Wednesday, March 24, 2021

RIP George Segal

Very sorry to learn that George Segal passed away yesterday.  He was 87.  God love him, he worked until the very end.  He was the grandpa on THE GOLDBERGS.

The obit in Deadline Hollywood (the online industry trade website), said that Segal was probably best known for his role in JUST SHOOT ME.   What???  Farther down in the article it mentions he starred in a bunch of movies.  

Here’s a news flash:  He was a movie STAR.  

He was the big romantic comedy lead for several years in the '70s and was also riveting in dramas.  He was in WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF and received an Oscar nomination for his performance.  He starred in a long list of movies including TOUCH OF CLASS, NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY, WHERE’S PAPA? (a hilarious film), BLUME IN LOVE, THE HOT ROCK, OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT, and a ton more.  

I am honored to say I directed him on JUST SHOOT ME.  He was fun to be around and I endeared myself by asking about some of his less famous films.  To me he was a movie star.  But the great thing about George, and I’m sure the folks at THE GOLDBERGS would agree, he didn’t act like a movie star.  He wasn’t a diva.  Nor did he feel it was a comedown doing a sitcom.  He was the ultimate pro and very much a team player.  Like I said, I was honored.

I would like to think George Segal is not best known for JUST SHOOT ME or THE GOLDBERGS.  He was a major force in motion pictures.  

And it got me to thinking, for all the mystique about Marilyn Monroe.  Had she not died so young, would she best be known as the wacky grandma on MY NAME IS EARL?   Would James Dean's legacy be playing an addled judge on BULL?  

George Segal was a movie star.  Mike Nicols directed him. So did Sidney Lumet, Carl Reiner, Stanley Kramer, Herbert Ross, Paul Mazursky, Melvin Frank.  The fact that I directed him on a sitcom should be a footnote, not what he’s best known for.  

RIP George.  I hope they like banjo music where you are now. 

57 comments :

WB Jax said...

Oh yes, Mr. Segal was indeed A STAR. He held his own very nicely opposite Alec Guinness and Max Von Sydow in "The Quiller Memorandum."

Brian said...

I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen any of Mr. Segal’s movies as of yet, but he was unquestionably the MVP of “Just Shoot Me.” He tread that fine line between despicable yet loveable so perfectly, it should be the subject of a thesis. A true talent who will be sorely missed. R.I.P. Mr. Segal, and thanks for the laughter.

scottmc said...

You expressed so much of what I was thinking when I heard that George Segal had died. In 1966 he co-stars in Mike Nichols feature film directing debut. He holds the screen along side Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. BYE,BYE,BRAVERMAN,the one directed by Sidney Lumet, is wonderful. Then those string of early 70's movies that you mentioned. I would add CALIFORNIA SPLIT to the list.
Years ago, Segal and John Lithgow appeared on Broadway in a stage version of Requiem for a Heavyweight. Segal played Lithgow's manager. It only had a brief run but I still have wonderfully vivid memories of it. George Segal deserves a place along side Nicholson,Pacino and Hoffman when discussing actors whose work in the early 1970's caused a seismic shift in the movies.

Daniel said...

He was terrific in "Flirting with Disaster" (1996) as Mary Tyler Moore's husband and Ben Stiller's father. (I've heard that David O. Russell is apparently a major league jerk to work with, but that was still a great film)

Lemuel said...

RIP. He was in so many movies I saw in my life. Coincidentally I'm watching THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM on FMC.

VincentS said...

