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Charles Grodin (1935–2021), star of “The Heartbreak Kid” and “Midnight Run”

by Linnea Crowther

Charles Grodin was an actor known for a wide variety of film and TV roles, including “The Heartbreak Kid” and “Midnight Run.”

Acting career

Grodin’s early notable roles included an obstetrician in “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) and the navigator, Aarfy, in “Catch-22” (1970). In 1972, his starring role in “The Heartbreak Kid” raised his profile as a skilled comedic actor with a gift for deadpan, and it earned him a Golden Globe nomination. Grodin went on to play well-received supporting roles in movies including “Heaven Can Wait” (1978), “Seems Like Old Times” (1980), “The Great Muppet Caper” (1981), “The Lonely Guy” (1984), and “The Couch Trip” (1988). In 1988, Grodin starred with Robert De Niro in “Midnight Run,” playing an embezzling accountant on the run. Grodin spent much of the movie in handcuffs – and he ended up with permanent scars on his wrists from them.

In the 1990s, Grodin starred in the family comedy “Beethoven” (1992) and its sequel, “Beethoven’s 2nd” (1993). Other films of that period include “Dave” (1993), which earned Grodin an American Comedy Award for Funniest Supprting Actor – Film, as well as “So I Married an Axe Murderer” (1993) and “Clifford” (1994). Grodin took a hiatus from acting in the mid-‘90s and launched “The Charles Grodin Show,” a talk show on CNBC. He also became a political correspondent for “60 Minutes II.” Grodin later returned to acting with roles in movies including “The Ex” (2006) and “While We’re Young” (2014) as well as a recurring role on the Louis C.K. TV sitcom “Louie.”

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Grodin was a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and “Late Night with David Letterman” – though Carson banned him several times for his antagonistic behavior, an act Grodin put on for talk show appearances. Also a stage actor, he starred in “Same Time, Next Year” and “Tchin-Tchin” on Broadway, as well as directing Broadway plays. He wrote three plays and several autobiographies and memoirs.

Grodin on his late-night talk show persona

“You know, we’re just talking right now. I’m not trying to bring you to laughter every two seconds. That’s what they want on those shows. I don’t feel like I can do that. So I just created this persona of this disgruntled guy, and I’m comfortable playing that role. One time on ‘Letterman,’ I actually brought a vaudeville comic on as my attorney, threatening to sue Letterman for remarks that were made by Carol Burnett and Dabney Coleman on the previous week.” –from a 2009 interview for The A.V. Club

Tributes to Charles Grodin

Full obituary: The New York Times

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