Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
“I have a dread of being considered bland, but I’ve had to reconcile myself to the fact that that’s what I am.” George Segal
Academy Award-nominated George Segal is a distinguished American film, stage and television actor who quickly established himself as one of Hollywood’s most proficient young character actors during the 1960s. Getting his real screen breakthrough in King Rat (1965), Segal was launched to stardom with his Oscar-nominating, scene-stealing turn as the ruthless young professor in Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), where he also netted a Golden Laurel Award and a Golden Globe nomination. The Long Island native achieved the top of his career when he starred as a comically disloyal husband in A Touch of Class (1973), which made Segal a million dollar-per-film movie star. For his bravura acting, he was handed a Golden Globe Award and a Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award. Following a series of failures, the actor bounced back in the late 1980s with the hit Look Who’s Talking (1989), which spawned a sequel in 1993, and with notable performances in such vehicles as For the Boys (1991), To Die For (1995), Flirting With Disaster, It’s My Party, and The Cable Guy (all 1996). During his fading days, Segal turned to the small screen, and in 1997, he scored success by starring as magazine publisher-owner Jack Gallo on the NBC sitcom “Just Shoot Me” (1997-2003, earned two Golden Globe and a Golden Satellite nomination), and playing the recurring role of Tea Leoni’s father in another NBC series, “The Naked Truth” (1997).
Segal also has acted in numerous television films, including Death of a Salesman (CBS, 1966), The Deadly Game (1982), The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood (1984), Many Happy Returns (1986), The Making of a Hollywood Madam (1996), Houdini (1998) and Fielder’s Choice (2005). His more recent and upcoming big screen credits include Heights (2004), My Wife Is Retarded (2007) and Three Days to Vegas (2007).
On stage, Segal received recognition for working in the Off-Broadway play “The Premise” (1960) and in the Broadway play “Art” (1999). Other productions include “The Iceman Cometh” (1956), “Leave It to Jane” (1959), Paddy Chayefsky’s “Gideon” (1961), “Rattle of a Simple Man” (1963), “The Knack” (1964) and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1985).
Privately speaking, Segal has been married three times. From 1956 to 1981, he was married to Marion Sobel, and to Linda Rogoff from 1982 until her death in 1996. Segal is now the husband of Sonia Schultz Greenbaum. He has two children, Elizabeth and Polly (mother: Marion Sobel).
Childhood and Family:
In Great Neck, Long Island, New York, George Segal was born on February 13, 1934, to Fannie Segal. He played banjo with Bruno Lynch and His Imperial Jazz Band while in high school and college. He graduated from Columbia University with a degree in drama in 1955.
George tied the knot with first wife, Marion Sobel, in 1956. They divorced in 1981, after having two children, Elizabeth (born in 1962) and Polly Segal (born in 1966). He married his second wife, Linda Rogoff, in 1982, and stayed with her until she died on June 13, 1996. Shortly after Linda’s death, George ran into his high school sweetheart, Sonia Schultz Greenbaum, who became his third wife in 1996.
A Touch of Class
A talented banjo player, George Segal organized Bruno Lynch and His Imperial Jazz while in high school and continued performing with the group while attending college. After college, he worked as a toilet cleaner at NYC’s Circle in the Square Theatre and understudied a part in “La Ronde” that he never got to play. It was in 1955 that Segal finally made his stage debut in Moliere’s “Don Juan” at NYC’s Downtown Theatre, opposite Peter Falk. He returned to the legendary Circle in the Square for a part in the notable Jose Quintero-directed production of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” in 1956. After serving with the US Army for three years, he landed roles in the NY Shakespeare Festival’s “Antony and Cleopatra” and the off-Broadway revival of Jerome Kern’s “Leave It to Jane” (both 1959) and found his first success a year later with “The Premise,” a long-running improvisational cabaret in the style of Chicago’s Second City troupe. This also marked his first affiliation with Buck Henry.
Segal had his first taste in front of the film camera in 1961 with The Young Doctors, which was followed by small roles in Act One (1963) and The New Interns (1964), the installment to The Young Doctors. He soon made a reputation for himself as one of the most accomplished young character actors in Hollywood with powerful performances in films like Invitation to a Gunfighter (1964), Stanley Kramer’s outstanding Ship of Fools (1965, as a distressed newlywed) and the World War II POW tale King Rat (1965). During that same period, he also appeared in New York stage productions of Paddy Chayefsky’s “Gideon” (1961), “Rattle of a Simple Man” (1963) and Mike Nichols’ “The Knack” (1964).
