|Is||Musician Banjoist Actor Stage actor Television actor Film actor Voice actor Film producer|
|From||United States of America|
|Field||Film, TV, Stage & Radio Music|
|Birth||13 February 1934, Great Neck, USA|
George Segal (born February 13, 1934) is an American actor and musician. Segal became popular in the 1960s and 1970s for playing both dramatic and comedic roles. Some of his most acclaimed roles are in films such as Ship of Fools (1965), King Rat (1965), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), Where's Poppa? (1970), The Hot Rock (1972), Blume in Love (1973), A Touch of Class (1973), California Split (1974), For the Boys (1991), and Flirting with Disaster (1996). He was one of the first American film actors to rise to leading man status with an unchanged Jewish surname—thus helping pave the way for artists such as Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand.
He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and has won two Golden Globe Awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his performance in A Touch of Class.
On television, he is best known for his roles as Jack Gallo on Just Shoot Me! (1997–2003) and as Albert "Pops" Solomon on The Goldbergs (2013–present).
Segal is also an accomplished banjo player. He has released three albums and has also performed the instrument in several of his acting roles and on late night television.
George Segal Jr. was born in Great Neck, New York to Fannie Blanche Segal (née Bodkin) and George Segal Sr., a malt and hop agent. All four of Segal's grandparents were Russian immigrants. His maternal grandparents changed their surname from Slobodkin to Bodkin. He is the youngest of four children: His oldest brother, John, worked in the hops brokerage business and was an innovator in the cultivation of new hop varieties; the middle brother, Fred, was a screenwriter; and his sister Greta died of pneumonia before he was born.
Segal's family was Jewish, but he was raised in a secular household. A paternal great-grandfather ran for governor of Massachusetts as a socialist. When asked if he had a bar mitzvah, Segal stated: "I'm afraid not. I went to a Passover Seder at Groucho Marx's once and he kept saying, 'When do we get to the wine?' So that's my Jewish experience. I went to a friend's bar mitzvah, and that was the only time I was in Temple Beth Shalom. Jewish life wasn't happening that much at the time. People's car tires were slashed in front of the temple. I was once kicked down a flight of stairs by some kids from the local parochial school".
Segal first became interested in acting at the age of nine, when he saw Alan Ladd in This Gun for Hire. "I knew the revolver and the trenchcoat were an illusion and I didn't care," said Segal. "I liked the sense of adventure and control." He also started playing the banjo at a young age, later stating: "I started off with the ukulele when I was a kid in Great Neck. A friend had a red Harold Teen model; it won my heart. When I got to high school, I realized you couldn't play in a band with a ukulele, so I moved on to the four-string banjo."
When his father died in 1947, Segal moved to New York City with his mother. He graduated from George School in Pennsylvania 1951, and attended Haverford College. He then graduated from Columbia College of Columbia University in 1955 with a Bachelor of Arts in performing arts and drama. He played banjo at Haverford and also at Columbia, where he played with a dixieland jazz band that had several different names. When he booked a gig, he would bill the group as Bruno Lynch and his Imperial Jazzband. The group, which later settled on the name Red Onion Jazz Band, later played at Segal's first wedding.
Segal served in the United States Army. While there, he also played in a band, which was called Corporal Bruno's Sad Sack Six.
Early roles and success
After college and the army, Segal eventually studied at the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg and Uta Hagen and got a job as an understudy in a Broadway production of The Iceman Cometh. He appeared in Antony and Cleopatra for Joseph Papp and joined an improvisational group called The Premise, which performed at a Bleecker Street coffeehouse and whose ranks included Buck Henry and Theodore J. Flicker. Segal continued to perform on Broadway with roles in Gideon (1961–62) by Paddy Chayefsky which ran for 236 performances, as well as Rattle of a Simple Man (1963), an adaptation of a British hit, with Tammy Grimes and Edward Woodward.
He was signed to a Columbia Pictures contract in 1961, making his film debut in The Young Doctors. Segal made several early television appearances in the early 1960s, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Armstrong Circle Theatre and Naked City and appeared in the well-known World War II film The Longest Day (1962). He also had a small role in Act One (1963) and a more prominent part in the western Invitation to a Gunfighter (1964), alongside Yul Brynner.
Segal came West to Hollywood from New York to star in a TV series with Robert Taylor that never aired. Nonetheless, he joined the cast of Columbia Pictures' medical drama The New Interns (1964) and the studio then put him under long-term contract. The role ultimately earned him the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year, alongside Harve Presnell and Chaim Topol.
Critical acclaim: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? et al.