I just heard about George Segal's death this morning and I'm with you 100% about him, Ken. WOOLF is one of my all-time favorite movies and I've seen every one on your list except I think WHERE'S PAPA? which I will definitely view. You can also add KING RAT (a drama) and WHO'S KILLING THE GREAT CHEF'S OF EUROPE? (a comedy) to the list. He seemed to move effortlessly from comedy to drama without being pigeon holed in either. A miracle in Hollywood, I would imagine. And, yes, I think if those stars had lived longer they would have suffered the same fate. When Edward Herman died, an accomplished stage/screen/tv actor who played FDR TWICE and was directed by Woody Allen, Peter Bogdonavich and (wait for it) John Huston, my acting friends were all over social media complaining that his obituaries referred to him as "GILMORE GIRLS actor." And it doesn't surprise me to hear that he didn't act like a diva when you directed him. I read a quote from Yaphet Katto (another great recent loss) complaining about how he went from starring in movies to saying one line per episode on HOMICIDE. When I read that I remembered the few episodes of THE GOLDBERS I saw (which I was only watching because he was in it) and it was the same situation. As completely understandable as Mr. Katto's frustration was, when I saw George Segal doing the same thing, knowing of his reputation, I thought he probably never voiced a single complaint.

kent said...

A Segal film ahead of it's time, and perhaps now behind our times, was CARBON COPY with Denzel Washington.

Mike Doran said...

The Yama Yama Man is gone.

I was still in high school when that LP came out (more or less in connection with The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, but that's another story ...).

George Segal came on with Johnny Carson to promote that movie, bringing along his banjo.
When he started playing and singing, Johnny was hooked - and so was I.

I don't know if the Carson Interests have saved any of the guest-hosted shows (I'm guessing not), but I still recall the time George Segal subbed for Johnny, and turned Tonight into a musical extravaganza, with Buck Henry, Victor Buono, and a couple of others he'd recently worked with.
Pure Joy.

George Segal's LPs have (as far as I know) never been rereleased on CDs - and that is a damn shame.
(If I'm wrong about this, correction would be most welcome.)

Right now, I'd love to hear George's version of "Gee But I Hate To Go Home Alone", but hey, that's me ...

Anonymous said...

Also Peter Gusenberg in St. Valentine's Day Massacre including a very sexy argument with Jean Hale.
This is the nature of contemporary bias. In a Doris Day movie last night they introduced Ann B. Davis "who is best known for her work on The Brady Bunch" - not to those of us who knew Schultzie.
Jerry West -former GM of the Lakers

Frederic Alden said...

I found it amusing that the articles said he was best known for "The Goldbergs" after such a long and visible motion picture career. Even though I saw many of his movies, I always think of him in the first one I saw..."King Rat", an overlooked gem that stayed with me ever since.

Arlen Peters said...

Ken, we live in a world where a person in a slimy little reality show is referred to as a STAR! Segal not only was a STAR, but a MAJOR STAR! He was also an ACTOR, in all caps.
What a breathtaking list of film credits. And those all were memorable movies, when films told stories and actors delivered real lines of dialogue and created characters who were real and stayed with us. And those were films you saw in the theater and walked out having been entertained, not having your ear drums blown out by one massive explosion after another.
George is gone, but what a gift he left us!
And what a memory you have Ken, having directed him!

Rocketman said...

I hate to say this, but he probably is best known for Just Shoot Me. Even though he appeared in countless great movies, he probably didn't have a career defining role like Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Walter Matthau. Sadly it's getting harder to find older movies while sitcoms are repeated constantly. In this case, i think the obit is accurate. Fortunately JSM was a great show and I hope he wouldn't mind being remembered for it.

myrna said...

I recall George Segal doing guest appearances on tv talk shows, strumming the banjo, smiling, tapping his feet, having a good time. In William Goldman's "Adventures in the Screen Trade," Goldman wrote that when he asked Segal about this aspect of his career, Segal replied that he was an actor; and he was acting the role of a guy strumming the banjo, having a good time.

Bill said...

Ken, despite having a career in the medium, I think you're failing to recognize the power of TV. George Segal was a movie star. People went to a theater and saw him in a movie for 2 hours once. Maybe they saw it again on TV, VHS, or DVD. But George Segal was in our homes every week for 7 years. I never even watched Just Shoot Me, but I was very aware he was on it. People who followed the show saw him in ~140 episodes, 70 hours. He was in their homes every week. It lived on in syndication, DVD, and probably now streaming. So yes, that is absolutely what he is best known for.

