Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Grodin was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home by his father, Theodore, who sold wholesale supplies, and his mother, Lena, who worked in the family store and volunteered for disabled veterans. Though he attended the University of Miami, where he studied performing arts, he was eager to become an actor and decided to leave after only six month. Grodin instead chose to study acting with Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagen and Mira Rostova in New York, and soon made his debut on Broadway with "Tchin Tchin" (1962), starring opposite Anthony Quinn. His talent and his wry sense of humor caught the attention of Hollywood soon enough, with Grodin making his feature film debut in "Sex and the College Girl" (1964). A few years later, Grodin was the first actor to be cast as Benjamin Braddock, a young man who gets seduced by the lovely Mrs. Robinson in Mike Nichols' classic "The Graduate" (1967). But a disagreement over salary prompted the actor to pull out of the film and the career-defining role went to another up-and-coming star, Dustin Hoffman. Grodin moved on from the "Graduate" setback to work with Roman Polanski on the famed supernatural thriller, "Rosemary's Baby" (1968), in which he had a small, but chilling role as a devilish obstetrician. Two years later, Grodin had the chance to work with Nichols in the film version of the antiwar satire "Catch-22" (1970), starring Alan Arkin, Jon Voight and Orson Welles. Grodin played the despicable Cpt. Aarfy Aardvark, whose incompetence as a navigator seemingly gets in the way of main character Cpt. Yossarian (Arkin) at the most inconvenient times. Even though he turned down "The Graduate," Grodin eventually found his own breakout role as a man who falls in love with the woman of his dreams (Cybill Shepherd) during his honeymoon with another woman (Jeannie Berlin) in the Neil Simon-penned romantic comedy, "The Heartbreak Kid" (1972). His longtime friend and mentor Elaine May, who was also the film's director, knew Grodin was the perfect star for the movie. His portrayal of Lenny Cantrow opposite Shepherd earned the actor a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.Grodin took a short break from films in the mid-1970s - even turning down Steven Spielberg's offer to play the role of Matt Hooper that eventually went to Richard Dreyfuss in "Jaws" (1974) - in order to direct the play "Thieves on Broadway." He reemerged on the big screen to co-star and co-write the heist spoof, "11 Harrowhouse" (1974), before appearing in the blockbuster remake of "King Kong" (1976) as Fred Wilson, a big shot oil magnate looking to strike black gold on a once-deserted island. With that role, Grodin proved that he could play film villains as well as comedic leads. The following year, he had an unintentionally memorable hosting stint on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975-) in 1977, where he and the writers decided to play on an intro about him not having comic material. The overall clumsy and unfunny bit failed to go over well with the audience, leading the show to never ask him to host again. He next had a supporting role as the supplicant personal secretary and lover to the wife (Dyan Cannon) of a millionaire who is poisoned to death, only to have his body occupied by an NFL star (Warren Beatty) not yet slated for death in "Heaven Can Wait" (1978). Though spending a great deal of his career on the big screen, Grodin had some life on television in the 1970s and 1980s, which in part consisted of guest appearances on variety and late night talk shows. Aside from "SNL," he was a frequent guest on "Late Night with David Letterman" (NBC, 1982-1993), where his appearances were often a play on a faux antagonistic attitude toward the host. The prickly persona became the actor's trademark every time he appeared on other talk shows, including "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1962-), where he was one of very few guests under exclusive contract, as he seemingly bristled Johnny Carson with each appearance. Both host and guest were in on the joke, though audiences believed their antagonism to be real. During the early 1980s, Grodin continued receiving praise for his supporting roles in a handful of films, including "Seems Like Old Times" (1980), in which he played the stuffed-shirt husband of a liberal-minded lawyer (Goldie Hawn), whose loser ex-husband (Chevy Chase) invades their lives while trying to hide from bank robbers.Following a memorable appearance in "The Great Muppet Caper" (1981), Grodin played the husband of "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" (1981), starring Lily Tomlin. After supporting roles in the romantic comedies "The Lonely Guy" (1984), starring Steve Martin, and "The Woman in Red" (1984) with longtime pal Gene Wilder, he reunited with director Elaine May and actor Warren Beatty for "Ishtar" (1987), one of Hollywood's biggest and most derided flops of all time. But he rebounded nicely with his next project, "Midnight Run" (1988), a buddy comedy that paired him opposite Robert De Niro, who played a tough-as-nails bounty hunter tasked with hauling in a weak-willed embezzler (Grodin), only to learn that the criminal has been targeted by the mob for assassination. A masterful blend of action and comedy, "Midnight Run" became one of Grodin's best known films, while also marking the downward trend of his career for the rest of the decade.Following turns in less-than-inspired comedies like "The Couch Trip" (1988) and "Taking Care of Business" (1990), Grodin made a major comeback with "Beethoven" (1992), a child-friendly comedy about a family and their stray St. Bernard puppy, who matures into a slobbering, over-sized destructive beast. With the film a surprise hit, Grodin starred in the sequel, "Beethoven's 2nd" (1993) and followed with a supporting role in the hit political comedy "Dave" (1993), starring Kevin Kline as an idealistic dead-ringer for the President of the United States. After a supporting role in the dark Mike Myers comedy "So I Married an Axe Murderer" (1993) and a starring role in the critically maligned comedy "Clifford" (1994), Grodin decided to take on politics and current events, switching gears to become host of his own talk show, "The Charles Grodin Show" (CNBC, 1995-98). On the program, he spoke out on a series of issues from the criminal justice system to health and medicine, while also touching upon current topics like the O.J. Simpson trial. The show became the highest-rated program ever in its time period for the cable news network.In 2000, Grodin became a regular political commentator, delivering Andy Rooney-like remarks for the short-lived spin-off, "60 Minutes II" (CBS, 1999-2005). Grodin was also a human rights activist who fought for two years in order to gain clemency for three women sentenced under New York's notorious Rockefeller drug laws, which he accomplished in 1999. While he delivered radio commentaries for the CBS Radio Network throughout the decade and into the next, Grodin graduated to accomplished playwright with the off-Broadway production "The Right Kind of People" (2004), which took place in the world of Co-op boards in Manhattan. He also became a best-selling author over the years with published works that included How I Get Through Life: A Wise and Witty Guide (1992), We're Ready For You, Mr. Grodin (1994), and "If I Only Knew Then Learning From Our Mistakes" (2007), a collection of essays written by his celebrity friends. Thirteen years after his last film, Grodin returned to acting in "The Ex" (2007), a romantic comedy that starred Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, and Jason Bateman. Meanwhile, there was talk of Grodin returning for a "Midnight Run" sequel, which generated a fair amount of buzz in mid-2010. Charles Grodin died on May 18, 2021 in Wilton, Connecticut at the age of 86.
All Apple Originals.
New Apple Originals every month. Watch on Apple devices, streaming platforms and smart TVs.