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Charles Grodin

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Charles Grodin
Grodin in 2013
Charles Sidney Grodin[1]

(1935-04-21)April 21, 1935
DiedMay 18, 2021(2021-05-18) (aged 86)
  • Actor
  • author
  • comedian
Years active1954–2017
Known forThe Heartbreak Kid (1972)
Midnight Run (1988)
King Kong (1976)
Beethoven (1992)
Spouse(s)Julie Ferguson (divorced)
Elissa Durwood
(m. 1983)

Charles Sidney Grodin (April 21, 1935 – May 18, 2021) was an American actor, comedian, author, and television talk show host. Known for his deadpan delivery and often cast as a put-upon straight man, Grodin became familiar as a supporting actor in many Hollywood comedies of the era. After a small part in Rosemary's Baby in 1968, he played the lead in Elaine May's The Heartbreak Kid (1972) where he received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

He then took supporting roles in Mike Nichols's Catch-22 (1970), the 1976 remake of King Kong, and Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait (1978). Other notable film roles include Real Life (1979), Seems Like Old Times (1980), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), Ishtar (1987), Dave (1993), and Clifford (1994). Grodin co-starred in the action comedy Midnight Run (1988) and in the family film Beethoven (1992).

Grodin made his acting debut in 1958 appearing in the NBC anthology series Decision. He then appeared in numerous TV serials throughout the next decade. He made frequent appearances on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and Late Night with David Letterman. He won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special for the Paul Simon Special (1978) alongside Chevy Chase, Lorne Michaels, Paul Simon, and Lily Tomlin. He portrayed Carl Shapiro in the miniseries Madoff (2016).

Grodin wrote eight books and three plays and became a talk show host on CNBC and in 2000 a political commentator for 60 Minutes II. He returned to acting in Louis C.K.'s FX show Louie and Noah Baumbach's film While We're Young (2014).

Early life[edit]

Grodin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Orthodox Jewish parents,[2][3] Theodore (1900–1953), who owned a store that sold wholesale supplies, and Lena (1907–1996; née Singer), who worked in her husband's business and volunteered for disabled veterans.[4][5] His paternal grandfather had changed the family name from Grodinsky to Grodin.[6] His maternal grandfather was an immigrant from Russia who "came from a long line of rabbis" and moved to Baltimore at the turn of the 20th century. Grodin had an older brother named Jack.[7]

Grodin graduated as valedictorian from Peabody High School, where he was elected class president all four years.[8][9] He attended the University of Miami but left without graduating to pursue acting.[10] He studied acting at HB Studio[11] in New York City under Uta Hagen.


1950s/1960s: Early career[edit]

Grodin's film debut was an uncredited bit part in Disney's 1954 film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.[12] A student of Lee Strasberg and Uta Hagen, he made his Broadway debut in a production of Tchin-Tchin, opposite Anthony Quinn.[13] In 1965, he became an assistant to director Gene Saks and appeared on several television series including The Virginian.[14] Grodin had a small but pivotal part playing an obstetrician in the 1968 horror film Rosemary's Baby. In 1964, he played Matt Stevens on the ABC soap opera The Young Marrieds.[15] During the late 1960s, he also co-wrote and directed Hooray! It's a Glorious Day...and All That, a Broadway play, and directed Lovers and Other Strangers and Thieves, also on Broadway.[16] He also directed Simon and Garfunkel's television special Songs of America in 1969. However, he turned down the part of Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate because of the low salary offered by producer Lawrence Turman, although Turman assured him that the part would make him a star, as it ultimately did for Dustin Hoffman.


After a supporting role in the 1970 comedy film Catch-22, Grodin gained recognition as a comedy actor when he played the lead role in the 1972 film The Heartbreak Kid.[17] Grodin subsequently appeared in several films during the decade, including the 1976 version of King Kong, the hit 1978 comedy Heaven Can Wait, and Albert Brooks's 1979 comedy Real Life. He both starred in and wrote the screenplay for 11 Harrowhouse (1974). During the 1970s, he also frequently appeared on Broadway and was involved in producing several plays.

