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Gaynes in 1964
May 16, 1917
Helsinki, Grand Duchy of Finland, Russian Empire
|Spouse(s)||Allyn Ann McLerie (1953-present)|
Gaynes' most recognized role in cinema was arguably that of Commandant Eric Lassard in the Police Academy series. To television fans, he is perhaps best known as the curmudgeonly Henry Warnimont on the NBC series Punky Brewster; as high-powered theatrical producer Arthur Feldman on The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, in which Gaynes' real-life wife, Allyn Ann McLerie, co-starred as his love interest; and as Frank Smith, the mob boss brought down by Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) on the soap opera General Hospital.
Life and career
Gaynes was born in 1917 in Helsinki, in what was then the Grand Duchy of Finland and part of the Russian Empire (Finland became independent that year), the son of Iya Grigorievna De Gay (later known as Lady Iya Abdy), a Russian artist, and Gerrit Jongejans, a Dutch businessman. His uncle was actor Gregory Gaye. His maternal great-great-great-grandfather, Osip Matveevich Gay, was of French desсent. His maternal great-great-grandmother, Yelena Yakovlevna Sadovskaya, was likely of Polish descent.
A United States citizen for most of his life, Gaynes rapidly built a reputation as a Broadway musical comedy performer in the 1940s and 1950s (his best-known appearance was in Wonderful Town, the musical version of My Sister Eileen). He had a career on the opera stages of Italy and France before World War II and in the US after the war.
He alternated between stage musicals and both comic and dramatic plays, including his role as Bob Baker in the original production of Wonderful Town (1953), Jupiter in the Cole Porter musical Out of This World, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and as Henry Higgins in the 1964 US tour of My Fair Lady. In television, Gaynes played the role of Henry Warnimont, the eventual foster father for Punky Brewster in the eponymous series. (He also provided the voice for Henry in the animated Ruby-Spears version of the show.) Behind the camera, he directed the very last episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. Films in which he appeared include The Way We Were, Nickelodeon and Tootsie.
In 1984, he played Commandant Lassard, the titular leader, in the first of seven Police Academy movies, and audiences of the 1980s may remember him as Frank Smith, the Mafia boss who was after Luke and Laura on the soap opera General Hospital. In 1994, he played Serybryalzov in Louis Malle's acclaimed independent feature, Vanya on 42nd Street.
Entering films and television in the early 1960s, Gaynes was a regular on the TV daytime dramas Search for Tomorrow and General Hospital, and showed up in such movies as The Group (1966), Marooned (1969) and Doctor's Wives (1971). He also played a role in the sci-fi television series Sliders for one episode, being the aged character of the leading role Quinn Mallory, played by Jerry O'Connell.
Gaynes has been married to Canadian-born American stage and television actress and dancer Allyn Ann McLerie since December 20, 1953; they had two children, Matthew (Matt) and Iya. After early teenage experimentation with marijuana, Matthew was sent to the Catalina Island School; there he learned ocean kayaking, and his life changed completely. He grew to be one of the most respected kayakers of his generation; he was shortlisted for the Olympic team the year that President Jimmy Carter boycotted the Olympics after the Russians invaded Afghanistan. Matt died in a car crash in India in 1989, on his way to Nepal to film a kayaking special for ESPN. He was not the driver and the car had no seatbelts. He left behind a widow whom he had married earlier that year.
Iya Gaynes Falcone, a lawyer, served as campaign director for a variety of California political candidates, and then ran for office herself in Santa Barbara. She served on the Santa Barbara City Council for two terms. During a subsequent run for mayor, her husband of many years died, and she took actions that effectively withdrew herself from the campaign. She has since remarried.
In addition to George Gaynes joining the cast of his wife's series The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd in 1989, he and McLerie had previously worked together on Punky Brewster, when she guest starred in a first season episode as a love interest of Henry Warnimont's.
In a 2011 interview, he stated that he had an "easy", "open" and "cordial" relationship with his Punky Brewster co-star Soleil Moon Frye, 59 years his junior, but added that they never had any relationship outside of their work. He also added that the series' dog, "Brandon the Wonder Dog " was named after the NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff.
- WKRP In Cincinnati - Henri, episode: "Jennifer's Home For Christmas" 1979
- Cheers - Malcolm Kramer, episode: "Where There's A Will," 1983.
- Chicago Hope – Brook Austin
- Columbo - Everett, episode: "Étude in Black," 1972.
- QUINCY M.E. - Powell Dixon, episode: "The unquiet grave Season 7, Episode 21," 1982.
- Evita Peron - The Doctor
- Captains and the Kings - Orestes Bradley, 1976
- Rich Man, Poor Man Book II - Max Vincent, 1976
- Washington: Behind Closed Doors - Brewster Perry, 1977
- General Hospital - Frank Smith
- Hawaii Five-O - Thurman Elliott, "Kiss the Queen Goodbye," 1970.
- Cheyenne - Rod Delaplane, "Vengeance is Mine," 1962.
- Hearts Afire – Senator Strobe Smithers (1992-1993)
- Hogan's Heroes - 3 Star US Army Air Corp General - Episode 159, 1971.
- Matlock - Judge Hollis D. Dunaway - Episode "The Power Brokers" S2E5 & S2E6, 27 October 1987.
- Punky Brewster – Henry Warnimont
- The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd – Arthur Feldman (1989-1991)
- George Gaynes at the Internet Movie Database
- George Gaynes at the Internet Broadway Database
- George Gaynes at the University of Wisconsin's Actors Studio audio collection