984) with longtime pal Gene Wilder, he reunited with director Elaine May and actor Warren Beatty for "Ishtar" (1987), one of Hollywood's biggest and most derided flops of all time. But he rebounded nicely with his next project, "Midnight Run" (1988), a buddy comedy that paired him opposite Robert De Niro, who played a tough-as-nails bounty hunter tasked with hauling in a weak-willed embezzler (Grodin), only to learn that the criminal has been targeted by the mob for assassination. A masterful blend of action and comedy, "Midnight Run" became one of Grodin's best known films, while also marking the downward trend of his career for the rest of the decade.

Following turns in less-than-inspired comedies like "The Couch Trip" (1988) and "Taking Care of Business" (1990), Grodin made a major comeback with "Beethoven" (1992), a child-friendly comedy about a family and their stray St. Bernard puppy, who matures into a slobbering, over-sized destructive beast. With the film a surprise hit, Grodin starred in the sequel, "Beethoven's 2nd" (1993) and followed with a supporting role in the hit political comedy "Dave" (1993), starring Kevin Kline as an idealistic dead-ringer for the President of the United States. After a supporting role in the dark Mike Myers comedy "So I Married an Axe Murderer" (1993) and a starring role in the critically maligned comedy "Clifford" (1994), Grodin decided to take on politics and current events, switching gears to become host of his own talk show, "The Charles Grodin Show" (CNBC, 1995-98). On the program, he spoke out on a series of issues from the criminal justice system to health and medicine, while also touching upon current topics like the O.J. Simpson trial. The show became the highest-rated program ever in its time period for the cable news network.

In 2000, Grodin became a regular political commentator, delivering Andy Rooney-like remarks for the short-lived spin-off, "60 Minutes II" (CBS, 1999-2005). Grodin was also a human rights activist who fought for two years in order to gain clemency for three women sentenced under New York's notorious Rockefeller drug laws, which he accomplished in 1999. While he delivered radio commentaries for the CBS Radio Network throughout the decade and into the next, Grodin graduated to accomplished playwright with the off-Broadway production "The Right Kind of People" (2004), which took place in the world of Co-op boards in Manhattan. He also became a best-selling author over the years with published works that included How I Get Through Life: A Wise and Witty Guide (1992), We're Ready For You, Mr. Grodin (1994), and "If I Only Knew Then Learning From Our Mistakes" (2007), a collection of essays written by his celebrity friends. Thirteen years after his last film, Grodin returned to acting in "The Ex" (2007), a romantic comedy that starred Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, and Jason Bateman. Meanwhile, there was talk of Grodin returning for a "Midnight Run" sequel, which generated a fair amount of buzz in mid-2010. Charles Grodin died on May 18, 2021 in Wilton, Connecticut at the age of 86.

Credits

Simon & Garfunkel: The Harmony Game

Self
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2021

The Private Life of a Modern Woman

Actor
Arthur
Movie
2017

Madoff : l'arnaque du siècle

Actor
Carl Shapiro
Show
2016

MadoffStream

Actor
Miniseries
2016
68%

Madoff

Actor
Show
2016

Madoff - A Fraude do Século

Actor
Movie
2016

The Comedian

Actor
Dick D'Angelo
Movie
2016

The Humbling

Actor
Jerry
Movie
2014

While We're YoungStream

Actor
Lesley Breitbart
Movie
2014
84%

The Michael J. Fox ShowStream

Guest Star
Steve Henry
Series
2013
70%

Brazzaville Teen-Ager

Actor
Father
Show
2013

JASH Presents

Actor
Father
Show
2013

Brazzaville Teen-Ager

Actor
Father
Movie
2013

CBS This Morning

Guest
Show
2012

LouieStream

Guest Star
Dr. Bigelow
Series
2010
93%

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

Guest
Talk
2009

Char-ac-ter

Actor
Movie
2009

The Ex

Actor
Bob Kowalski
Movie
2006

The Martha Stewart Show

Guest
Reality
2005

Cause Celeb

Guest
Show
2000

An Evening at the Improv

Host
Show
2000

Law & Order: Special Victims UnitStream

Guest Star
Brett Forrester
Series
1999
78%

The Daily Show With Jon StewartStream

Guest
Talk
1999

CliffordStream

Actor
Martin Daniels
Movie
1994
18%

It Runs in the Family

Actor
Mr. Parker
Movie
1994

Late Show With David Letterman

Guest
Talk
1993

Entre Cielo y la Tierra

Actor
Movie
1993

DaveStream

Actor
Murray Blum
Movie
1993
95%

So I Married an Axe MurdererStream

Actor
Commandeered Driver
Movie
1993
53%

Heart and Souls

Actor
Harrison Winslow
Movie
1993
55%

Beethoven's 2nd

Actor
George Newton
Movie
1993

Beethoven

Actor
George Newton
Movie
1992

Filofax

Actor
Movie
1990

Taking Care of Business

Actor
Spencer Barnes
Movie
1990

The Couch Trip

Actor
George Maitlin
Movie
1988

You Can't Hurry Love

Actor
Mr. Glerman
Movie
1988

Midnight RunStream

Actor
Jonathan Mardukas
Movie
1988
95%

Ishtar

Actor
Jim Harrison
Movie
1987

Fresno

Actor
Cane Kensington
Miniseries
1986

Terrorista en Vacaciones

Actor
Movie
1986

Last Resort

Actor
George Lollar
Movie
1986

Grown Ups

Actor
Jake
Movie
1985

Movers and Shakers

Actor
Herb Derman
Movie
1985

The Lonely Guy

Actor
Warren Evans
Movie
1984

The Woman in RedStream

Actor
Buddy
Movie
1984
32%

The Great Muppet CaperStream

Actor
Nicky Holiday
Movie
1981
78%

The Incredible Shrinking WomanStream

Actor
Vance Kramer
Movie
1981
27%

La Más Pequeña del Mundo

Actor
Movie
1981

It's My Turn

Actor
Homer
Movie
1980

Seems Like Old TimesStream

Actor
District Attorney Ira J, Parks
Movie
1980
70%

Sunburn

Actor
Jake
Movie
1979

Real Life

Actor
Warren Yeager
Movie
1979

Heaven Can WaitStream

Actor
Tony Abbott
Movie
1978
85%

The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank

Actor
Jim Benson
Movie
1978

Just Me and You

Actor
Michael Lindsay
Movie
1978

Thieves

Actor
Martin Cramer
Movie
1977

Laverne & ShirleyStream

Guest Star
Series
1976

King KongStream

Actor
Fred Wilson
Movie
1976
53%

Saturday Night LiveStream

Host
Series
1975

Paradise

Director
Show
1974

11 HarrowhouseStream

Actor
Howard R. Chesser
Movie
1974

The Heartbreak KidStream

Actor
Lenny Cantrow
Movie
1972
92%

Catch-22Stream

Actor
Capt. Aarfy Aardvark
Movie
1970
81%

The Dick Cavett ShowStream

Guest
Talk
1968

Rosemary's BabyStream

Actor
Dr. C.C. Hill
Movie
1968
96%

Judd for the Defense

Guest Star
Show
1967

The Felony Squad

Guest Star
Edgar
Show
1966

Iron Horse

Guest Star
Series
1966

Shane

Guest Star
Jed
Series
1966

The Trials of O'Brien

Guest Star
Peter Farnum
Show
1965

The Big Valley

Guest Star
Series
1965

My Mother the Car

Guest Star
Fred
Series
1965

The Young Marrieds

Actor
Matt Crane Stevens
Show
1964

Sex and the College Girl

Actor
Bob
Movie
1964

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny CarsonStream

Guest
Talk
1962