In 1981, he landed a role in The Great Muppet Caper playing Nicky Holiday, a jewel thief who falls in love with Miss Piggy. He also appeared that same year opposite Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman. His 1980s roles included Neil Simon's Seems Like Old Times (opposite Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn) and 1988's well-reviewed comedy Midnight Run, a buddy movie co-starring Robert De Niro. Grodin also appeared in the 1986 CBS prime-time-soap sendup Fresno, playing the evil son of a raisin matriarch (Carol Burnett).

His Hollywood film roles of the 1980s usually saw him cast as uptight, bland, and world-weary white collar professionals, such as a psychiatrist having a nervous breakdown (The Couch Trip), a health-conscious accountant (Midnight Run), an ineffectual advertising executive (Taking Care of Business), and a lonely, socially awkward nerd (The Lonely Guy). He was cast against this type as a scheming CIA agent in Ishtar.

Commenting on his work with regard to Ishtar, Hal Hinson in The Washington Post observed: "Grodin has a one-of-a-kind quality on the screen, a sort of inspired spinelessness. And with his cat-burglar rhythms – he seems to play all his scenes as if someone were asleep in the next room – he's become a very sly scene-stealer."[18] Sandra Brennan at Rovi noted that: "Whereas many funnymen have been popular for their ability to overreact and mug their way around everyday obstacles, Grodin belonged, from the beginning, to the Bob Newhart school of wry comedy that values understatement and subtlety."[13]

Aside from his film work, he was a frequent presence on television. In 1977, Grodin hosted an episode of the NBC sketch show Saturday Night Live, where the entire episode revolved around his forgetting that the show was live, and he proceeded to wreck sketches because of his failure to prepare accordingly.[19] His many talk show appearances from the 1970s to the early 2020s often included confrontational and mock angry segments. At one time Johnny Carson "banned" him from The Tonight Show appearances after taking offense at things Grodin had said. The NBC network would receive angry letters from viewers who didn't understand the joke that he was playing a persona, trying to be as different from typical talk show guests as possible. His appearances on Late Night With David Letterman would sometimes erupt into shouting and name-calling, but Letterman always enjoyed Grodin's segments.[20]

1990s/2000s: Family films and talk show host[edit]

Grodin at BookExpo 2007 at the Javits Center in New York City, 2007

Grodin's career took a turn in 1992, when he played the nervous family man George Newton in the kids' comedy Beethoven, opposite Bonnie Hunt. The film was a box-office hit, and he reprised the role in the 1993 sequel, Beethoven's 2nd. Also in 1993, Grodin played the role of Harrison Winslow in the film Heart and Souls.[21] After a supporting role in the acclaimed Ivan Reitman comedy Dave, Grodin signed on to play The Old Man in the 1994 limited release sequel to A Christmas Story, It Runs in the Family (a.k.a. My Summer Story). That same year also saw the much-delayed release of Clifford, in which Grodin portrayed the frustrated uncle opposite Martin Short's title role.

From 1995 to 1999, Grodin hosted his own issues-orientated cable news talk show, The Charles Grodin Show. It originated as a nightly show on CNBC, replacing Tom Snyder after he left to start The Late Late Show on CBS.[22] The show was dropped by CNBC in 1998, but aired for a final year as a weekly show on MSNBC[23] before ending its run in late 1999.[24] From 2000 to 2003, he was a political commentator for 60 Minutes II.

In 2004, Grodin wrote The Right Kind of People, an off-Broadway play about co-op boards in certain buildings in Manhattan. Grodin's commentaries were heard on New York City radio station WCBS and other affiliates of the CBS Radio Network, as well as on the CBS Radio Network's Weekend Roundup.

