At a time when we are all in such desperate need for good news, the announcement that Charles Grodin has passed away comes as an especially cruel punch to the gut. In everything he appeared in, he glittered like a rare jewel and perhaps it’s only now that he’d left us, that we’ll realise what an invaluable jewel he was.
In a career that stretched back to the 1950s, Grodin was an actor, director and a successful writer too, more comfortable on stage or sat behind a typewriter. It was on screen though that his magically droll, put-on persona came to worldwide attention.
Smaller parts in films like Rosemary’s Baby and Catch-22 gave way to major roles in The Heartbreak Kid and the 1976 King Kong remake. In everything he did, no matter how talented his fellow cast members were, it was more often than not Charles Grodin who walked away with the movie.
There were memorable scene-stealing performances in Heaven Can Wait, The Woman in Red, Ishtar and The Great Muppet Caper, as a jewel thief obsessed with Miss Piggy. His most successful role was possibly George Newton in the unexpectedly popular Beethoven films about a small town American family and their horse-sized St.Bernard.
In later years he concentrated on writing (his memoir How I Got To Be Whoever It Is I Am is delightful) and smaller parts in movies like While We’re Young with Ben Stiller. However, the role for which he will be forever remembered was Jonathan ‘The Duke’ Mardukas, the mild-mannered accountant being dragged across America by beleaguered, tough-as-nails bounty hunter Robert De Niro in Midnight Run (1988).
One of the greatest mis-matched-buddy comedies of all-time, the interplay between the reserved, often serenely calm Mardukas and the testy, foul-mouthed Jack Walsh made for one of the most note-perfect films of the 1980s and if anything, it has only improved with age.
‘See you in the next life.’