Edward Herrmann, ‘Gilmore Girls’ and ‘Lost Boys’ Actor, Dies at 71

Edward Herrmann Dead: 'Gilmore Girls,' 'Lost
Andrew H. Walker/Getty

Friends, co-stars hail stage and screen vet's skill, kindness

Edward Herrmann, the actor who gained fame playing a young FDR on TV but was known more recently as the patriarch of “Gilmore Girls,” died Dec. 31 in New York. He was 71.

Herrmann, who co-starred with Jane Alexander in a pair of much-praised “Eleanor and Franklin” telepics in 1976 and 1977, had been previously diagnosed with brain cancer. His family told TMZ that he had been in the ICU for the past three and a half weeks, and they decided to take him off the respirator when his condition did not improve.

Herrmann was well-liked in the biz and respected for his deft touch any number of character roles. He lent both gravitas and warmth to “Gilmore Girls” in his role as the upper-crust wealthy father who softens in the face of his strong-willed daughter and granddaughter. Herrmann was a series regular through the show’s seven-season run from 2000-2007 on the WB and CW nets.

“Ed Herrmann was a towering presence who filled the room with grace, laughter, Chekhov references and several salty stories. He was our patriarch,” “Gilmore Girls” creator/exec producer Amy Sherman-Palladino told Variety. ” ‘Gilmore Girls’ would not exist without Ed. There really are no words.”

“Gilmore” star Lauren Graham paid tribute to her on-screen dad via Twitter.

“My friend Ed Herrmann was the kindest, classiest, most talented man. It was an honor and a joy to know him, a devastating blow to lose him,” she wrote.

Herrmann’s accolades include an Emmy in 1999 for his guest appearances as a law professor on “The Practice” and a Tony in 1976 for the play “Mrs. Warren’s Profession.” Most recently, he appeared on several episodes of CBS’ “The Good Wife” and “How I Met Your Mother” and ABC’s “Black Box.”

Born in Washington, D.C., Herrmann grew up in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and graduated from Pennsylvania’s Bucknell University in 1965 with a degree in English. After leaving Bucknell, he studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts on a Fulbright scholarship.

By the early 1970s, Herrmann’s career in theater had progressed to Off Broadway productions such as the Joseph Papp-produced “The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel” by David Rabe. After his Tony win and the success of “Eleanor and Franklin,” Herrmann became a much in-demand character actor in film and TV.

In the 1980s he logged a guest stint as priest on NBC’s “St. Elsewhere.” He was also seen in several episodes of HBO’s gritty prison drama “Oz,” NBC’s “Law & Order” and “Harry’s Law” and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.”

His notable film roles included 1981’s “Reds,” playing the father of Macaulay Culkin in 1994’s “Richie Rich,” as well as Max in 1987’s “The Lost Boys.” Earlier in his career he had roles in “The Paper Chase” (1973), “The Great Gatsby” (1974), “The Great Waldo Pepper” (1975), “The North Avenue Irregulars” (1979), “Annie” and “A Little Sex” (1982) and “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985).

He earned two Emmy nominations for his work in “Eleanor and Franklin” and “Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years.” The actor was nominated for five Emmys overall. He also nabbed a second Tony nom in 1983 for the play “Plenty.”

Herrmann’s resonant voice made him a favorite choice as narrator of documentaries and specials and for voiceover work. He did a slew of such specials for A&E, History Channel and PBS over the years.

Herrmann was married twice and is survived by three children.

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  1. Kathleen says:

    You left out my favorite movie
    OVERBOARD with Kurt Russell &Goldie Hawn.