After a 12-year-long hiatus from film, in 2006 Grodin returned to acting in the comedy The Ex starring Zach Braff.[25]

2010s: Career resurgence[edit]

In the 2010s, Grodin made more frequent acting appearances, guest starring on television shows such as Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and The Michael J. Fox Show. Grodin had several supporting roles in films, including Barry Levinson's The Humbling (2014) and Taylor Hackford's The Comedian (2016). He had a prominent supporting role in Noah Baumbach's While We're Young (2015), playing a celebrated documentary filmmaker and the father of one of the lead characters.

In 2015, Grodin was cast in a recurring role in Louis C.K.'s FX show Louie as Dr. Bigelow, C.K.'s philosophical doctor and mentor in Season 4 and 5. In an interview with Deadline, Grodin talked about his relationship with C.K. stating, "I find him to be the single most talented person ... I've ever worked with, he's a wonderful director, writer, and actor."[26][27]

He also portrayed the philanthropist and defrauded investor Carl J. Shapiro in the 2016 miniseries Madoff on ABC based on the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme debacle.[28] His final movie was An Imperfect Murder: The Private Life of a Modern Woman, released in 2017.

Grodin was also a prolific author and published his final book in 2013.

Personal life[edit]

Grodin had two children: daughter Marion (a comedienne), from his marriage to Julie Ferguson, and son, Nicholas, from his marriage to Elissa Durwood.[29][30][31] For a period in the 2000s, Grodin gave up show business to be a stay-at-home dad to his children.[32]


Grodin died from multiple myeloma at his home in Wilton, Connecticut, on May 18, 2021. He was 86.[33]



Year Movie Role Notes
1954 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Drummer Boy Uncredited
1964 Sex and the College Girl Bob
1968 Rosemary's Baby Dr. C.C. Hill
1970 Catch-22 Capt. Aarfy Aardvark
1972 The Heartbreak Kid Lenny Cantrow
1974 11 Harrowhouse Howard R. Chesser Writer
1976 King Kong Fred Wilson
1977 Thieves Martin Cramer
1978 Heaven Can Wait Tony Abbott
1979 Real Life Warren Yeager
Sunburn Jake Dekker
1980 It's My Turn Homer
Seems Like Old Times Dist. Atty. Ira J. Parks
1981 The Incredible Shrinking Woman Vance Kramer
The Great Muppet Caper Nicky Holiday
1984 The Lonely Guy Warren Evans
The Woman in Red Buddy
1985 Movers & Shakers Herb Derman Writer, producer
1986 Last Resort George Lollar
1987 Ishtar Jim Harrison
1988 The Couch Trip George Maitlin
You Can't Hurry Love Mr. Glerman
Midnight Run Jonathan "the Duke" Mardukas
1989 Cranium Command Left Brain Short
1990 Taking Care of Business Spencer Barnes
1992 Beethoven George Newton
1993 Dave Murray Blum
So I Married an Axe Murderer Commandeered Driver
Heart and Souls Harrison Winslow
Beethoven's 2nd George Newton
1994 Clifford Martin Daniels
My Summer Story Bob Parker (The Old Man)
2006 The Ex Bob Kowalski
2011 The Harmony Game Self Documentary
2013 Brazzaville Teen-Ager Father Short film
2014 The Humbling Jerry
While We're Young Leslie Breitbart
2016 The Comedian Dick D'Angelo
2017 An Imperfect Murder Arthur Final film role, also known as The Private Life of a Modern Woman


