R.I.P. Charles Grodin, beloved comedy star of TV and film
Charles Grodin made the unlikable not only likeable but extremely entertaining. He perfected a droll comedic perspective that he used in films, on stage, as a talk show guest and even in books like It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1935, Grodin graduated from Peabody High School as valedictorian. He studied acting in New York City with legendary teachers Uta Hagen and Lee Strasberg.
Starting in the early 1960s, Grodin won smalls roles on TV shows like My Mother the Car and The Defenders while also appearing on Broadway. In a 1967 episode of The Big Valley, Grodin stole the show as one of the nefarious Dunnigan brothers alongside Russell Johnson – fresh off his role as the Professor on Gilligan’s Island.
Grodin played Dr. Hill in Rosemary’s Baby but began his career trajectory as an ace in big screen comedies after playing Aarfy Aardvark in Catch-22 and then breaking out as newlywed Lenny Cantrow in Elaine May’s The Heartbreak Kid. From there he starred in Thieves opposite Marlo Thomas, the Albert Brooks mockumentary Real Life, Seems Like Old Times with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase, The Great Muppet Caper and The Lonely Guy with Steve Martin, among many others.
In 1985, Grodin wrote and acted in Movers & Shakers before reuniting with Elaine May for Ishtar and taking on perhaps his best-known role – accountant Jonathan Mardukas in Midnight Run. The action-comedy has become a classic favorite in large part because of how well Grodin and Robert DeNiro play off of each other.
In the 1990s, Grodin starred in the family comedies Beethoven and Beethoven’s 2nd, not to mention the presidential rom-com Dave and Heart and Souls with Robert Downey Jr.
Grodin kept audiences laughing on the small screen as well. He starred in multiple projects with his real-life friend, Carol Burnett, like the TV movie The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank and the soap opera parody mini-series Fresno.
In one memorable appearance on Late Night with David Letterman in 1991, Grodin pretended to take issue with how he was treated on the show. He complained that the previous weeks guests, including Carol Burnett, had badmouthed him and played a tape to prove it. He even brought his “lawyer” (comedian Joey Faye) to sit in on the interview.
Charles Grodin will forever be remembered for the sardonic but endearing and always entertaining personality he brought to his work. He passed away this week at the age of 86.