Adroit at the urbane neurotic George Segal was a brilliant light comedy actor but was equally at ease with drama too and is perhaps best remembered for drama ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’, comedy, ‘A Touch of Class’ & TV series, ’The Goldberg’s’
Born on 13th February 1934 In New York George Segal was the youngest of four children yet despite being Jewish he was educated at a Pennsylvanian Quaker boarding school. His family were not religious and he didn’t have a bar mitzvah. Graduating in 1955 from Columbia University where he studied drama and he developed his skills as a banjo player. A brief foray in theatre was interrupted by three years serving in the army before returning to New York.
His film debut was in a 1961 TV soap opera The Young Doctors but by 1963 having moved to LA he quickly moved into the movies and having made an impression in 1965’sa King rat and a TV version of death of a Salesman he played supporting role in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) opposite Richard Burton & Liz Taylor, it earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. What followed were a number of decent well performing films throughout the 60’s and 70’s that included The Quiller Memorandum (1966) The Hot Rock (1972), Rollercoaster & Fun with Dick & Jane (both 1977) and A Touch of Class (1973) opposite Glenda Jackson, a romantic comedy that he was so good at playing.
The 80’s and 90’s were not so kind. He turned down the lead role in director Blake Edwards, ‘10’. It was due to his belief that the directors wife Julie Andrews had on the film and his cause was not helped by insisting that that his own wife be involved in the editing of the film. Segal walked off the set on Day One only for Orion Pictures to take legal action against him and Edwards, would receive a reported $270,000 in the settlement. With a crew hanging around Edwards hired Dudley Moore as the lead. The film was an immense hit making both Moore and Bo Derek huge stars.
Having had two daughters, George Segal’s 27 year marriage to film editor Marion Sobel ended in divorce in 1983 although he married his second wife, music manager Linda Rogoff the same year but she tragically died in 1996. Career wise he was now playing supporting roles, usually as a father, in films such as comedy franchise Look Who’s Talking, The Cable Guy (1996) & Flirting with Disaster (1996). He had enough self awareness to send up his persona as a guest on ‘The Larry Sanders Show’ listing his unreleased films as the host tried to stay awake. But it was TV comedy The Goldbergs from 2013 – 2021 that found him new fans.
His third and last marriage was to a high school girlfriend Sonia Schultz Greenbaum, that he met at a school reunion in 1996. George Segal died 23rd March 2021 aged 87 owing to complications from bypass surgery.