Charles Grodin, Actor, Author, and Talk Show Host, Dies at 86
Charles Grodin, the droll comic actor who became an invaluable late-night guest — and eventually a talk-show host in his own right — died Tuesday at his Wilton, Connecticut, home, The New York Times reports.
Grodin, who had been battling bone marrow cancer according to his son, Nicholas, celebrated his 86th birthday less than a month ago.
Grodin was born in 1935 in Pittsburgh, attending school in Miami. He quit college to pursue acting, studying at the HB Studio in Manhattan under Uta Hagen.
Grodin's first appearance on film was an uncredited bit part in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954), he began his TV work with a 1958 episode of "Decision," and he made his Broadway debut in 1962 in "Tchin-Tchin" with Anthony Quinn.
He continued on Broadway in "Absence of a Cello" (1964), and directed both "Lovers and Other Strangers" (1968) and "Thieves" (1974) before his signature performance, in Bernard Slade's "Same Time, Next Year" (1975), opposite Ellen Burstyn. The comedy about an adulterous affair carried out once a year in the same hotel room was a smash, running for more than three years, though Grodin left seven months into the run to take advantage of the fresh demand for him on the big screen.
Following a tiny but pivotal part in Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" (1968) as a duplicitous obstetrician, Grodin broke through in "Catch-22" (1970), and especially with his leading performance opposite Cybill Shepherd and Jeannie Berlin in director Elaine May's widely admired "The Heartbreak Kid" (1972). He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his work in the movie.
Following a flop with "King Kong" (1976), he had hits with the Oscar-nominated Warren Beatty vehicle "Heaven Can Wait" (1978) and "The Great Muppet Caper" (1980) — in which it would be fair to say his leading lady was a pig — and would often appear as a deadpan comic lead or supporting player, usually a stuffed-shirt type, as in "Seems Like Old Times" (1980), and "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" (1981).
Following the legendary bomb "Ishtar" (1987) with Dustin Hoffman — Grodin helped dissect it in the 2015 doc "Waiting for Ishtar" — he teamed up with Robert De Niro and achieved one of his greatest movie successes with "Midnight Run" (1988).
In the '90s, Grodin gravitated to family fare in "Beethoven" (1992) and "Beethoven's 2nd" (1993) as well as "Clifford" (1994), and he won raves for his work in the comedy "Dave" (1993).
Along with Broadway and movie work, Grodin was a frequent and irascible presence on TV, including hosting "Saturday Night Live" in 1977 and becoming an intentional foil for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" long before Jimmy Kimmel vs. Matt Damon.
He was similarly combative with David Letterman, though all in good fun.
From 1995-1998, during a 12-year hiatus from acting, Grodin hosted "The Charles Grodin Show" on CNBC, exploring a new facet of his personality, continuing in that vein with work on "60 Minutes II" in 2000.
He eventually returned to movies, appearing in "The Ex" (2006), Noah Baumbach's "While We're Young" (2014), on the series "Louie" (2014-2015), "The Comedian" (2016), the miniseries "Madoff" (2016), and his last film, "The Private Life of a Modern Woman" aka "An Imperfect Murder" (2017).
Always a writer, Grodin — who shared an Emmy win for writing 1978's "The Paul Simon Special" — published a number of best-selling memoirs and humor books, including "It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here: My Journey Through Show Business" (1989), "How I Get Through Life: A Wise and Witty Guide" (1992), and "I Like It Better When You're Funny: Working in Television and Other Precarious Adventures" (2002).
He is survived by his wife of over 37 years, Elissa Durwood, and his two children.