Charles Grodin passed away yesterday. He was 86, and had been suffering from bone marrow cancer.
- KC's View:
It isn't often seen - and best I can tell, it doesn't seem to be available online at the moment - but if you get the chance, you need to see the original, 1973 version of Neil Simon's The Heartbreak Kid, in which Grodin plays a nice Jewish boy from New York who, three days into his Miami honeymoon, meets the ultimate shiksa goddess, played by Cybill Shepherd, and decides that he's married the wrong person. Grodin is a combination of neurotic neediness in the role, and manages to make someone who is clearly despicable and shallow somehow relatable and oddly sympathetic.
It was just one of a number of roles in which Grodin, always the schlemiel, but with lots going on inside - confounded expectations and convention - the accountant in Midnight Run (1988), the lawyer in Heaven Can Wait (1978), another accountant in Dave (1993).
My kids remember him from the Beethoven movies, which I cannot remember seeing. Though this clip, I must admit, made me laugh out loud:
I saw him on Broadway once, playing opposite Ellen Burstyn in "Same Time, Next Year" - Alan Alda played the part in the film version - and Grodin was terrific. (I remember the performance clearly, and it was some 45 years ago.) He was a writer and director and a fabulous talk show guest and occasionally a talk show host, and he always brought to the occasion a keen wit and high degree of aggravation - not to mention self-deprecation - and a that he knew just how to play for the biggest laugh.
The thing was, when I saw the news about him passing away, I realized how little I'd seen of him in recent years, and how much I missed his presence.
I also vividly remember seeing him for the first time in The Heartbreak Kid - I was in acting school at SUNY Purchase … the movie theatre was in Scarsdale, New York … and I'd persuaded one of my fellow students, Martha Zahringer, to go with me. She looked enough like Cybill Shepherd that people turned to look at her in the lobby when the movie was over. I was aware in that moment exactly how far out of her league I was, and how movies had nothing to do with real life. And I felt Grodin's pain.