STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The deadpan expressions of the actor Charles Grodin made him the star of movies like "The Heartbreak Kid." He also starred on Broadway and wrote books and hosted talk shows. Grodin died of cancer yesterday at age 86. NPR's Bob Mondello has a remembrance.
BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: A Charles Grodin character was nearly always doughy, soft-spoken and, most of all, hapless. He was the obstetrician who gave Rosemary's baby to a coven of witches, the dog owner who couldn't control his enormous Saint Bernard in the "Beethoven" movies and the man who met the girl of his dreams just a little bit late in "The Heartbreak Kid."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HEARTBREAK KID")
CHARLES GRODIN: (As Lenny) There is a slight complication. I happen to be a newlywed. She's a nice girl but just not really my type.
MONDELLO: Grodin credited Elaine May's direction of "The Heartbreak Kid" with jumpstarting his film career in 1972. Though, he'd made his debut in "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" almost two decades earlier. He scored a Broadway hit opposite Ellen Burstyn in the romantic comedy "Same Time Next Year" and became a familiar face in Hollywood comedies from "Heaven Can Wait" to "Ishtar" - talk about hapless - to "The Great Muppet Caper," in which he haplessly competed with Kermit the Frog for Miss Piggy's affections. Publicizing so many projects made him a frequent talk show guest. And for those occasions, he created a curmudgeonly version of himself, sparring with Johnny Carson more than 30 times.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON")
GRODIN: So far, I'm just kind of, like, trying to defend myself here, you know?
JOHNNY CARSON: No, no. I didn't mean...
GRODIN: I haven't said anything about anything...
CARSON: That's right.
GRODIN: ...Other than would you please try to make this a more pacific...
CARSON: Convivial type of a thing?
GRODIN: Yes, yes.
CARSON: Well, I'll do my best.
GRODIN: When are you going to start?
CARSON: Well, I'm...
MONDELLO: Charles Grodin ended up hosting a talk show himself in the '90s. His knack for deadpan humor extended to self-deprecating books he wrote about his career with titles like "How I Got To Be Whoever It Is I Am."
Bob Mondello, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Vocalizing).
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