This article is about the actor. For the sculptor and painter, see George Segal (artist).
George Segal, Jr. (born February 13, 1934) is an American actor and musician.
Segal became popular in the 1960s and 1970s for playing both dramatic and comedic roles. Some of his most acclaimed roles are in films such as Where's Poppa? (1970), Blume in Love (1973), California Split (1974), and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his performance in A Touch of Class (1973).
On television, he is best known for his roles as Jack Gallo on Just Shoot Me! (1997-2003) and as Albert "Pops" Solomon on The Goldbergs (2013-present).
Segal was born in Great Neck, New York, the son of Fannie Blanche Segal (née Bodkin) and George Segal, Sr., a malt and hop agent. He is the youngest of three sons: oldest brother John, who worked in the hops brokerage business and was an innovator in the cultivation of new hop varieties, and middle brother Fred, a screenwriter. A six-year-old sister, Greta, died of pneumonia before Segal was born.
Segal's family was Jewish, but he was raised in a secular household. A paternal great-grandfather ran for governor of Massachusetts as a socialist. He did not attend religious school.
When asked if he had a bar mitzvah, Segal stated: "I'm afraid not. I went to a Passover Seder at Groucho Marx's once and he kept saying, 'When do we get to the wine?' So that's my Jewish experience. I went to a friend's bar mitzvah, and that was the only time I was in Temple Beth Shalom. Jewish life wasn't happening that much at the time. People's car tires were slashed in front of the temple. I was once kicked down a flight of stairs by some kids from the local parochial school".
All of Segal's grandparents were immigrants from Russia. His maternal grandparents changed their surname from Slobodkin to Bodkin. He first became interested in acting at the age of nine, when he saw Alan Ladd in This Gun for Hire. He states: "I started off with the ukulele when I was a kid in Great Neck. A friend had a red Harold Teen model; it won my heart. When I got to high school, I realized you couldn't play in a band with a ukulele, so I moved on to the four-string banjo."
When his father died in 1947, Segal moved to New York with his mother. He graduated from George School in 1951, and attended Haverford College. He graduated from Columbia College of Columbia University in 1955 with a Bachelor of Arts in performing arts and drama. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1956.
After college, Segal got a job as an understudy in a Broadway production of The Iceman Cometh. After serving in the United States Army, he appeared in Antony and Cleopatra for Joseph Papp and joined an improvisational group called The Premise, which performed at a Bleecker Street coffeehouse. In 2001, he performed in Yasmina Reza's Art in his West End debut.
Segal has played both dramatic and comedic roles, although he is more often seen in the latter. Originally a stage actor and musician, he appeared in several minor films in the early 1960s in addition to the well-known 1962 movie The Longest Day. He was signed to a Columbia Pictures contract in 1961, making his film debut in The Young Doctors and appearing in the television series Naked City.
Segal was one of the stars of Stanley Kramer's acclaimed 1965 drama Ship of Fools, playing an egocentric painter. He played the title role as a scheming P.O.W. in King Rat (1965), a role originally meant for Frank Sinatra. He went on to play an Algerian paratrooper captured at Dien Bien Phu, who leaves the French army to become a leader of the FLN, in Lost Command (1966). He was loaned to Warner Bros for Mike Nichols' classic adaptation of the Edward Albee play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1967). He played the young faculty member, Nick, a role for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
For the next decade and onwards, Segal received many notable film roles. He appeared as a British secret service agent in The Quiller Memorandum (1966), a Cagney-esque gangster in The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), a perplexed police detective in No Way to Treat a Lady (1968), a bookworm in The Owl and the Pussycat (1970), a war-weary platoon commander in The Bridge at Remagen (1969), a man laying waste to his marriage in Loving (1970), a hairdresser-turned-junkie in Born to Win (1971), a suburbanite-turned-bank robber in Fun with Dick and Jane (1977), and a faux gourmet in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978).
Segal headlined several acclaimed films by notable filmmakers. He starred in Carl Reiner's 1970 dark comedy Where's Poppa?, which Variety called "insane". It was a black comedy with Segal as a young lawyer with an active death wish for his old Jewish mother. He played the lead role in Sydney Lumet's Bye Bye Braverman (1968), starred in Peter Yates' 1972 heist comedy The Hot Rock, played a comically unfaithful husband in A Touch of Class (1973), which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, starred as the titular midlife crisis victim in Paul Mazursky's 1973 romantic comedy Blume in Love, and starred as a gambling addict in Robert Altman's California Split (1974). For A Touch of Class, he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, which was the second Golden Globe of his career.
