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George Segal was born George Segal, Jr. in Great Neck, New York in 1934. While at Haverford College, he formed a ragtime band with some friends, and they had modest success. After college he joined the Army, and when he got out he went to Columbia University, majoring in drama. In 1955, he got some decent stage roles in New York's Circle in the Square Theatre, and he spent the next five years on stage and doing some TV. In 1961, he was signed to a movie contract by Columbia, first appearing in "The Young Doctors". After a bunch of somewhat lesser roles, Segal got the lead in Bryan Forbes' superb adaptation of James Clavell's "King Rat", and although Segal played a completely unlikeable character, it was a major breakthrough for him. He followed with the part of Biff Loman in TV's "Death of a Salesman", as Nick in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), and in the lead role in "The Quiller Memorandum" and those parts made him a much desired actor, in both leading and supporting roles. He had starring roles in three cult movies in the first half of the 1970s, in Carl Reiner's blackest of comedies, "Where's Poppa?", in 1970, with a superb ensemble cast in Peter Yates' "The Hot Rock" in 1972 (which had a great script by William Goldman), and as a compulsive gambler (opposite Elliott Gould) in Robert Altman's 1974 "California Split". In 1973, he had his greatest commercial success in "A Touch of Class", but ironically, this likely was the worst thing that ever happened to him! He was suddenly able to command a huge salary, and he made some disastrous choices over the next few years, starring in major flops such as "The Black Bird" and "The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox". In 1983, when he was nearing 50, he divorced his wife of 27 years and married a much younger woman (a midlife crisis?) and his career really went into a tailspin. He started doing mostly TV and a few supporting roles in movies, and appeared a lot on talk shows, often playing his banjo. In 1996, his second wife passed away and he quickly remarried, and the following year he took the role of wacky Jack Gallo in TV's "Just Shoot Me", and I highly recommend this show to anyone who likes black comedy! Segal stayed with the show until it went off the air in 2003, and he continue to make some movie and TV appearances, including "The Goldbergs" as Pops. While I am a huge fan of George Segal and he had a very impressive "body of work" (equally in comedy as in drama), one can only wonder what more he might have done had he not had his success in A Touch of Class, and not spent the next couple of decades mostly appearing in films not worthy of his great talent! George passed away in 2021 at the age of 87.
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