On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, “Beethoven” and “The Heartbreak Kid” actor Charles Grodin died of bone marrow cancer in his Wilton, Connecticut home, according to what his son Nicholas told The New York Times. He was 86 years old. In the later years of his life, Grodin picked parts based on their proximity to Connecticut. “I don’t like to go anywhere. I’ll go to Manhattan,” he told Deadline in 2015. “Whenever they offer me something, I don’t ask ‘How much?’ but I ask ‘Where?’. I haven’t been to Los Angeles for over 20 years.”
He never won an Oscar, but Grodin was nonetheless a legend. Before Dustin Hoffman got the part in “The Graduate,” Grodin was supposed to. The actor, who also played parts in “Midnight Run,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” and “Catch 22” (via Variety), had fond memories of working with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, was a big fan of Paul Newman (who he called a “darling man”) and got Elizabeth Taylor to laugh at one of his jokes (via Fairfield Citizen). Already, Hollywood’s comedians are sending out tributes. Marc Marron called Grodin one of the “great cranky comedic geniuses” (via Twitter). And Patton Oswalt is “ordering a plate of chorizo and eggs in his beloved memory” (via Twitter).
Charles Grodin's post office conversation inspired him to pursue acting
Charles Grodin didn’t want to retire. “I find the hardest thing to do is nothing,” he once told an audience at a local senior center (via Fairfield Citizen). The one prolonged break he took from acting, he took for his son. “I thought it was the time to be there (for him),” he explained to Deadline.
He was born and raised in 1940s Pittsburgh, and the actor once wrote for The Wall Street Journal that he began to “cherish” life after, at just 12 years of age, he witnessed a streetcar run over a boy he knew. A high school valedictorian, Grodin dropped out of the University of Miami when the Pittsburgh Playhouse School of the Theater gave him a scholarship (via Variety). But it took a conversation with a coworker at the post office he was working for on New York City’s west side to dedicate himself to acting, completely. “I was stacking TV Guides at the time and I was guest-starring in a TV movie at the time,” he recounted to Deadline. “The guy who I was working with saw my name and said ‘Hey this guy has the same name as you’. I said, ‘That’s me.’ Then he asked, ‘What are you doing here?'” Grodin quit.
Over the course of his career, the comedic legend racked 70 acting credits for movies and television projects according to IMDB. Most recently he played “Arthur” in the 2017 drama “An Imperfect Murder,” alongside Sienna Miller and Alec Baldwin.
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