Culture

The actor played comic roles in The Goldbergs and Just Shoot Me but was best known for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

US televisionThe actor played comic roles in The Goldbergs and Just Shoot Me but was best known for Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Tue 23 Mar 2021 22.32 EDT
George Segal, the banjo player-turned-actor who was nominated for an Oscar for 1966s Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and starred in the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs, died on Tuesday in Santa Rosa, California, his wife said. He was 87.
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.
A native of Great Neck, New York, Segal was always best known as a comic actor but his most famous role was in Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a harrowing drama.
The entire cast of the film, based on Edward Albees acclaimed play, were nominated for Academy Awards: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton for starring roles, Sandy Dennis and Segal for supporting performances. The women won Oscars; the men did not.
To younger audiences, he was better known for playing the magazine publisher Jack Gallo on the long-running NBC series Just Shoot Me from 1997 to 2003, and as Albert Pops Solomon on the The Goldbergs since 2013.
Today we lost a legend. It was a true honor being a small part of George Segals amazing legacy, said Adam Goldberg, creator of The Goldbergs, who based the show on his 1980s childhood. 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.
In his leading-man prime, he played a stuffy intellectual opposite Barbra Streisands freewheeling prostitute in 1970s The Owl and the Pussycat; a cheating husband opposite Glenda Jackson in 1973s A Touch of Class; a hopeless gambler opposite Elliot Gould in Robert Altmans 1974 California Split; and a bank-robbing suburbanite opposite Jane Fonda in 1977s Fun with Dick and Jane.
Jamie Lee Curtis and George Segal in 1986. Photograph: Bei/Rex/Shutterstock
As he was groomed to be a handsome leading man, Segals profile had been rising steadily since his first movie, 1961s The Young Doctors. His first starring performance came in King Rat as a nefarious inmate at a Japanese prison camp during the second world war.
In Virginia Woolf, he played Nick, one half of a young couple invited over for drinks and to witness the bitterness and frustration of a middle-aged couple.
The director, Mike Nichols, needed someone who would get the approval of the star Elizabeth Taylor, and turned to Segal when Robert Redford turned him down.
According to Nichols biographer Mark Harris, Segal was close enough to the young god he needed to be for Elizabeth, and witty enough and funny enough to deal with all that humiliation.
He rode the film to a long run of stardom. Then in the late 1970s Jaws and other action films changed the nature of Hollywood movies, and the light comedies that Segal excelled in became passe.
Then I got a little older, he said in a 1998 interview. I started playing urban father roles. And that guy sort of turned into Chevy Chase, and after that there was really no place to go.
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