Charles Grodin — the actor who appeared in movies such as The Heartbreak Kid, Catch-22, Heaven Can Wait, and Beethoven — died on Tuesday in his home in Wilton, Connecticut. He was 86. His son Nicholas stated to the New York Times that the cause of death was bone marrow cancer.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1935, Grodin attended the University of Miami but dropped out to pursue a career in acting. He initially landed roles in small stage plays and television serials, making it onto Broadway in 1962 with the comedy Tchin-Tchin. His first mainstream film role was a small part as an obstetrician in Rosemary’s Baby.
Grodin continued to work as an actor and director on Broadway for the next decade and earned rave reviews for his role opposite Ellen Burstyn in the 1975 production of Barnard Slade’s Same Time, Next Year. At the same time, he secured a supporting role in Mike Nichols’ Catch-22 (1970) and played the lead man in the Elaine May-directed comedy The Heartbreak Kid (1972), in which he starred as a sporting goods salesman who immediately leaves his newlywed bride (Jeannie Berlin) for another woman (Cybill Shepherd) during their honeymoon.
Grodin’s other major roles include Warren Beatty’s Heaven Can Wait (1978); the action-comedy Midnight Run (1988), in which he co-starred opposite Robert De Niro; and the family movie Beethoven (1992), in which he portrayed a workaholic father who learns to change his ways after his family adopts a troublemaking St. Bernard.
In addition to his work as an actor and stage director, Grodin wrote plays and screenplays and earned a writing Emmy for a 1977 television special on Paul Simon. He also briefly hosted his own talk show in the Nineties and was a frequent guest on other talk show programs, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Late Night With David Letterman.
“I just really didn’t want to be an actor anymore,” Grodin said of his decision to transition to television host. “[W]hen you’re speaking what you think… it’s such a pronounced difference in what your sense of who you are as a person is. Imagine instead of talking to me as you are, you were pretending you were someone else.”