The great comedian and actor Charles Grodin, best known for roles in “The Heartbreak Kid” and “Midnight Run”, has passed away at age 86.
Beginning his acting career in the 1960s, Grodin was known for his work across film, television, the stage and his many talk show appearances.
He made his film debut in 1968’s “Rosemary’s Baby”, going on to appear in many films in the ’70s and ’80s, including “Heaven Can Wait”, “Real Life”, “Ishtar” and “Dave”.
Grodin, well known for his cranky demeanour, also became a family movie icon thanks to the “Beethoven” series.
Through his career, Grodin was celebrated, receiving a nomination for Best Actor at the Golden Globes in 1972 for “The Heartbreak Kid”.
He also wrote plays and television scripts, winning a Primetime Emmy for his work on a 1977 Paul Simon special, and wrote several books humorously ruminating on his ups and downs in show business.
Actors, he wrote, should “think not so much about getting ahead as becoming as good as you can be, so you’re ready when you do get an opportunity. I did that, so I didn’t suffer from the frustration of all the rejections. They just gave me more time.” He spelled out that advice in his first book, “It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here,” published in 1989.
In 1988′s “Midnight Run,” Grodin was a bail-jumping accountant who took millions from a mobster and De Niro was the bounty hunter trying to bring him cross-country to Los Angeles. They’re being chased by police, another bounty hunter and the Mob, and because Grodin is afraid of flying, they are forced to go by car, bus, even boxcar.
“Beethoven” brought him success in the family-animal comedy genre in 1992. Asked why he took up such a role, he told The Associated Press he was happy to get the work.
“I’m not that much in demand,” Grodin replied. “It’s not like I have this stack of wonderful offers. I’m just delighted they wanted me.”
Amid his film gigs, Grodin 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.
In the mid-’90s, Grodin mostly retired from acting, becoming a talk show host on CNBC and a political commentator for “60 Minutes II”.
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.”
During the 2010s, he made acting appearances in shows like “Louie” and the film “While We’re Young”.
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 theater and then struggled in New York, working nights as a cab driver, postal clerk and watchman while studying acting during the day.
In 1962 Grodin made his Broadway debut and received good notices in “Tchin Tchin,” a three-character play starring Anthony Quinn. He followed with “Absence of a Cello” in 1964.
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.
Celebrities and other fans mourned the loss of the comedy icon:
Robert De Niro said in a statement: “Chuck was as good a person as he was an actor. ‘Midnight Run’ was a great project to work on, and Chuck made it an even better one. He will be missed. I am very very sad to hear of his passing.”
RIP Charles Grodin. One of the great cranky comedic geniuses.
— marc maron (@marcmaron) May 18, 2021
God I loved him. https://t.co/IfrfMbR4vH
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) May 18, 2021
No, not #CharlesGrodin . Rest In Peace Legend. Thank you for every gift you gave us, especially the masterpiece that is Midnight Run. 🙏
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) May 18, 2021
RIP Charles Grodin. Ordering a plate of chorizo and eggs in his beloved memory.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 18, 2021
I loved Charles Grodin so much. He would bust my balls and give me so much shit in a way that left me no choice but to giggle with glee. Never mean spirited, just quick and brilliant.
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) May 18, 2021
Had the stunning privilege of seeing Charles Grodin do a Q&A after a screening of Midnight Run in 2011. He spoke uninterrupted about criminal justice reform for at least 30 minutes, maybe even an hour before taking questions. Absolute god. RIP.
— Will Sloan (@WillSloanEsq) May 18, 2021
RIP Charles Grodin. One of the great deadpan comic actors I overwhelmingly associate with my childhood. pic.twitter.com/75ugK60r6y
— Will 🦥 Menaker (@willmenaker) May 18, 2021
Midnight Run, the rare actual perfect movie. RIP Charles Grodin, a great. pic.twitter.com/PWPA5AcKZo
— Ashley Clark (@_Ash_Clark) May 18, 2021
~ With files from The Associated Press