Woody Harrelson's had a terrific movie career, but Cheers is going to be the first thing in his obituary one day too. Same for John Goodman and Roseanne.

myrna said...

I recall George Segal doing guest appearances on tv talk shows, strumming the banjo, singing, smiling, tapping his feet, having a good time. In William Goldman's "Adventures in the Screen Trade," Goldman wrote that when he asked Segal about this aspect of his career, Segal replied that he was an actor; and he was acting the role of a guy strumming the banjo, singing, and having a good time.

ventucky said...

I am a decade younger than you, so my perspective is a little different. I was aware of many of his movie accomplishments growing up. I saw Fun with Dick & Jane in the theater when it came out. Saw him in other movies on TV growing up. But easily the most exposure he ever got was on Just Shoot Me. Sorry, but even his Academy Award nomination for Virginia Wolf is a footnote. That was the quintessential Liz and Dick movie of all time. Not a Gorge and Sandy movie.

DougG. said...

I get why you don't like the line about Segal was probably best known for his role in JUST SHOOT ME.

I think it's generational. The late Sorrell Booke has 133 acting credits according to IMDB, knew five languages, and was in counter intelligence before becoming an actor and yet to at least one generation, he will always be Boss Hogg. I'm sure whoever wrote the Deadline Hollywood story knew his work best from JUST SHOOT ME. I would prefer reporters not use the term "best known for" because they can't speak for all of their readers.

I think it also matters how much of Segal's work is still showing up on television. THE GOLDBERGS is in syndication although I don't know if JUST SHOOT ME is on anywhere and I'm sure his movies are on even less. Not many movies from the '70s get much air time outside of STAR WARS, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, and maybe SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE.

Not saying it's good or bad, it just is.

James Van Hise said...

Where's Papa? was a film ten years ahead of its time. Today it would be regarded as an edgy "R" rated comedy but in 1970 there was no such thing and audiences couldn't believe what they were seeing. But after Animal House showed that this was a genre audiences wanted, Where's Papa? was re-released to theaters (it could not be shown uncut on TV and even now can probably only be shown uncut on pay movie channels and on TCM).

blinky said...

Speaking of not remembering what stars did before they became the most famous, here’s Daphne from Fraser on Benny Hill.
https://reddit.com/r/television/comments/mc552r/jane_leeves_daphne_from_frasier_in_the_benny_hill/

Roseann said...

I can say that I had the opportunity to work with George Segal on Flirting With Disaster. He was royalty along with MTM, Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda. It was so telling that when these heavy hitters arrived on set there were no infantile actions from other/younger actors. I treasured that time.

Jim McGrath said...

I am so happy to see that someone mentioned "Carbon Copy." I enjoyed the movie long before realizing that Denzel Washington was playing Segal's illegitimate son. The scene where Segal tries to hustle a few dollars by engaging his son in a two-on-two basketball game is classic!

Sean Farren said...

He was in a filmed play entitled "The Deadly Game" which aired on HBO back in the early 80's. I was about 12 at the time and watched that every chance I got. Incredible work! A sad loss.

Anonymous said...

The first 20 minutes of Where's Poppa are among the funniest ever in a movie.
And his scene with Michael Dunn in No Way to Treat a Lady is a classic

tavm said...

Not mentioned among the late George Segal's movie credits: That Sensurround movie from Universal called Rollercoaster!

Greempa said...

Thank you for writing this. I've always thought of George Segal as a movie actor who transitioned to TV later in his career. And yet all the obituaries I've read highlight "Just Shoot Me" and "The Goldbergs" with his movie career as a footnote. He was a hot commodity in the 1960's and 70's. My wife and I would go see a movie just because he was in it. He was right up there in box office star power with Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino. He will be missed.