Year Title Role Notes
1958 Decision Young Hoodlum Episode: "Man Against Crime"
Armstrong Circle Theatre Phelps Episode: "The Nautilus"
1960 Have Gun – Will Travel Proctor's Henchman Episode: "Fogg Bound"
1961 The Play of the Week Performer Episode: Black Monday
The Defenders Thomas Martin Episode: "The Apostle"
1965 The Young Marrieds Matt Crane Stevens #2 65 episodes
My Mother the Car Fred Episode: "Burned at the Steak"
The Trials of O'Brien Peter Farnum Episode: "Picture Me a Murder"
1966 Felony Squad Edgar Episode: "Penny Game, a Two-Bit Murder"
Shane Jed 2 episodes
1967 The Iron Horse Alex Episode: "The Pembrooke Blood"
The F.B.I. Carl Platt Episode: "Sky on Fire"
Captain Nice News Vendor Episode: "One Rotten Apple"
The Virginian Arnie Doud Episode: "The Reckoning"
The Guns of Will Sonnett Bells Pickering Episode: "A Bell for Jeff Sonnett"
N.Y.P.D. Joey Diamond Episode: "Money Man"
1968 The Big Valley Mark Dunigan Episode: "The Good Thieves"
1969 Judd, for the Defense Dist. Atty. Tom Durant Episode: "An Elephant in a Cigar Box"
Simon and Garfunkel: Songs of America Himself Director, producer
1974 Paradise N/A Co-director, television movie
1977 The Paul Simon Special Charles Writer
Saturday Night Live Himself/host Episode: Charles Grodin/Paul Simon
1978 Just Me and You Michael Lindsay Television movie
The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank Jim Benson Television movie
1981 Laverne & Shirley Himself Episode: "Friendly Persuasion"
1983 Charley's Aunt Lord Fancourt Babberly Television movie
1986 Fresno Cane Kensington Miniseries
1990 The Magical World of Disney Quentin Fitzwaller Episode: "The Muppets at Walt Disney World"
1992 Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories Narrator Episode: "Rotten Island"
1995–98 The Charles Grodin Show Host 26 episodes
2000 60 Minutes II Correspondent
2012 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Brett Forrester Episode: "Lessons Learned"
2013 The Michael J. Fox Show Steve Henry Episode: "Thanksgiving"
2014–15 Louie Dr. Bigelow 5 episodes
2015 Waiting for Ishtar Himself Documentary
2016 Madoff Carl Shapiro Miniseries; 4 episodes
The New Yorker Presents Psychiatrist Episode: 1.8; Final television role


Year Title Role Notes
1962 Tchin-Tchin Performer - Robert Prickett Plymouth Theatre, Broadway
1964 Absence of a Cello Performer - Perry Littlewood Ambassador Theatre, Broadway
1968 Lovers and Other Strangers Director Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Broadway
1974 Thieves Director - Producer Broadhurst Theatre and Longacre Theatre, Broadway
1975 Same Time, Next Year Performer - George Peters Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Broadway
1977 Unexpected Guests Director Little Theatre, Broadway

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
1972 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy The Heartbreak Kid Nominated [34]
1978 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special The Paul Simon Special Won
1980 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Supporting Actor Seems Like Old Times Nominated
1988 Valladolid International Film Festival Best Actor Midnight Run Won
1993 Saturn Awards Best Supporting Actor Heart and Souls Nominated
1994 American Comedy Awards Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Dave Won
2006 William Kunstler Awards Racial Justice[32] Won



  • Grodin, Charles. Price of Fame: A Play. New York: Samuel French, 1991. ISBN 978-0-573-69220-8.
  • Grodin, Charles. One of the All-Time Greats: A Comedy. New York: S. French, 1992. ISBN 978-0-573-69366-3.
  • Grodin, Charles. The Right Kind of People. New York: Samuel French, 2008. ISBN 978-0-573-65107-6.


In popular culture[edit]

Grodin is mentioned as a hero of characters Mac and Dennis in the season six episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia entitled "Mac's Mom Burns Her House Down".[citation needed]

He was referenced in three different episodes of The Simpsons ("I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can", "Little Big Girl" and "Mathlete's Feat").

In the Seinfeld episode "The Doll" Jerry Seinfeld buys a bottle of sauce because the brand's mascot bears a resemblance to Grodin.