  2. Kevin says:

    As late to the party as I am commenting on this one, I had to recognize this ever classy, effortlessly talent-
    ed gentleman’s passing. I’m a 54 year-old guy who’s been hooked on vampire movies since I got freaked
    out at the age of 7 by a scene with a still beating heart submerged in a beaker in the movie “Blood of the Vampire”.
    It would come as no surprise that “The Lost Boys” rates as one of my favorite bood-sucker films-solidly
    in my top 10. One of the best things of all about this kick-ass horror flick wrapped around a rude com is
    Edward Herrmann’s portrayal as the awesome, almost zen-level boyfriend of Diane Wiest’s single-mom
    character. His big reveal in the way wicked climax as the head vamp in charge is absolutely one of the
    psychologically creepiest moments from any horror movie to date. One second he’s still marvelous Max
    and in the next he’s a hideous succubus with the mom in his clutches, reassuringly emoting to her sons that if they just go along with the whole brood thing that “It’s much more fun this way.” Great ookie stuff!

  3. Mike says:

    I loved him in The Man With One Red Shoe. If you haven’t seen him in it or don’t remember him in it give yourself a treat.

  4. Meredith Basinger says:

    I’m very sad about Mr. Herrmann’s passing he was always so kind and thoughtful to me and many others! He had a great sense of humor, great conversationalist, historian and lovely actor! My condolances to his family…

  5. maryeoconnor says:

    I would watch anything with Mr Herman in it. So sad to hear the news. condolences to his family.

  6. Alex says:

    He was one of the few actors who was great at both comedy and drama, I’m gonna miss that voice. R.I.P. Mr Herman.

  7. HeyLook says:

    I was actually introduced to him in some car commercial in the ’80s or ’90s. I had no idea who he was until he started appearing in bit parts and supporting roles in shows I watched. And I always liked him in — whether he was playing the bad guy, a kindly older fella, rich pain in the butt, or what-have-you. Always entertaining.

  8. Paul Serrano says:

    I remember him best for his wonderful turn on MASH in an episode called ‘Heal Thyself” where he played a visiting doctor who seemed to be unflappable but has a nervous breakdown in the ER – a great performance in a career of great performances.. RIP…

  9. JOE S HILL says:

    A Great actor,and talented-he will certainly be missed! i liked him in Walt Disney’s 1979 movie,”THE NORTH AVENUE IRREGULARS” with Susan Clark,,but he also played something of a sinister role
    in Warner Bros. “THE LOST BOYS” in 1987. he will be seriously missed!

  10. Alex says:

    Good bye Edward, you were great.

  11. Oh, no… So sad… May he rest in piece.

  12. cadavra says:

    Been an enormous fan of his since THE PAPER CHASE. You should also have noted his excellent turn as William Randolph Hearst in THE CAT’S MEOW.

  13. Kate says:

    And what a voice! He did sublime VO work…he’ll be missed greatly.

  14. H.M. says:

    I will always think of him as FDR. More sad news in a year brimming with it.

    • Ken / Toronto says:

      Absolutely sensational as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Emmy-winning ELEANOR AND FRANKLIN: THE EARLY YEARS and THE WHITE HOUSE YEARS, which I recently ran after not seeing these for many years (both tv films hold up remarkably well). Always a fine actor. Sad news, indeed.

  15. drakeca89 says:

    noooooo Not Herman from the Munsters! ugh he was good in anything that he was in and definitly a fan boy and girl fav sigh you will be missed rest in peace and thank you for entertaining me for years!

  16. He was probably the funniest rich man character I’ve ever seen in “Overboard” and has great scenes in “The Aviator.”

  17. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    Met him in SC on Lost Boys.. RIP

  18. Hillary says:

    Please enlighten me as to which role Mr. Herrmann played in “My Cousin Vinny”.

  19. Evelyn S. says:

    Farewell to a very fine actor…. RIP Mr. Herrmann

  20. Reblogged this on Thoughts on Pop and commented:
    A wonderful character on one of my favorite shows. Rest in peace, Edward Herrmann.

  21. marlo59 says:

    Sorry that he’s passed – but someone needs to edit this obit – he was not in My Cousin Vinny (you’re thinking of Fred Gwynne) R.I.P. Mr. Herrmann

  22. Randall Laue says:

    Too soon!

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