Andrew said...

Some younger people think that Elliot Gould was the father on Friends, but didn't have a career before then.

Cowboy Surfer said...

My Dad was once mistaken for George Segal.

He loved to remind me of his celebrity look a like.

Strange that yesterday was Dad's birthday.

Angela said...

I appreciate this post. I'm one who does know him from "Just Shoot Me"-it was one of my favorite shows when I was a teenager back in the day-and before that, I knew him from Look Who's Talking as well.

But of course, it's always good to be reminded of an actor's wide body of work. I may have to check out some of these films mentioned here at some point. He was one of those people you're always happy to see pop up somewhere, be it on TV or in a film, and it's great to know he's got such a strong body of work to be remembered for. May he rest in peace.

Andrew said...

Your final sentence reminded me of this Far Side cartoon:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/117656608987705545/

Ere I Saw Elba said...

All due respect, I did only know him from JUST SHOOT ME. And I think that was a great role. It doesn't surprise me that he had a serious career before that, one that seems worth checking out.

Greg Ehrbar said...

The style of the writing and editing of these obits are more the issue than the content. It is just as easy to say "Oscar-nominated actor George Segal who most recently appeared in (supporting role in sitcom)..." than to say "Actor George Segal, best known for (supporting role in sitcom)..." The former is actually an assumption of the readers' perception and of the current mindset. But it happens all the time.

When the great character actor Jester Hairston passed, all the obits I read mentioned his supporting roles in TV sitcoms, which were very nice (I watched them), but I couldn't find mention of one of his musical contributions that will continue for generations. He wrote "Mary's Little Boy Child," a classic Christmas Calypso carol recorded by Harry Belafonte, Harry Connick, Jr., Wynton Marsalis, José Feliciano and countless others around the world in many languages.

I guess the point is that good people and great works live on, and thoughtless, careless stuff usually do not, including indifferent rehashes unworthy of the positive presences they cover.

From "Peanuts:"
LUCY (reading to Linus from a book): "A man was born, he lived, and then he died. The End."
LINUS: What a fascinating account. It almost makes you feel as if you had known the fellow.

Mike Bloodworth said...

One of the things I loved about George Segal was that he wasn't afraid to poke fun at himself.
On one of my favorite episodes of "The Larry Sanders Show" the "A story" was that the show was becoming stale because Larry had the same guests on over and over again. George was sighted as an example. So Larry and Artie scramble to find some fresh talent. Eventually, they find a really avant-garde, stand-up comedian whom they ultimately reject because they feel he's too out there. The comedian winds up on Leno and is a smash. The final scene of the episode is Larry once again interviewing his guest George Segal.
Not many actors would be willing to be the brunt of such a joke.
R.I.P. George

M.B.

D. Mitchell said...

Alas, the headline in the update section of our (Bay Area regional) newspaper reads:

'GOLDBERGS' ACTOR DIES

In fitting the story into a single paragraph, it mentions only that "banjo player turned actor" George Segal worked on the Goldbergs and was Oscar-nominated for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". What a great career, a great actor, a really nice human being.

D. McEwan said...

To me he was always a MOVIE STAR! I didn't even know he was on Just Shoot me as I've never seen it, since I routinely try to avoid seeing David Spade as much as possible. But I've been seeing him in movies since I was a teenager. And for his TV work, I think first of his performance as Biff Lohman in the TV video production of Death Of a Salesman with Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock. (And in a small role, a then-unknown Gene Wilder.) I saw that in its original broadcast and was devastated by it. I have it on VHS, and anyone can still see it by streaming it on the "BroadwayHD site.

As I just finished reading Mark Harris's terrific biography of Mike Nichols, I've been revisiting some of Nichols's movies, and so just happened to rewatch his movie of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe this past Sunday, so it was even more of a jolt to read he'd died when I had just watched again his excellent performance in it.

