|Viewing Single Post From: Obituary: George Grizzard|
|Steve Frame||Oct 4 2007, 12:42 PM|
George Grizzard, 79; versatile stage, TV and film actor originated role of Nick in 'Virginia Woolf'|
By Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 4, 2007
George Grizzard, a veteran actor who originated the role of Nick in the 1962 play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and earned acclaim for his ability to add depth -- and often mystery -- to the wide range of characters he inhabited, has died. He was 79.
Grizzard, who also appeared in films and on television, died Monday at a New York City hospital of complications from lung cancer, his agent, Clifford Stevens, confirmed.
"What was remarkable about his acting was he didn't seem to be acting at all," said Andre Bishop, artistic director of New York's Lincoln Center Theater, where Grizzard sometimes performed. "There was no sense of effort or strain. . . . The curtain went up and there was George, just being this character."
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Grizzard played Hamlet, Henry V and President John Adams. He was Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," a highly principled college professor in A.R. Gurney's "Another Antigone," and he conversed with human-size lizards in Edward Albee's "Seascape."
Grizzard won a Tony Award in 1996 for his performance as Tobias in a revival of Albee's "A Delicate Balance." The play centers on Tobias, an upper-middle-class man whose dysfunctional family considers the prospect of allowing two frightened friends to live in their home.
His approach to such characters distinguished his performances.
"He had some kind of connection to an inner pain that made the seemingly good-old-boy characters that he often played become men who had some kind of mystery inside them," Bishop said. "That was just part of George. He brought that to these parts."
Born in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., on April 1, 1928, Grizzard was an only child and often made up playmates -- a practice that was almost "like being in plays," he once said. When he was 7 his family moved to Washington, D.C., where he spent most of his childhood.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1949, Grizzard worked in advertising but found he had more fun performing in local theater. Eventually he segued to acting full time.
From the beginning, Grizzard mixed stage work with film and television performances. In the movies, he played a U.S. senator in "Advise & Consent" (1962) and an oilman in "Comes a Horseman" (1978). In 1980, he won a supporting actor Emmy Award for "The Oldest Living Graduate," with Henry Fonda and Cloris Leachman. Grizzard plays a man who clashes over property with his father, the oldest graduate of a Texas military academy.
Regular work in television and film gave him a reprieve from the long, hard stretches of nightly live performances. Even when a play was a success, as were many, the stage could be confining.
"It's like being in a velvet jail," Grizzard told the Greensboro, N.C., News & Record in 1996. "It's nice to have the play and the success, but you can't do anything or go anywhere. I don't like to be in plays for long runs."
Still, the stage remained his main love. In 1955, Grizzard made his major debut playing Paul Newman's younger brother in Joseph Hayes' "The Desperate Hours."
"When we were on the stage together, he was the best thing around," Newman said in a statement to The Times.
That success was followed by performances in Kyle Crichton's "The Happiest Millionaire" and "The Disenchanted" by Budd Schulberg and Harvey Breit, for which Grizzard received a Tony nomination. In 1962, Grizzard played Nick in "Virginia Woolf," the emotionally wrenching tale of an older couple who channel their anger and bitterness toward a younger Nick and his wife. The play ran for 664 performances.
But after three months, Grizzard left the play and headed to Minneapolis, where the Tyrone Guthrie Theater was preparing for its inaugural performance, a production of "Hamlet." Grizzard won the title role.
"It took all the courage I could summon," he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1995. "After 'Hamlet,' nothing scares you."
Over the years, Grizzard turned down parts if he didn't agree with the playwright's view and worked with diligence to illuminate that view if he did.
"He was an actor's actor," Stevens said.
from the LA Times
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