Charles Grodin was a prolific actor, producer, and Hollywood personality. Over his years in show business, Grodin had gotten a knack for making people laugh in a non-traditional sense! With such good comedy skills, Grodin was frequently invited to many late night TV shows. The star behind many movies and broadway shows ; Charles Grodin will go down as one of the best actors of all time. Unfortunately, Charles passed away earlier this week and fans are reminiscing on what made him one of the worst guests in late night television! Let’s take a look!
Charles Grodin got into the business of acting when he was just a small child. He made his screen debut when he was in his late teens. Charles was an uncredited actor playing a small bit role in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”,a movie produced by Disney in 1954.
He wouldn’t quite reach fame until almost two decades later when The Heartbreak Kid jump started his career in 1972.
Charles studied under the famous director and theatre fanatic, Lee Strasberg. During his time working on Broadway, Grodin was offered a debut role in the production of “Tchin-Tchin”, a production based around marital affairs. Grodin directed plays on Broadway, some of his most famous work being the 1968 “Lovers and Other Strangers” and 1974 “Thieves”
Following his time on Broadway, Grodin became an assistant director and made some small appearances on popular TV shows like “The Virginian”. After quite some time co-writing and directing small plays and TV bits, Grodin landed his first pivotal role. Grodin played an obstetrician in the cult classic horror film, Rosemary’s Baby. One time while filming on set, Grodin caused a scene when he debated the script writing with producer, Roman Polanski.
The role he played was a smaller one, the success of the movie gave Grodin widespread name recognition.
Switching Genres, Charles went on to land a supporting role in the comedy film, “Catch-22”. After scoring big in the comedy realm, Grodin landed his first lead role in an upcoming movie called “The Heartbreak Kid”. The film was centered around Grodin who played a shallow and conceited New Yorker who had just gotten married to an emotionally unstable young lady. While on their honeymoon, Grodin’s character claims he has found the true love of his life in a girl named Kelly. Claiming that the timing was “just off”, he leaves his wife of 5 days to pursue Kelly. Eventually the couple gets married but Grodin’s character soon realizes that Kelly wasn’t quite what he was looking for either… The movie is filled with dry humor and awkward scenes, making it a huge success in theatres.
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Making it Big
Making the move into comedy paid off greatly for actor Charles Grodin. After the massive success of “The Heartbreak Kid’, Grodin’s life changed almost overnight. Over the next several years, Grodin secured leading roles in big named movies like “Heaven can wait” and “King Kong”! Grodin was also given the opportunity to write and star in his own screenplays on Broadway. In the 1980s. Grodin starred in numerous comedy films with big shot actors like Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn!
After years spent in the industry, people began to notice what exactly it was that made Chalres Grodin such a unique actor. Grodin had a knack for deadpan humor. Unlike many comedy actors who shoved their way to the front of the screen with loud voices and in-your-face comedy, Grodin took a more subtle approach. The Washington post observed that Grodin was a one of a kind comedy actor who did not have to be boisterous to steal the show. Grodin could make a scene his own using his wry smile and subtlety. Fans would soon learn to love Grodin for his personality rather than his on-screen acting abilities.
Aside from film and Tv show features, Charles became a national sensation on Late Night Television.
In 1977, after just 3 seasons on the air, Saturday Night Live invited Charles to host an episode of the hit TV series. With the recent departure of star Chevy Chase from SNL, producers thought fans would be able to resonate with Grodin; for the duo had starred in movies together in the past.
A huge risk, Charles attempted a bit on SNL that has never been recreated to this day. Rather than preparing for the live shooting in front of a studio audience, Grodin acted clueless throughout his episode about the fact that he was being filmed. During his segment, Grodin played a character who continuously failed to catch on to the premise of SNL.
Apparently, producers of the show did not appreciate his acting, but Grodin and fans saw it as a success in a way.
The Tonight Show
Over the years, Grodin appeared on The Tonight Show Starring host, Johnny Carson. Sticking to his persona, Grodin frequently butted heads with Johnny Carson. Johnny was always willing to get into a deep conversation or debate, and Grodin was always the one to start one. Carson seemed to be the perfect muse for Grodin. The duo frequently bantered with each other quite intensely, but Carson took a liking to Grodin. The Tonight Show enjoyed the good-humored bantering so much that Charles Grodin was offered a personal contract to be a frequent guest on the show. Due to his witty nature,Carson hosted Grodin on the show 36 times over the years.
Not only did Charles Grodin appear as a regular guest with Johnny Carson, but he frequented The Late Show with David Letterman. In an attempt to change things up, Grodin created elaborate stories and bits to use on the Letterman show. On one episode, Grodin showed up for his interview with Letterman only to find that the host wasn’t able to make it that night. One night, Grodin entered the talk show with an attorney by his side; threatening to sue Letterman for negative comments he had made the week before. All of these pranks were in good fun and really stirred up the audience.
Though the shows would often erupt into yelling and name calling, the uniqueness of Grodin as a guest is what made him a memorable star.
After several stunts pulled on late night television, Grodin thought it would be best to make his way back into acting full time. In 1992, Grodin landed a role that was far unlike anything else he had ever done. Grodin was cast as the lead for a movie called “Beethoven’. Though from the title it may sound that the film has something to do with musical composure, it is quite the opposite. The film is about a family man who stumbles upon a St. Bernard puppy that had escaped its shelter. The family grows to love the stray dog, eventually crowning him with the name “Beethoven” after he barks at the youngest daughter while she is playing the piano.
Eventually, a shady Veterinarian tricks Grodin’s character into thinking the dog may grow up to be vicious. Hesitantly, Beethoven is given up to be euthanized. Eventually, the family realizes that there was something shady about the Animal Doctor and they set out on a grand adventure to save the dog!
This film marked a shocking change in the type of acting Charles Grodin was used to. Soon after Beethoven was released, it’s success gave it a shot at a sequel; Beethoven 2 was released just one year later in 1993.
After spending time acting on the highly popular children’s movies, Grodin had revealed that he no longer wanted to be an actor. Though he had once had a passion for film and theatre, Grodin wanted to move on. After so much exposure, Grodin actually became a talk show host himself in the 1990s. In 1995, Charles set out on a new adventure when he started his own famous talk show called “The Charles Grodin Show”. Grodin’s talk show ran for a little over 4 years before it was ultimately cancelled. Though Grodin was disappointed, he realized that his new passion was truly speaking his mind. From 2000 to 2003, Grodin became a political commentator for 60 minutes.
Grodin took intermittent breaks from the entertainment industry for the rest of his career. Grodin appeared as a guest star on many television shows in the 2010s. Grodin appeared on shows like “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “The Michael J. Fox Show”.
Sadly, actor Charles Grodin passed away in May of 2021 when he fell victim to bone marrow cancer at the age of 86 years old. Grodin was survived by his longtime wife, Elissa Durwood, and his two children at his home in Wilton, Connecticut.
Grodins career had many ups and downs, but his sense of humor remained constant. During his time in acting he earned a number of prestigious awards and nominations. His career extended decades; working on television, Broadway, and film. Not only was Grodin an actor, but he had the rare ability to transcend genres and capture the attention of almost any audience.
Grodin saw himself as a very hard working and high strung careerist who was also laid-back at the same time. His unconcerned demeanor made him the perfect guest on late night television shows.