Charles Grodin, the droll, offbeat actor and writer who starred as a caddish newlywed in The Heartbreak Kid and the father in the Beethoven comedies, died Tuesday at 86.
Grodin had bone marrow cancer and passed away at his home in Wilton, Conn., said his son, Nicholas Grodin.
Known for his dead-pan style, Grodin also appeared in the films Dave, The Woman in Red, Rosemary’s Baby and Heaven Can Wait. On Broadway, he starred with Ellen Burstyn in the long-running 1970s comedy Same Time, Next Year.
He would later go on to find many other outlets for his talents.
In the 1990s, he made his mark as a liberal commentator on radio and TV. He also wrote plays and television scripts, winning an Emmy for his work on a 1997 Paul Simon special, as well as several books humorously ruminating on his ups and downs in show business
WATCH | Charles Grodin on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson:
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 shared that advice in his first book, It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here, published in 1989.
Grodin became a star in the 1970s, but nearly broke through years earlier. He auditioned for the title role in Mike Nichols’s film The Graduate, which came out in 1967, but the part for what became a classic went instead to Dustin Hoffman.
Grodin did have a small role in Rosemary’s Baby and was part of the large cast of Nichols’s adaptation of Catch-22 before he gained wide notice in the 1972 Elaine May comedy The Heartbreak Kid.
He starred as a Jewish newlywed who abandons his comically neurotic bride to pursue a beautiful, wealthy blond played by Cybill Shepherd. The movie was a hit and Grodin received high praise.
“After seeing the movie, a lot of people would approach me with the idea of punching me in the nose,” he said.
Beethoven then brought him success in the family 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.”
After 1994’s My Summer Story, Grodin largely abandoned acting. From 1995 to 1998, he hosted a talk show on the CNBC cable network. He moved to MSNBC and then to CBS’s 60 Minutes II.
In his 2002 book, I Like It Better When You’re Funny, he said too many TV programmers believe viewers are best served “if we hear only from lifelong journalists.” He argued that “people outside of Washington and in professions other than journalism” also deserved a soapbox.
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.
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.