(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/18; Photo: The actor Charles Grodin with the title dog in the hit 1992 family movie “Beethoven.” “I don’t complain,” he said, “when the editor chooses my worst take because it’s the dog’s best take.”Credit…via Photofest.)
A familiar face who was especially adept at deadpan comedy, he also appeared on Broadway in “Same Time, Next Year,” wrote books and had his own talk show.
Charles Grodin, the versatile actor familiar from “Same Time, Next Year” on Broadway, popular movies like “The Heartbreak Kid,” “Midnight Run” and “Beethoven” and numerous television appearances, died on Tuesday at his home in Wilton, Conn. He was 86.
His son, Nicholas, said the cause was bone marrow cancer.
With a great sense of deadpan comedy and the kind of Everyman good looks that lend themselves to playing businessmen or curmudgeonly fathers, Mr. Grodin found plenty of work as a supporting player and the occasional lead. He also had his own talk show for a time in the 1990s and was a frequent guest on the talk shows of others, making 36 appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and 17 on “Late Night With David Letterman.”
Mr. Grodin was a writer as well, with a number of plays and books to his credit. Though he never won a prestige acting award, he did win a writing Emmy for a 1977 Paul Simon television special, sharing it with Mr. Simon and six others.
Mr. Grodin, who dropped out of the University of Miami to pursue acting, had managed to land a smattering of stage and television roles when, in 1962, he received his first big break, landing a part in a Broadway comedy called “Tchin-Tchin” that starred Anthony Quinn and Margaret Leighton.
“Walter Kerr called me impeccable,” Mr. Grodin wrote years later, recalling a review of the show that appeared in The New York Times. “It took a trip to the dictionary to understand he meant more than clean.”
Another Broadway appearance came in 1964 in “Absence of a Cello.” Mr. Grodin’s next two Broadway credits were as a director, of “Lovers and Other Strangers” in 1968 and “Thieves” in 1974. Then, in 1975, came a breakthrough Broadway role opposite Ellen Burstyn in Bernard Slade’s “Same Time, Next Year,” a durable two-hander about a man and woman, each married to someone else, who meet once a year in the same inn room.
“The play needs actors of grace, depth and accomplishment, and has found them in Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin,” Clive Barnes wrote in a rave in The Times. “Miss Burstyn is so real, so lovely and so womanly that a man wants to hug her, and you hardly notice the exquisite finesse of her acting. It is underplaying of sheer virtuosity. Mr. Grodin is every bit her equal — a monument to male insecurity, gorgeously inept, and the kind of masculine dunderhead that every decent man aspires to be.”