George Segal (pictured), the Oscar-nominated actor who sparred with Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, has died at the age of 87
George Segal, the Oscar-nominated actor who sparred with Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, romanced Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class and won laughs in the TV sitcom The Goldbergs, has died at the age of 87, his wife Sonia said on Tuesday.
‘The family is devastated to announce that this morning George Segal passed away due to complications from bypass surgery,’ Sonia Segal said in a statement to entertainment outlets Variety and Deadline Hollywood.
Charming and witty, Segal excelled in dramatic and comedic roles and had a life-long passion for the banjo.
Segal’s acting career began on the New York stage and television in the early 1960s.
He quickly moved into films, playing an artist in the star-studded ensemble drama Ship of Fools and a scheming, wily American corporal in a World War Two prisoner-of-war camp in King Rat in 1965.
A native of Great Neck, New York, Segal’s most famous role was in a harrowing 1966 drama, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
The entire cast of the film, based on Edward Albee’s acclaimed play, was nominated for Academy Awards: Elizabeth Taylor and Burton for starring roles, Sandy Dennis and Segal for supporting performances. The women won Oscars, the men did not.
‘Elizabeth and Richard were the king and queen of the world at that moment and there was a lot of buzz about it,’ Segal told The Daily Beast in 2016.
‘For me, there was a great satisfaction of being involved with it.’
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To younger audiences, he was better known for playing magazine publisher Jack Gallo on the long-running NBC series Just Shoot Me from 1997 to 2003, and as grandfather Albert ‘Pops’ Solomon on the The Goldbergs (top right) since 2013
Segal received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 14, 2017 in Los Angeles, California
To younger audiences, he was better known for playing magazine publisher Jack Gallo on the long-running NBC series Just Shoot Me from 1997 to 2003, and as grandfather Albert ‘Pops’ Solomon on The Goldbergs since 2013.
It was in comedies that Segal cemented his star status in a string of films in the 1970s with A-list directors and co-stars such as Jackson, who won an Oscar for her performance in A Touch of Class.
Segal played a lawyer in the 1970 dark comedy Where’s Poppa with Ruth Gordon, a gem thief along with Robert Redford in 1972’s The Hot Rock, an out-of-control gambler in Robert Altman’s California Split and a philandering Beverly Hills divorce attorney in Paul Mazursky’s Blume in Love in 1973.
He starred opposite Jane Fonda in Fun with Dick and Jane, fell for the charms of Barbra Streisand in The Owl and the Pussycat and played Natalie Wood’s husband in The Last Married Couple in America.
‘I always try to find the humor and the irony in whatever character I am playing because I think of myself as a comedic actor,’ Segal said in an interview with the online movie journal filmtalk.org in 2016.
Segal played a lawyer in the 1970 dark comedy Where’s Poppa (pictured) with Ruth Gordon
Actors Ben Gazzara (left), George Segal (center) and Robert Vaughn (right), who were the stars of film The Bridge at Remagen relax during press conference at Imperial Hotel in Vienna on August 2, 1968
‘So that makes drama a lot more fun for me by not taking it so seriously, you know.’
He credited an early appearance on the late-night talk show ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson’ for his switch to comedic roles.
‘It was the first time that the people who make movies saw me doing comedy and having this funny interchange with Carson,’ Segal told the Orlando Sentinel in 1998.
He said he considered himself lucky in a business that he compared to gambling because you’re always waiting for your lucky number, or a great part, to come up.
He also had a life-long passion for the banjo and performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1981 with his group, the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band.
Segal was born on February 13, 1934, in Great Neck, Long Island in New York.
Although his ancestors were Russian Jewish immigrants, his family was not religious. In interviews Segal summed up his Jewish experience as going to a Passover Seder at Groucho Marx’s house where the comedian asked, ‘When do we get to the wine?’
Segal was a shy child but said he felt free on the stage. After seeing the film This Gun for Hire when he was nine years old, he knew he wanted to act.
Following a stint in the Army and graduating from Columbia University with a drama degree, he made his film debut in The Young Doctors in 1961.
Two of Segal’s most acclaimed performances – in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and as Biff Loman in the 1966 TV movie of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman – were in roles that actor Robert Redford had turned down.
A native of Great Neck, New York, Segal’s (left) most famous role was in a harrowing 1966 drama, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Segal played a gem thief along with Robert Redford in 1972’s The Hot Rock, an out-of-control gambler in Robert Altman’s California Split and a philandering Beverly Hills divorce attorney in Paul Mazursky’s Blume in Love (left) in 1973
‘I owe Redford a lot. I think I may have thanked him when we did “The Hot Rock,”‘ he told Variety in 2017.
When Segal’s film career waned in the 1980s he appeared in TV films and series before returning to the big screen in supporting roles that included Look Who’s Talking in 1989 and 1996’s The Cable Guy with Jim Carrey.
He found a younger generation of fans as a women’s magazine publisher in the hit TV comedy Just Shoot Me!
‘He could make characters who should have been jerks seem lovable,’ producer Steve Levitan, who worked with Segal on Just Shoot Me, told Variety in a 2017 interview.
Segal said he did not contemplate retirement because people kept offering him interesting roles.
‘Being in your 70s is OK but, when you get to your 80s, you get creaky,’ he told Variety. ‘I’ve got my second wind – although I’m not going as fast as I used to.’
Tributes began to pour in for Segal with some remembering him as a ‘true gem’ and a ‘legend’.
‘Shocked and saddened to hear of #GeorgeSegal passing away! From being on set of #JustShootMe to directing him on #Goldbergs, he was a true gem and great man. He will be missed!’ actress Melissa Joan Hart shared on Instagram.
Tributes began to pour in for Segal (pictured in 2017) with some remembering him as a ‘true gem’ and a ‘legend’
Adam F. Goldberg, the director of The Goldbergs, which is based off his childhood, tweeted: ‘Today we lost a legend. It was a true honor being a small part of George Segal’s amazing legacy.
‘By pure fate, I ended up casting the perfect person to play Pops. Just like my grandfather, George was a kid at heart with a magical spark.’
Segal’s long time manager Abe Hoch said in a statement that he would miss his friend’s ‘warmth, humor, camaraderie and friendship. He was a wonderful human’.
The Goldbergs actress Wendi McLendon-Covey shared a photo of her hugging Segal with the caption: ‘Grateful.’
Actress Morgan Fairchild tweeted: ‘So sorry to hear of the passing of the wonderful George Segal! We did The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood together & I guested on Just Shoot Me. One of a kind and always a joy!’
Another shared: ‘George Segal has gone now. A career that kept going for 50+ because he loved it and he was great at it. RIP.’
Segal is survived by his wife, Sonia, and his two daughters, Polly and Elizabeth.