George Segal, whose long career included playing Albert “Pops” Solomon on “The Goldbergs,” and garnering an Oscar nom for supporting actor for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” died Tuesday. He was 87.
His wife Sonia announced his death, saying, “The family is devastated to announce that this morning George Segal passed away due to complications from bypass surgery.”
Segal’s longtime manager Abe Hoch said, “I am saddened by the fact that my close friend and client of many years has passed away. I will miss his warmth, humor, camaraderie and friendship. He was a wonderful human.”
Some of the top directors of the 1960s and ’70s, including Robert Altman, Mike Nichols, Paul Mazursky and Sidney Lumet cast Segal for his gently humorous everyman quality, and he often played an unlucky-in-love professional or a writer who gets in over his head.
In Nichols’ 1967 Edward Albee adaptation “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Segal played a college professor who gets caught up in an evening of psychological mindgames with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars, including Segal’s for supporting actor, and won five.
Segal appeared in all eight seasons of ABC sitcom “The Goldbergs” as the grandfather of the clan based on creator Adam F. Goldberg’s family.
The genial actor was a staple of films of the late 1960s and ’70s such as “Bye Bye Braverman,” “A Touch of Class,” “The Hot Rock” and “Fun With Dick and Jane.” Other notable credits during this period included the romantic comedy “The Owl and the Pussycat,” in which he co-starred with Barbra Streisand, “Loving,” “Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?” “The Terminal Man” and “The Black Bird.”
He starred as an attorney in Carl Reiner’s comedy “Where’s Poppa?,” with Ruth Gordon as his addled mother, and played another lawyer in Mazursky’s “Blume in Love.” In Altman’s “California Split,” he co-starred with Elliot Gould as a man falling into a gambling addiction.
He also had recurring roles on “Just Shoot Me!.” “Murphy’s Law” and “Take Five.”
Born in Great Neck, N.Y., Segal studied at the Actor’s Studio and appeared on Broadway in shows including “Gideon” and “Rattle of a Simple Man.”
After being signed by Columbia Pictures, he had his first film role in “The Young Doctors.” After several television appearances, he won his first major film role in Stanley Kramer’s “Ship of Fools” and then appeared in “King Rat.” He also starred in several acclaimed films for television, including “Of Mice and Men,” “Death of a Salesman” and “The Desperate Hours.”
He enjoyed playing the ukulele and the banjo, making an album of banjo music with his band The Imperial Jazz Band and performing on “The Tonight Show” as well as in several of his film and television roles.
After a slower period in the 1980s in which he appeared in a few popular films such as “Look Who’s Talking,” a new generation of directors showed interest in Segal as a character actor, and he appeared in Gus Van Sant’s “To Die For,” David O. Russell’s “Flirting With Disaster” and Ben Stiller’s “The Cable Guy.” On “Entourage,” Segal played the veteran manager Murray Berenson.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth and Polly Segal (Michael Lemkin); three stepchildren, David Greenbaum (Heidi Rosenfelder), Matthew Greenbaum, and Samantha Greenbaum (Edward Rohmer); and three grandchildren, Lucas Greenbaum and Jacob and Max Rohmer.