  1. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (May 18, 2021). "Charles Grodin, Star of 'Beethoven' and 'Heartbreak Kid,' Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  2. ^ Foundas, Scott (May 2, 2007). "Don't Call It a Comeback". LA Weekly. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  3. ^ Pine, Dan (November 26, 2004). "The heartfelt kid". Jewish News Weekly. jweekly.com. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  4. ^ "Charles Grodin obituary". The Guardian. May 19, 2021. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  5. ^ "Charles Grodin Biography (1935–)". Film Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  6. ^ Grodin, Charles (1989). It Would be So Nice if You Weren't Here: My Journey Through Show Business. Morrow. ISBN 9780688088736.
  7. ^ Vancheri, Barbara (April 19, 2009). "Humanitarian always has been Charles Grodin's main role". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Post-gazette.com. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  8. ^ Byrge, Duane; Barnes, Mike (May 18, 2021). "Charles Grodin, Deliciously Droll Actor, Dies at 86". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  9. ^ "Charles Grodin, Pittsburgh native and star of 'Midnight Run,' dies at 86". TribLIVE.com. Associated Press. May 18, 2021. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  10. ^ Grodin, Charls (September 5, 1989). "Playhouse provided training ground for Grodin". Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  11. ^ "HB Studio - Notable Alumni | One of the Original Acting Studios in NYC". Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  12. ^ "Charles Grodin, deadpan comic actor known for 'Midnight Run' and 'Beethoven,' dies at 86". Daniel Arkin. NBC News. May 18, 2021. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Brennan, Sandra. "Charles Grodin Information Biography". All Rovi.com. Archived from the original on October 23, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  14. ^ "Charles Grodin, Star of 'Beethoven' and 'Heartbreak Kid,' Dies at 86". Neil Genzlinger. The New York Times. May 18, 2021. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  15. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 716. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1.
  16. ^ "Thieves". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  17. ^ "Charles Grodin: Beethoven and The Heartbreak Kid actor dies aged 86". BBC News. May 18, 2021. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  18. ^ Hinson, Hal (May 15, 1987). "Ishtar". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  19. ^ Rabin, Nathan (October 31, 2008). "Saturday Night Live (Classic): "Charles Grodin/Paul Simon". The A.V. Club. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  20. ^ Pitchel, Samantha (December 21, 2011). "The Awkward, Hostile, and Absolutely Hilarious Late Night Appearances of Charles Grodin". Vulture. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  21. ^ MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Heart and Souls’: Comedy Wins a Few, Loses a Few
  22. ^ "The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder; Charles Grodin". Entertainment Weekly. February 10, 1995. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  23. ^ "Grodin gets weekly talker on MSNBC". Variety. June 15, 1998. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  24. ^ "MSNBC drops Grodin talker". Variety. November 10, 1999. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  25. ^ "The Ex". IMDb. March 6, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  26. ^ "Charles Grodin on Working With Louis C.K. In 'Louie' & Why He's Like "No Other Director"". Deadline. June 26, 2015. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  27. ^ "Veteran Actor Charles Grodin on Playing Louis C.K.'s Doctor". Esquire. May 6, 2014. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  28. ^ "Charles Grodin, Lewis Black Join ABC's 'Madoff' Miniseries". Thewrap. June 17, 2015.
  29. ^ Strauss, Robert (January 27, 1997). "Getting Serious Charles Grodin, Veteran of Many Flaky Film Roles, Is Using His Cable Talk Show To Speak Out About Important Social Issues. this Is Thrilling To Me, He Says". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  30. ^ Glassman, Marvin (January 30, 2013). "Comedienne stars in 'Growing up Grodin'". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  31. ^ Charles Grodin Archived January 2, 2017, at the Wayback Machine; Gotham Comedy Club. Retrieved April 15, 2012
  32. ^ a b Smith, Liz (May 24, 2006). "More to M than meets the eye". Variety. Archived from the original on February 8, 2016.
  33. ^ Tyler McCarthy (May 18, 2021). "Charles Grodin, known for 'The Heartbreak Kid' and Broadway roles, dead at 86". Fox News. Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  34. ^ "Charles Grodin - Awards". Internet Movie Database. April 6, 2020.

External links[edit]