Anyone who hasn't seen Where's Poppa? should immediately see it, as it is "laugh your guts out all over the floor" funny.

George left a hell of a lot of great work behind. Oh, and he was also in something called Just Shoot Me which I'm told people who can stand to watch David Spade may have enjoyed.

William Shakespeare, best known for Shakespeare in Love, Kiss Me, Kate, Kurasowa's Ran, The Boys From Syracuse, and having been the first husband of Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway.

RichRocker said...

He also starred opposite Natalie Wood in one of her last movies, The Last Married Couple In America (1980). Not a classic but I enjoyed their chemistry together.

Anonymous said...

KEN:

Great post!

Chris said...

Thank you for the insight

David from the other LA said...

Would like to know more about his allegedly choosing to leave the production of "10" after shooting scenes in Mexico and being replaced by Dudley Moore. If he had stayed maybe that would have knocked any TV roles out of the first paragraph.

Elliot James said...

Naked City "Man Without A Skin" George is a loose cannon NYPD detective. Tremendous yet subtle performance. It's free on Tubi.tv.

Brandon in Virginia said...

I've read Deadline a few times...they seem to cater to a younger audience that watches TV more than anything. I don't disagree that his career was more than a late-90s sitcom, but I kinda see where they were going with this.

Matt said...

I remember him from the movie Carbon Copy, largely because it was ridiculous casting. George Segal is a good looking guy, but in no universe is he a carbon copy of Denzel Washington.

Haywood Jablomee said...

I think first of Altman's California Split. He was great.

Mike Barer said...

His TV roles allowed mainstream America to see his talent. He will definitely be misssed.

BADuBois said...

The World War II film, "The Bridge at Remagen." He was great in that.

MikeN said...

I had heard the name but couldn't have named anything he was in. After you mention it, I think I recognize him from Just Shoot Me(He's the boss right, the one who kept coming up with weird theories for the tube, and broke up the kid's retarded masquerade).

Don Kemp said...

Those who believe or insist that Segal was best known for Just Shoot Me or the Goldbergs have fallen prey either to simply being under 40, ageism, or a complete lack of familiarity with the idea of the breadth of a career, i.e. what have you done for me lately.

OF COURSE Segal was a movie star. Foremost an actor, but he pioneered a path followed by countless others. As he got older, having no ego that prevented him from doing so, he worked in television because that's where the work was for him. The Goldbergs or Just Shoot Me were definitely NOT what he was known for, he was known for his acting and those shows were two of his most recent work. This is akin to saying Paul McCartney is best known for his solo work and oh yes, he was in a band over 50 years ago.

Mike Doran said...

Semi-related:

Is anybody as annoyed as I am over how many obituaries lately mention one (1) guest appearance on any Star Trek series to the complete exclusion of anything else that those persons did in their careers?

Not just actors - anybody: writers, directors, Teamsters - Trek trumps a whole lifetime.

My one-year-older brother and I were in high school during Star Trek's original run in the '60s.
I liked mysteries; I was indifferent to Star Trek.
Sean was a devotee of hard Science Fiction (and never call it 'sci-fi' in his presence; he considered that a slur); he thought of Trek as the Third Source of Revelation.
Our conversations about this were strained, to say the least.

But all that was fifty-plus years ago; the Trek Cult abides and thrives (and grows) to the present day.
And people who are far younger than I am sometimes look at me and wonder why I'm not a Trekkie/Trekker/Trekkeur when I'm the right age to have been one at the start.
(My brother Sean passed away twelve years ago, so he's no help.)

The above is a situation that I accept as a natural consequence of getting older.
I don't like it, but I accept it.

(Ken: Try to make a Friday Question out of this, and answer it if you can ...)

Unknown said...

Easy to explain, what have you done for me lately? Current world won't remember old black and white movies

D. McEwan said...

""Mike Barer said...
His TV roles allowed mainstream America to see his talent. He will definitely be misssed
"

His MOVIE roles also allowed "mainstream America" to see his talent. Mainstream America does go to the movies.

