Charles Grodin, Legendary Actor From ‘Beethoven’ and ‘The Heartbreak Kid,’ Dies at 86

by Josh Lanier

Charles Grodin, the beloved actor and comedian known for his deadpan delivery style, died Tuesday at his home. He was 86.

His son told the New York Times that Grodin was suffering from bone cancer.

Grodin’s career began in earnest in the mid-1960s with star turns in The Graduate and Rosemary’s Baby. But his career began to take off in the 1970s. Beginning with Elaine May’s Heartbreak Kid in 1972, Grodin appeared in a supporting role in Catch-22 for Mike Nichols, solidifying a lifelong working relationship with Nichols’ and May’s brand of smart comedy. By the end of the decade, he’d costar in Heaven Can Wait in 1978 and, a year later, the Albert Brooks An American Family satire Real Life.

Charles Grodin said he hated the character he played in Elaine May’s Heartbreak Kid but believed in the project.

“I thought the character in The Heartbreak Kid was a despicable guy, but I play it with full sincerity,” he said in a 2009 interview with The A.V. Club. “My job isn’t to judge it. If it wasn’t for Elaine May, I probably would never have had that movie career.”

Grodin is likely most known for his appearances on late-night comedy shows such as The Late Show with David Letterman. He was always opinionated, and his droll style of comedy played well against the more animated Letterman. Grodin was also given a CNBC show in the mid-1990s, where he brought his sense of irony to the interview format.

He had a late-stage career resurgence with the Beethoven movies as well, where he played the angry dad to the slobbery, beloved family dog.

Grodin was born the youngest of two sons in Pittsburgh. His father ran a shop that sold supplies to tailors and dressmakers, The Hollywood Reporter said.