After receiving fewer prominent roles for most of the 1980s, Segal played the sleazy father of Kirstie Alley's baby in Look Who's Talking (1989) and later making a cameo in its 1993 sequel, and played a left-wing comedy writer in For the Boys (1991). Other more recent roles include supporting performances in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), Flirting with Disaster (1996), The Cable Guy (1996), 2012 (2009), and Love and Other Drugs (2010).
Segal starred in the NBC award-winning sitcom Just Shoot Me! (1997-2003) as Jack Gallo, the eccentric but lovable publisher of a New York fashion magazine. He was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Television Series Musical or Comedy in 1999 and 2000 and a Satellite Award in 2002 for this part. The show lasted for seven seasons and 148 episodes.
More recently, Segal played Murray Berenson in the television series Entourage and starred in the TV Land sitcom Retired at 35 (2011-2012).
Segal currently appears on the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs (2013-present), playing the eccentric but loveable grandfather of a semi-autobiographical family based on series creator Adam F. Goldberg's family. The series entered its second season in September 2014.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Segal appeared frequently on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, nine times as a guest and once as a guest host. His appearances were marked by eccentric banter with Johnny Carson and were usually punctuated by bursts of banjo playing.
In 1976, Segal co-hosted the Academy Awards.
Segal is an accomplished banjo player. At Haverford College and Columbia University, he formed Bruno Lynch and his Imperial Jazz Band. Segal also played with a dixieland jazz band while in college at Columbia that had several different names. When he was the one who booked a gig, he would bill the group as Bruno Lynch and his Imperial Jazzband. The group, which later settled on the name Red Onion Jazz Band, later played at his first wedding. In the Army, his band was called Corporal Bruno's Sad Sack Six.
In 1967, Segal released his debut LP, The Yama Yama Man. The title track is a ragtime version of the 1908 tune "The Yama Yama Man" with horns and banjos. Segal released the album at a time when he appeared regularly playing banjo on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
In 1974 he played in A Touch of Ragtime, an album with his band, the Imperial Jazzband (which, other than its name, may or may not have had any relation to his college band). During the 1970s and 1980s, Segal made frequent television appearances with the "Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band", whose members included actor Conrad Janis on trombone. Recent engagements in Los Angeles have included guest spots with the award-winning residency Guitarology.
In addition to playing banjo while appearing on The Tonight Show, Segal has played the instrument in several of his acting roles, including several episodes of The Goldbergs.
Segal has been married three times. He married film editor Marion Segal Freed in 1956, and they were together for 26 years until their divorce in 1983. They had two daughters, Polly and Elizabeth. He was married to Linda Rogoff, a one-time manager of The Pointer Sisters, whom he met at Carnegie Hall when he played the banjo with his band (the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band), from 1983 to her death in 1996. He married his former George School boarding school classmate Sonia Schultz Greenbaum in 1996.
The Young Doctors
The Longest Day
U.S. Army Ranger
Invitation to a Gunfighter
The New Interns
Dr. Tony "Shiv" Parelli
Ship of Fools
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Quiller Memorandum
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Bye Bye Braverman
No Way to Treat a Lady
The Girl Who Couldn't Say No
The Bridge at Remagen
Lieutenant Phil Hartman
The Southern Star
The Owl and the Pussycat
Born to Win
The Hot Rock
Blume in Love
A Touch of Class
The Terminal Man
The Black Bird
Sam Spade Jr.
The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox
Charlie "Dirtwater Fox" Malloy
Fun with Dick and Jane
Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?
Lost and Found
The Last Married Couple in America
The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood
The Cold Room
Not My Kid
Dr. Frank Bower
Run for Your Life
Look Who's Talking
For the Boys
Me, Myself & I
Look Who's Talking Now
To Die For
It's My Party
Flirting with Disaster
The Cable Guy
The Mirror Has Two Faces
The Linda McCartney Story
Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone
Billy & Mandy's Big Boogey Adventure
Made for Each Other
Love and Other Drugs
Dr. James Randall
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Inbe no Akita
Elsa & Fred
Daedalus Patrick Murphy
The Naked Truth
Tracey Takes On...
Just Shoot Me!
Roy "Buster" Bustamante
Retired at 35
Albert "Pops" Solomon
Rattle of a Simple Man
Requiem for a Heavyweight
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license