In 1965, Segal played an egocentric painter in an ensemble cast lead by Vivien Leigh and Lee Marvin in Stanley Kramer's acclaimed drama Ship of Fools, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The same year, he also played the title role as a scheming P.O.W. in the well-regarded war drama King Rat (a role originally meant for Frank Sinatra) and received acclaim for both performances. In other notable film appearances, he played the titular role of a British secret service agent in The Quiller Memorandum (1966), an Algerian paratrooper who becomes a leader of the FLN in Lost Command (1966), and a Cagney-esque gangster in Roger Corman's The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967).
Segal also appeared in several prominent television films, playing Biff in an acclaimed production of Death of a Salesman (1966) next to Lee J. Cobb, a gangster in an adaptation of The Desperate Hours (1967), and George in an adaptation of Of Mice and Men (1968). The latter two films were both directed by Ted Kotcheff, whom he worked again with several times.
Segal was loaned to Warner Bros. for Mike Nichols' directorial debut Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1967), a now-classic adaptation of the Edward Albee play. In the four-person ensemble piece, he played the young faculty member, Nick, alongside Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Sandy Dennis. The film, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and was later selected to the National Film Registry, is arguably Segal's best known and, for his role, he was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
The same year, Segal released his debut LP, The Yama Yama Man. The title track is a ragtime version of the 1908 tune "The Yama Yama Man" with horns and banjos. Segal released the album at a time when he appeared regularly playing banjo on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In the same year, Segal played banjo and sang with The Smothers Brothers when they performed Phil Ochs' Draft Dodger Rag on their CBS television show.
Leading man: A Touch of Class, California Split etc.
For the next decade and onward, after his success with Woolf, he received many notable film roles, often working with major filmmakers. He starred in Carl Reiner's celebrated dark comedy Where's Poppa? (1970), played the lead role in Sidney Lumet's Bye Bye Braverman (1968), starred with Robert Redford in Peter Yates' diamond heist comedy The Hot Rock (1972), starred as the titular midlife crisis victim in Paul Mazursky's acclaimed romantic comedy Blume in Love (1973), and starred alongside Elliott Gould as a gambling addict in Robert Altman's classic California Split (1974), considered by some to be the greatest gambling film of all time.
In one of his most successful roles, Segal played a philandering husband in Melvin Frank's continental romantic comedy A Touch of Class (1973), opposite Glenda Jackson. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, Jackson won an Oscar for her performance, and Segal won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, which was the second Golden Globe of his career.
During this time, he received many other leading roles in various genres. He played a perplexed police detective in No Way to Treat a Lady (1968), a war-weary platoon commander in The Bridge at Remagen (1969), a man laying waste to his marriage in Loving (1970), and a hairdresser-turned-junkie in Born to Win (1971). The Owl and the Pussycat (1970), a romantic comedy starring Segal and Barbra Streisand and written by his former improv teammate Buck Henry, was particularly popular; and though Segal played against type as a dangerous computer scientist in The Terminal Man (1974), he used his popular appeal as a card shark in The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox (1976), as a suburbanite-turned-bank robber in Fun with Dick and Jane (1977), as an heroic ride inspector in Rollercoaster (1977), and as a faux gourmet in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978). Other Segal-starring films from this time include The Girl Who Couldn't Say No (1968), Russian Roulette (1975), and The Black Bird (1975).
During the 1970s and 1980s, Segal appeared frequently on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, both as a guest and occasionally as a guest host. His appearances were marked by eccentric banter with Johnny Carson and were usually punctuated by bursts of banjo playing. In addition to playing banjo while appearing on The Tonight Show, Segal played the instrument in several of his acting roles and has sung in others such as Blume in Love.
Segal continued his music career during this time as well. In 1974, Segal's band, The Imperial Jazzband, released an album called A Touch of Ragtime, in which Segal played the banjo. He made frequent television appearances with the "Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band", whose members included actor Conrad Janis on trombone, and, in 1981, they performed live at Carnegie Hall.
Segal reunited with his Touch of Class co-star Jackson and director Frank in another European-set romantic comedy, Lost and Found (1979), but the film was not a success. Neither was The Last Married Couple in America (1980) with Natalie Wood. Segal famously pulled out of the lead role in Blake Edwards' hit comedy 10 (1979), resulting in his being replaced by Dudley Moore and sued by Edwards.
With a few exceptions in films such as Denzel Washington's film debut Carbon Copy (1981), Burt Reynolds' crime drama Stick (1985), and the popular family comedy Look Who's Talking (1989), Segal subsequently received fewer prominent roles in the 1980s. Instead, he began to star more frequently in television films, such as The Deadly Game (1982), The Cold Room (1984), and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood (1984). He also starred in two short-lived television series, the semi-autobiographical sitcom Take Five (1987) in addition to the crime drama Murphy's Law (1988–89). In 1985, he returned to Broadway in a short-lived production of Requiem for a Heavyweight by Rod Serling and, in 1990, toured in a play called Double Act.
