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Charles Grodin: Star of The Heartbreak Kid, Midnight Run and Beethoven dies aged 86

Written by on 19 May 2021

American actor Charles Grodin has died at the age of 86, it has been announced.

Grodin, who was best known for his roles in The Heartbreak Kid, Midnight Run and two Beethoven movies, died of bone marrow cancer at his home in Wilton, Connecticut, his son Nicholas said.

Fellow actor Steve Martin reacted to the news by tweeting: “So said to hear. One of the funniest people I ever met.”

Comedian Kathy Griffin also paid tribute, saying she “loved Charles Grodin so much” and he made her “giggle with glee”, adding: “Never mean-spirited, just quick and brilliant.”

In 1988, he starred alongside Robert De Niro in Midnight Run, where Grodin played a fugitive mob accountant who is being tracked down by him.

Charles Grodin (r) with Robert De Niro in Midnight Run. Pic: Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock Image: Grodin (R) with Robert De Niro in Midnight Run. Pic: Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

Grodin, born Charles Grodinsky in Pittsburgh in 1935, was the son of a wholesale dry goods seller who died when Charles was 18.

He played basketball and later described himself as “a rough kid, always getting kicked out of class”.

He studied at the University of Miami and the Pittsburgh Playhouse, and then struggled in New York, earning money during the night as a taxi driver and postal clerk while studying acting in the day.

In 1970, he appeared in the film Catch-22, before rising to fame two years later in The Heartbreak Kid.

He starred as a newly-married man who abandoned his bride to pursue a beautiful, wealthy blonde played by Cybill Shepherd. For that role, he was nominated for a best actor award at the Golden Globes.

Grodin was also in Dave, The Woman in Red, Rosemary’s Baby and Heaven Can Wait.

And on Broadway, he starred with Ellen Burstyn in the long-running 1970s comedy Same Time, Next Year.

Charles Grodin in 2013 Image: Grodin pictured at the New York Film Festival in 2013

Beethoven brought him success in the family-animal comedy genre in 1992, playing a grumpy father. Asked why he joined the project, he said he was happy to get the work.

He said: “I’m not that much in demand. It’s not like I have this stack of wonderful offers. I’m just delighted they wanted me.” Grodin went on to star in the sequel, Beethoven’s 2nd.

Also in the 1990s, he started working in radio and on television, making his mark as a liberal commentator.

He wrote plays and TV scripts, winning an Emmy in 1997 for his work on The Paul Simon Special, and penned books reflecting on the ups and downs of showbusiness.

In his 1989 book, It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here, he wrote that actors 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.”

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