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Film and Theater Actor Charles Grodin Dies at 86

Grodin was known for starring in films like The Heartbreak Kid and The Great Muppet Caper.

Charles Grodin
(© David Gordon)

Actor, director, and producer Charles Grodin has died at the age of 86 of bone marrow cancer.

Grodin began his career on Broadway in Tchin-Tchin (1962) and went on to appear in Absence of a Cello (1964) and Same Time, Next Year (1975), for which he received a Drama Desk Award nomination. He also directed Lovers and Other Strangers (1968), Thieves (1974), and Unexpected Guests (1977).

Onscreen, Grodin's extensive résumé included Rosemary's Baby, Catch-22, The Heartbreak Kid, and Midnight Run. A younger generation of viewers knew him from The Great Muppet Caper, as a jewel thief who falls in love with Miss Piggy, and the beleaguered owner of a St. Bernard named Beethoven. In the 1990s, he hosted a talk show on CNBC.

An at-times incendiary comedic performer, Grodin's famous Saturday Night Live episode in 1977 revolved around his forgetting the show was live and wrecking sketches because of it. He was banned from Johnny Carson's Tonight Show after Carson was offended by various confrontational remarks; NBC would regularly receive angry letters from viewers who didn't know it was a joke.

Grodin is survived by his wife of 38 years, author Elissa Durwood Grodin, their son Nicholas, daughter-in-law Aubrey, and granddaughter Geneva, and a daughter by a previous marriage, Marion.

The family requests that friends and fans consider making a donation to The Innocence Project in his memory. It was the advocacy work on behalf of non-violent inmates — for which he received the William Kunstler Racial Justice Award and was praised by Governor Pataki for helping revise New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws — that he felt most fulfilled by, and proudest of, because of its direct impact on improving the lives of others.

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