Anonymous said...

There is another, more calculated and career-based reason for why this happens. No ambitious writer or editor or publication, even in the obituaries, wants to appear out of the current loop and much more importantly, would be completely willing to serve whatever possible leads a post or printed story can get them.

The perception is that old shows, old movies, old stars and dead people don't get you more work in the entertainment business, but if you can say, "Hey, look! I promoted ABC's The Goldbergs in this obit for George Segal" or "I was sure to emphasize the Segal projects currently in the marketing initiative," and "look how we made this older person skew so he was relevant to our decided 'voice'," it is better for those creating the communication.

Sorry, it's about reality, not about history, what anyone did or did not do. It is simply about getting clicks and eyeballs and keeping those PR doors open.

They know what exactly George Segal did in his career. What is more important is what George Segal can do for them today.

Mike Doran said...

THIS JUST IN:

Jessica Walter has passed at age 80.

Did she ever work with George Segal?

They must have at some point.

If they didn't, somebody missed a sure bet ...

Jeff C in DC said...

OK, Fun with Dick and Jane, starring with Jane Fonda. Gotta love George Segal after this. Likable suburbanites dumped out of the system and try their hand at robbery. Very simple, lots of terrifically funny moments, and an easy watch. Jerry Belson among the writers, Ted Kotcheff directing. One of my late 70s faves.

Brother Herbert said...

I was turned on to WHERE'S POPPA? by my high school sophomore-year English teacher, oddly enough, who told me it was one of the funniest movies he'd ever watched. That movie had me from the beginning after nurse Trish van Devere told the story about what her ex-lover did after they made love.

Another 'oddly enough' - the VHS version had the original ending while subsequent DVD releases used the alternate ending.

ScarletNumber said...

@Mike Bloodworth

Perhaps this turn in Larry Sanders led to George's career revival. Remember, Tom Snyder was the butt of the joke on Larry Sanders as well until Letterman selected him to follow him on CBS.

And sorry to the others, but George was not a movie star; he was a movie actor who transitioned into TV late in life.

Tudor Queen said...

I loved George Segal and yes, he was indeed a movie star. In fact, I wished he'd won the Oscar for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" - nothing against Walter Matthau, who did win. Loved him in "Ship of Fools" where he gave his character a deeper soul and humanity that I felt was missing from Katherine Anne Porter's novel. Loved him as the Yin to Robert Redford's Yang (or was it the other way around?) in "The Hot Rock," as Glenda Jackson's lover in the bittersweet "A Touch of Class", Biff in the televised "Death of a Salesman" with Lee J. Cobb, the hapless but not unskilled detective in "No Way To Treat A Lady" (though I wish they'd had the courage to use the novel's ending), as Bette Midler's uncle in "For The Boys" and so many more.

He was the reason I watched "Just Shoot Me!" Yes, I was a fan, and even though he clearly had a long, full life, I already miss him.

MikeN said...

Just saw Midnighht's Edge on Youtube, and in the middle they mentioned the death of George Segal, and Just Shoot Me and The Goldbergs was what came up. Someone else followed up with he was the biggest star in America at one point, and listed Virginia Woolf, and a movie he did with Denzel Washington, Carbon Copy.

Mike Doran, does this mean The Rock's obituary will lead with appearing on Star Trek, the Next Generation?

Philly Cinephile said...

One of the "trivia" items on IMDB.com for Celeste Holm claimed that she was best known for her work on PROMISED LAND...

Speaking of Celeste Holm, I recently saw her CHEERS episode. How did her casting come about? In rewatching the series, I've noticed that the show did not rely on the stunt casting of big name guest stars for guest parts, so I find it especially interesting when a well-known actor pops up on the show. (And I mean well-known at the time. There are quite a few future stars who passed through the front door of Cheers in guest spots..)