11 Indispensable Charles Grodin Performances
The Academy

Able to steal scenes as both a character actor and an unorthodox leading man, Charles Grodin racked up a memorable slate of screen appearances over the course of his five-decade acting career. To mark the beloved actor’s passing, we take a look at some of the vivid roles both big and small that he managed to make his own, from the hilarious to the heart-wrenching, sometimes at the same time.

Rosemary's Baby
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It’s a toss-up which scene in this Oscar-winning horror classic is the most chilling, but for many it’s the one lengthy, harrowing sequence in which a distraught Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) tries to find a new obstetrician for her soon-to-arrive baby after becoming convinced her neighbors have something diabolical in store for her. As the seemingly observant and compassionate Dr. Hill, Grodin makes a strong first impression with an unsettling ambiguity that is resolved only in his final moments onscreen.

The Heartbreak Kid

After passing on the lead role in The Graduate and getting a substantial supporting role in Mike Nichols’ Catch-22 (1970), Grodin got his first shot at star status in Elaine May’s caustic comedy as the just-married Lenny Cantrow, who suddenly realizes he’s met the girl of his dreams (Cybill Shepherd) and learns the high cost of impulsive behavior. Both a critical and commercial success, the film put Grodin on the map as a familiar fixture at the movies for the remainder of the decade.

11 Harrowhouse
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A neglected gem in Grodin’s filmography, this slick and entertaining heist film follows a savvy diamond broker who, in collaboration with Candice Bergen, is forced to come up with a plan to rip off London’s biggest diamond exchange. A stellar supporting cast including James Mason, John Gielgud and Trevor Howard adds sparkle to this witty look at modern larceny.

King Kong
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Grodin got to show off his smarmy villainous side to moviegoers everywhere with one of the decade’s biggest event films, a remake of the 1933 monster classic. Here he plays the head of oil company Petrox, whose expedition to the fog-shrouded Skull Island results in a very, very big discovery.

Heaven Can Wait
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Grodin returned to comedy with this whimsical fantasy in which an accidentally deceased football star (Warren Beatty) is given a new life in the body of a murdered millionaire, which results in a slew of romantic and cosmic complications. Grodin flaunts his sillier bad guy side here as a homicidal schemer who has to deal with his victim’s unexpected resurrection.

Real Life
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In the first feature comedy from Albert Brooks, a spoof of early reality TV programming, Grodin stars as the beleaguered head of a family chosen to be filmed for a year. As documentarian Brooks spends more and more time capturing their every move, their grip on normalcy quickly slips with hilarious and rapidly escalating results.

Seems Like Old Times
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The second comedic pairing of Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase after Foul Play (1978) throws in Grodin as Hawn’s current husband, who’s none too pleased when her ex-husband, now on the run from the law and trying to clear his name from a bank robbery, takes shelter in their guest house. A fast and funny comedy from Neil Simon, this one might have you rooting for Grodin to persevere at the end. Grodin would get a very different kind of Neil Simon role a few years later opposite Steve Martin in the underrated romantic comedy The Lonely Guy (1984).

The Great Muppet Caper
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The very silly side of Grodin is on glorious display in the second big-screen outing for Jim Henson’s classic felt-covered characters, this time trotting them all to London, where a plot is being hatched to steal the fabulous Baseball Diamond. Grodin has a blast wooing Miss Piggy and even serenading her during a big, splashy musical number.

Midnight Run
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The best-loved Grodin role for many movie fans came with this impeccably written Martin Brest comedy in which Grodin plays an accountant who stole a big stash of money from the mob and has to be escorted to Los Angeles by bounty hunter Robert De Niro. A balanced blend of action and comedy, the film showed off new sides of both of its stars and remains a much-loved buddy movie.

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One of Grodin’s biggest hits is also the one that introduced him to several new generations of kids, here playing a dad whose family contends with its enormous St. Bernard (named Beethoven, of course) and a clumsy plan to kidnap him. The family-friendly comedy went on to spawn no fewer than seven sequels to date, though Grodin returned only for Beethoven’s 2nd (1993).

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After well-regarded roles in Dave and Heart and Souls (both released in 1993), Grodin starred in the strangest comedy of his career. Greeted with bewilderment at the time but now enjoying a significant cult following, Clifford casts Martin Short as a precocious 10-year-old (yes, that’s correct) who ends up spending a week with Uncle Grodin and nearly drives him insane in the process.

© 2022 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences