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George Segal Biography


Home > Actors > S > Segal, George > Biography


Birth Name: George Segal
Born: 02/13/1934
Birth Place: Great Neck, New York, USA


Segal was born Feb. 13, 1932, and raised in the New York suburbs of Long Island, where, as a child, he entertained neighbors with magic shows and musical performances. While attending Haverford College near Philadelphia, PA, the accomplished banjo player formed the ragtime band "Bruno Lynch and His Imperial Jazz Band" - using Lynch as a pseudonym - with whom he played professionally. After serving in the U.S. Army and graduating from Columbia University with a degree in drama, Segal ultimately found himself cleaning toilets at New York's Circle in the Square Theatre during its heyday. He would do anything to pursue his acting dream. Also at the theater, he understudied a part in "La Ronde" that he was never able to perform, but in 1955, made his New York stage debut in Moliere's "Don Juan" before returning to that theater a year later to act in the historic Jose Quintero-helmed production of Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh," which launched the career of Jason Robards. Segal landed work in the New York Shakespeare Festival's "Antony and Cleopatra" and the off-Broadway revival of Jerome Kern's "Leave It to Jane" before finding success with "The Premise," a long-running improvisational revue which introduced him to comic writer, Buck Henry.

In 1961, Segal appeared in a New York stage production of Paddy Chayefsky's "Gideon" and made his film debut in "The Young Doctors" (1961); soon after, he signed a deal with Columbia Pictures that significantly raised his profile. Following small roles as a soldier in the World War II film classic "The Longest Day" (1962) and the "Young Doctors" sequel, "The New Interns" (1964), Segal had a larger supporting role in the confusing Western, "Invitation to a Gunfighter" (1964) and attracted more attention as a distraught newlywed in Stanley Kramer's "Ship of Fools" (1965). But it was the World War II POW tale, "King Rat" (1965), that provided Segal's real breakthrough as an anti-hero con man who effectively manipulates the meager goods and characters of his fellow prisoners, most of whom have higher military rank. "The Knack" (1964) marked Segal's first association with director Mike Nichols, who two years later directed Segal in his Oscar-nominated supporting turn in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966). Segal shot to the top of Hollywood's A-list for the challenging role of a young professor and half of a married couple invited to dinner at the dysfunctional home of a senior professor (Richard Burton) and his wife (Elizabeth Taylor) in the Edward Albee adaptation. Given further opportunity to display his skill with great American playwrights, Segal followed up with a performance as Biff in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" (CBS, 1966).

In "The Quiller Memorandum" (1966), an atypical spy pic, Segal went through the entire action without even using a gun; his air of detachment underlining a secret agent's loneliness and lack of relaxation. Segal broadened his scope to television, where he was cast as escaped convict Glen Griffin in "The Desperate Hours" (ABC, 1967), a gangster in "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" (1967), and George in "Of Mice and Men" (ABC, 1968). The actor's shift towards comedy began when he co-starred in Sidney Lumet's proto-"Big Chill" comedy, "Bye, Bye, Braverman" (1968), after which he hunted down a misogynistic Rod Steiger in "No Way to Treat a Lady" (1968) and played a beleaguered Jewish son in Carl Reiner's cult comedy classic, "Where's Poppa?" (1970). Further stretching his range to include romantic leads, Segal starred opposite Eva Marie Saint in "Loving" (1970) and as the bookish roommate of an aspiring entertainer/prostitute (Barbra Streisand) in the romantic comedy, "The Owl and the Pussycat" (1970), scripted by old friend, Buck Henry.

Segal and Robert Redford teamed up as dashing thieves in the comic caper "The Hot Rock" (1972) before Segal took home a Golden Globe Award for "A Touch of Class" (1973), in which he starred as a philandering executive who falls in love in the midst of what was supposed to be a quick affair. Glenda Jackson, in an Oscar-winning performance, co-starred opposite the charming Segal. With the success of that romantic comedy, the actor was at the top of his game and a proven box office draw. He followed up with another well-received buddy comedy, pairing with Elliott Gould to play gambling addicts in Robert Altman's comedic "California Split" (1974). His parody of Sam Spade in "The Black Bird" (1975) was a relative flop, as was the Western comedy "The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox" (1976) co-starring Goldie Hawn. But the actor scored again when he and Jane Fonda co-starred in the upper-middle class caper, "Fun with Dick and Jane" (1976). After the slick comedy whodunit "Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?" (1978), however, things went downhill for Segal. A failed attempt to repackage the chemistry between Segal and Glenda Jackson in "Lost and Found" (1979) happened the same year Segal declined a starring role in Blake Edwards' "10" (1979), which was a huge hit and positioned Dudley Moore to take over as the romantic comedy king of the early 1980s.

Segal's unsuccessful pairing with Natalie Wood as "The Last Married Couple in America" (1980) led to the even worse "Carbon Copy" (1981), in which Segal starred as a man who discovers he has a teenaged African-American son (Denzel Washington) by a former affair. Television came to the rescue of Segal's floundering movie career, with a critically acclaimed role as an attorney in HBO's sinister "The Deadly Game" (1982) and leading roles in the CBS TV movies, "Trackdown: Finding the Goodbar Killer" (1983), "The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood" (1984), "Not My Kid" (1985) and "Many Happy Returns" (1986). In a long overdue return to his dramatic stage roots, Segal portrayed John Lithgow's greedy fight manager in "Requiem for a Heavyweight," based on the classic 1950s teleplay by Rod Serling. Segal's starring role as a jazz banjo player in the sitcom "Take Five" (CBS, 1987) was short-lived, as was "Murphy's Law" (ABC, 1988-89), an hour-long drama that cast him as a cantankerous insurance fraud investigator. Segal's feature luck began to improve when he appeared as Kirstie Alley's father in the family comedy blockbuster "Look Who's Talking" (1989). He went on to deliver impressive supportive turns in the Bette Midler vehicle "For the Boys" (1991), and as a Vietnam veteran in "Me, Myself and I" (1992).

Segal reprised his role in the inevitable sequel "Look Who's Talking Now" (1993), going on to play Ann-Margret's love interest in "Following Her Heart" (NBC, 1994) and offer up a great performance as a sleazy TV executive seduced by aspiring news anchor Nicole Kidman in Gus Van Sant's "To Die For" (1995). In 1996, Segal essentially kicked off the "dad" period of his career with his portrayal of the naïve father of famed Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss in "The Good Doctor: The Paul Fleiss Story" (CBS, 1996) and supporting roles as Eric Roberts' father in "It's My Party" (1996), Ben Stiller's adoptive father in "Flirting With Disaster" (1996), and Matthew Broderick's father in "The Cable Guy" (1996). He reunited with old screen flame Streisand in the indulgent "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (1996) before finally finding steady small screen success as the magazine owner father of Laura San Giacomo on the long-running NBC sitcom, "Just Shoot Me" (1997-2003). Segal also briefly held down a recurring part as Tea Leoni's father (and Mary Tyler Moore's husband) on NBC's "The Naked Truth" (ABC/NBC, 1995-98), as well as made recurring appearances on the Emmy-nominated sketch show, "Tracey Takes On " (HBO, 1996-99), but "Just Shoot Me" became the calling card of Segal's later career. He earned Golden Globe nominations for his work on the show - most of which was spent humorously befuddling onscreen assistant David Spade - in 1999 and 2000. At the same time, he returned to the Broadway stage in 1999 to star with Wayne Knight and Buck Henry in the Tony-winning play, "Art" (1999).

When "Just Shoot Me" came to and end in 2003, Segal remained on the radar with guest spots on high-end primetime offerings like "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08) and a recurring stint on "Entourage" (HBO, 2004-). In a surprising return to movie theaters, Segal had a supporting role in Roland Emmerich's big budget, end-of-the-world disaster film, "2012" and also appeared in the romantic comedy "Made for Each Other," both in 2009.