Reuniting with director Mike Nichols, Segal scored a huge victory when he was cast in the supporting role of the ambitious young professor in the acclaimed drama Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), adapted by Ernest Lehman from Edward Albee’s play. For his brilliant presentation, the 1965 Golden Globe winner for Most Promising Newcomer took home a Golden Laurel for Male Supporting Performance as well as a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. He next played an American secret agent investigating a neo-Nazi group in The Quiller Memorandum (1966), a hood in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967), a phobic New York Jewish academic in Sidney Lumet’s Bye Bye Braverman (1968) and the cop on the track of a flamboyant lady-killer in No Way to Treat a Lady (1968), which brought him a 1969 BAFTA Film nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He also acted in such television films as Death of a Salesman (CBS, 1966), The Desperate Hours (ABC, 1967) and Of Mice and Men (ABC, 1968).
The talented performer starred as a besieged Jewish son in director Carl Reiner’s cult comedy classic Where’s Poppa (1970), acted opposite Barbra Streisand as a bashful bachelor in The Owl and the Pussycat (1970) and teamed up with Eva Marie Saint in Loving (1970). In 1973, after starring in Paul Mazursky’s Blume in Love, Segal again attracted public attention with his starring role as a married man who embarks on an affair in A Touch of Class, a romantic comedy for director Melvin Frank. For his significant effort, the actor picked up a Golden Globe and a Kansas City Film Critics Circle for Best Actor. This success allowed Segal to receive a much higher price for his movie services, but many of the vehicles that followed, including The Black Bird (1975) and The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox (1976), failed to validate Segal’s million dollar price tag.
The quality of Segal’s film roles continued to decline, and after the slick comedy Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe (1978), he had to face a string of disappointing projects like Lost and Found (1979), Carbon Copy (1981) and Burt Reynolds’ Stick (1985). As a result, he decided to turn to the small screen and found success with his work on the HBO The Deadly Game (1982), the CBS-TV films Trackdown: Finding the Goodbar Killer (1983, as strong-willed NYC detective John Grafton), The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood (1984), Not My Kid (1985) and Many Happy Returns (1986). He also had regular roles in two unsatisfactory shows, “Take Five” (CBS, 1987) and “Murphy’s Law” (ABC, 1988). Segal’s motion picture luck improved when he was cast as the father of Kirstie Alley in the box office hit Look Who’s Talking (1989), a role he reprised in 1993 for the sequel Look Who’s Talking Now, and the comedy writer and Bette Midler’s uncle in For the Boys (1991). He offered memorable supporting roles in Me, Myself and I (1992, as a Vietnam veteran) and Gus Van Sant’s To Die For (1995, as a sordid TV executive seduced by Nicole Kidman), and further proved he was back in the saddle again with his four 1996 pictures: It’s My Party, the hit Flirting With Disaster, The Cable Guy and director-actress Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces.
Segal next portrayed the love interest of Ann-Margret in the NBC movie Following Her Heart (1994), voiced Dr. Benton Quest for the animated series “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest” (1996), acted in CBS’s The Making of a Hollywood Madam (1996) and played Harry Houdini’s manager in the TNT film Houdini (1998). He next landed the starring regular role of magazine publisher-owner Jack Gallo on the NBC sitcom “Just Shoot Me,” which ran from 1997 to 2003. The role brought Segal two Golden Globe nominations, one in 1999 and one in 2000, and a Golden Satellite nomination in 2002. He combined the success with his recurring role as Tea Leoni’s father (and Mary Tyler Moore’s husband) on “The Naked Truth” (NBC, 1997). He could also be seen returning to the Broadway stage with the long-running, Tony-winning “Art” (1999), starring opposite Buck Henry and Wayne Knight.
After “Just Shoot Me” came to an end, Segal, who now still plays the banjo, played roles in The Amazing Westerbergs (2004, TV), the drama Heights (2004, opposite Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden), the animated film Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone (2005, the voice of Albagon) and Fielder’s Choice (2005, TV). More recently, he portrayed Julia’s father in Etan Cohen’s My Wife Is Retarded (2007). The 73-year-old actor also has a supporting role in the forthcoming comedy/romance Three Days to Vegas (2007), playing Dominic Spinuzzi.
- Golden Globe: Best Motion Picture Actor - Musical/Comedy, A Touch of Class, 1974
- Kansas City Film Critics Circle: Best Actor, A Touch of Class, 1974
- Golden Laurel: Male Supporting Performance, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1967
- Golden Globe: Most Promising Newcomer- Male, 1965