I have to admit I haven’t seen a lot that Charles Grodin was in, but he was in one of my all-time favorite comedies. Hearing of his passing, not realizing he was already in his 80s, shocked and saddened me as time continues to pass us by. When I was a kid I remember him doing a ton of late-night talk shows and being a fantastic guest. I also just realized he liked his dog films, Clifford and Beethoven? Someone check, was he also in Marmaduke? He was a funny actor and to me, it seemed like he could have done so many better films in the 90s. I do want to check out The Heartbreak Kid, though, since it has that cultish reputation. I always felt Grodin was around but when I look at his credits he wasn’t that prolific, and he had been off-screen for several years. Furthermore, I still remember him fondly, and he was in a some very good films over the years.
Midnight Run (1988)
As white-collar criminal Jonathan Mardukas, “The Duke”, Grodin created a perfect comic foil to Robert DeNiro’s bounty hunter. Midnight Run is one of the best comedies and Grodin contributed in every way. He has impeccable comedic timing. Many films after it tried to perfect the perfect road buddy comedy, where the leads are on the opposite side of the law. We recently wrote about Yaphet Kotto and his role in this film, RIP. I once had to act as Mardukas in a college film project for a friend’s project and nailed the part, and even got good marks from the professor, but I digress. It wasn’t my acting but the incredible performance by Grodin. I can watch this over and over again. This is the Charles Grodin I wanted to see, not the father in Beethoven 2. “Sometimes it’s time to get a new watch.”
King Kong (1976)
In this remake of the RKO classic, Grodin played Fred Wilson. Wilson, a spokesman for a large oil conglomerate, is searching for an island that may hold the key to the oil crisis. Grodin even sports an evil mustache. A very different premise than the original – you know, updated for the 1970s. Grodin plays a no-nonsense bad guy, a totally different character than he usually plays, he is an all-out prick with not really much care for human life. This film gets a bad reputation, but it’s not really that bad and certainly better than the Peter Jackson remake. Some great character actors along with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange round out the cast. As a youngster seeing King Kong in color was awesome. That film poster with Kong crushing a 747 was amazing. Grodin’s character I hated, so he was doing something right.
Heaven Can Wait (1978)
In another remake, this time, 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Warren Beatty plays a dead quarterback who enters another man’s body because he had been pulled in a rookie angel mistake. This time Charles Grodin plays another bad guy Tony Abbott who is sleeping with the wife of the man Beatty takes over. To complicate matters, Grodin and the wife are the ones who tried to kill the husband. Grodin once again playing a bad guy, but this time balances the villainy with the comedy. This is another fantastic movie and like King Kong was remade again, this time with Chris Rock in the title role. This is one of those films that like many of Grodin’s other films have been less than remembered but really should be seen, Beatty is great as well but Grodin as always steals the show.
Honorable Mention: Rosemary’s Baby and The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Dave
MG: I also loved Midnight Run – I would definitely put it in my top 5 comedies of all time. I think I wrote about it in our blog at some point in the past. Grodin was great in it, and it’s too bad he could not find a way to do more good comedic parts. (By the way, I played the Robert De Niro part in that college film project, and the professor thought my performance was flat. I was a film major at the time, so that was tough to hear.) I loved the ’76 Kong as a kid, and also agree it gets a bad rap. For some reason we still have copy of Beethoven in our DVD drawer. It’s one of the only kids movies I avoided and the rest of the family watched. Maybe I’ll watch it today in Grodin’s honor.