Charles Grodin, whose prolific career was marked by singular comedic performances in films like Clifford, The Heartbreak Kid, Midnight Run and the Beethoven films, passed away on Tuesday, May 18 at the age of 86. As reported by The New York Times, Grodin had been diagnosed with bone marrow cancer.
Largely considered a master of deadpan comedy, Grodin was incredibly versatile and his career spanned media including television, theatre, news commentary and playwriting. He penned numerous books as well. As a performer, he had a knack for going from playing it cool to fully unhinged at the snap of a finger. This is in full display in 1994’s Clifford where his comedy chops were matched equally by Martin Short, who plays a sociopathic child obsessed with an amusement park called “Dinosaur World.”
The Pittsburgh native’s career spanned 53 years. He shined in a small role as Rosemary Woodhouse’s last hope in Rosemary’s Baby—Dr. C.C. Hill—who leads Rosemary to believe she’s finally safe from the witches’ coven cooking the baby inside her, then hands her over to the occult on a silver platter. He also appeared in the 1976 adaptation of King Kong as shady oil executive Fred Wilson. He’s collaborated with writer and director Elaine May on multiple films in addition to The Heartbreak Kid, including Heaven Can Wait and Ishtar. Grodin became further familiarized in pop culture through his numerous in-character appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Late Night with David Letterman, where he played intentionally hostile and awkward.
Grodin retired from acting in the mid-’90s and turned to news commentating in 2000, hosting The Charles Grodin Show and appearing as a host on 60 Minutes II. In 2004, he wrote the off-Broadway play The Right Kind of People and returned to acting roles in 2006 with the comedy film The Ex, then turning up in The Michael J. Fox Show seven years later and landing a recurring role on Louie. He also appeared in the Noah Baumbach-directed While We’re Young as the father-in-law to Ben Stiller’s character. His final film role was in 2017’s An Imperfect Murder
Grodin was married twice and is survived by his two children: Daughter Marion and son Nicholas.