He later reflected on his career trajectory:
In the first 10 years, I was playing all different kinds of things. I loved the variety, and never had the sense of being a leading man but a character actor. Then I got frozen into this `urban' character. About the time of `The Last Married Couple in America' (1980) I remember Natalie (Wood) saying to me... `It's one typed role after another, and pretty soon you forget everything. You forget why you're here, why you're doing it.' Then my marriage started to fall apart... I was disenchanted, I was turning in on myself, I was doing a lot of self-destructive things... there were drugs... I'm also sure I was guilty of spoiled behavior. I think it's impossible when that star rush comes, not to get a little full of yourself, which is what I was.
Later career: character actor, Just Shoot Me! and The Goldbergs
Nevertheless, after this relatively dry period, Segal reestablished himself as a successful character actor in the 1990s. Though he appeared in some less acclaimed films, he also worked with directors such as Mark Rydell, Gus Van Sant, Barbra Streisand, David O. Russell, Randal Kleiser, and Ben Stiller, respectively, in well-received films such as For the Boys (1991), To Die For (1995), The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), Flirting with Disaster (1996), It's My Party (1996), and The Cable Guy (1996). Additionally, he had guest appearances on various shows such as Murder She Wrote and The Larry Sanders Show and continued to appear in television films such as Seasons of the Heart (1994), Houdini (1998), and The Linda McCartney Story (2000). In 1999, he briefly performed in Yasmina Reza's Art on Broadway and, in 2001, he reprised his performance on the West End.
From 1997 to 2003, Segal had his most prominent role in years when he starred in the NBC workplace sitcom Just Shoot Me! as Jack Gallo, the successful yet often oblivious owner and publisher of a New York City fashion magazine. For this role, he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy in 1999 and 2000 as well as a Satellite Award in 2002. The show, which also starred David Spade and Laura San Giacomo, among others, and which once aired between iconic sitcoms Friends and Seinfeld, lasted for seven seasons and 148 episodes.
After finishing his run on Just Shoot Me, Segal has since appeared in supporting roles in films such as Heights (2005), 2012 (2009), and Love & Other Drugs (2010). Additionally, he has worked more frequently as a voice actor, including a role in the English-language version of Studio Ghibli's The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013) and a comedic reprisal of his Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? role in a 2018 episode of The Simpsons. His most recent film performance was alongside Christopher Plummer in Elsa & Fred (2014). In other roles, Segal played talent manager Murray Berenson in three episodes of the television series Entourage (2009), guest starred in shows such as Boston Legal, Private Practice and Pushing Daisies, appeared in comedic short videos such as Chutzpuh, This Is, and starred in the TV Land sitcom Retired at 35 (2011–2012).
Segal currently appears on the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs (2013–present), playing Albert "Pops" Sullivan, the eccentric but loveable grandfather of a semi-autobiographical family based on that of series creator Adam F. Goldberg. The series entered its second season in September 2014 and is currently (2020) in its seventh season. Segal has appeared in most, though not all, episodes and, as in some of his earlier roles, he has played the banjo several times on the show.
In 2017, Segal received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Television.
Segal has been married three times. He married film editor Marion Segal Freed in 1956, and they were together for 26 years until their divorce in 1983. They have two daughters. From 1983 until her death in 1996, he was married to Linda Rogoff, a one-time manager of The Pointer Sisters, whom he met at Carnegie Hall when he played the banjo with his band, the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band. He married his former George School boarding school classmate Sonia Schultz Greenbaum in 1996.
|1967||The Yama Yama Man||LP|
|1974||A Touch of Ragtime||LP |
As George Segal and the Imperial Jazzband
|1987||Basin Street||LP |
Canadian Brass with George Segal
Awards and nominations
- 1965: Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year, for The New Interns – Won (along with Chaim Topol and Harve Presnell)
- 1967: Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Nominated
- 1967: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Nominated
- 1969: BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, for No Way to Treat a Lady – Nominated
- 1974: Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, for A Touch of Class – Won
- 1983: CableAce Award for Best Actor in a Theatrical or Non-Musical Program, for The Deadly Game – Nominated
- 1999: Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy, for Just Shoot Me! – Nominated
- 2000: Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy, for Just Shoot Me! – Nominated
- 2001: Satellite Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy, for Just Shoot Me! – Nominated
- 2017: Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame