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Charles Grodin, the funny, misguided actor and writer who played an arrogant newlywed in "The Heartbreaker" and later played roles ranging from Robert De Niro's colleague in the comic thriller "Midnight Run" to a twisted father in the "Beethoven" comedies, has died. He was 86.
Grodin died Tuesday in Wilton, Connecticut, of bone marrow cancer, his son, Nicholas Grodin, said.
Known for his passionate style and easygoing looks, Grodin also starred in "Dave," "The Woman in Red," "Rosemary's Baby" and "Heaven Can Wait." On Broadway, he starred opposite Ellen Burstyn in the long-running 1970s sitcom "Same Time, Next Year" and found many other uses for his talent.
In the 1990s, he became a liberal commentator on radio and television. He also wrote plays and television scripts, winning an Emmy for his work on the 1997 Paul Simon special, and wrote several books in which he humorously reflected on his ups and downs in show business.
Actors, he wrote, should "think not so much about how to get ahead as how to be the best they can be so they're ready when the opportunity presents itself." That's what I did, so I wouldn't suffer the frustration of all the rejections. They just gave me more time." He outlined these tips in his first book, "It Would Be So Good If You Weren't Here," published in 1989.
Grodin became a star in the 1970s, but he might have broken out a few years earlier: he auditioned for the lead role in Mike Nichols' 1967 classic The Graduate, but the part went to Dustin Hoffman.
Grodin had a small role in Rosemary's Baby and was part of the large cast of Nichols' adaptation of Catch-22, before gaining wide recognition in Elaine May's 1972 comedy Heartbreaker.
He played the role of a newlywed Jew who abandons his comically neurotic girlfriend to court a beautiful, wealthy blonde played by Cybill Shepherd. The film was a hit and Grodin received high praise. He said, "After seeing the film, many people came up to me to offer me a punch in the nose," he said.
"I found the character in 'Heartbreaker' to be a disgusting guy, but I play him with total sincerity," Grodin told A.V. Club in 2009. "My job is not to judge him. If it weren't for Elaine May, I probably never would have made a career in film."