Friday, 2 January 2015

The Late Great Edward Herrmann

Edward Herrmann, who appeared in numerous films and Broadway productions and played Richard Gilmore in the TV show The Gilmore Girls, died 31 December 2014 at the age of 71. The cause was brain cancer.

Edward Herrmann was born on 21 July 1943 in Washington, D.C. He grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. He attended Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania where he earned a degree in English. He studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He began his career on stage, appearing in  Moonchildren at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. in 1971. He remained with the show when it moved to Broadway in February 1972, thus marking his debut on Broadway. He made his film debut about the same time, in an uncredited role as a policeman in the film La mortadella in 1971.

In the Seventies on Broadway Mr Herrmann appeared in Mrs. Warren's Profession and a revival of The Philadelphia Story. He appeared in such films as The Paper Chase (1973), The Day of the Dolphin (1973), The Great Gatsby (1974), The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), The Betsy (1978), Brass Target (1978), Take Down (1979), and The North Avenue Irregulars (1979). By far his most significant role in the Seventies would be on television. He played Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the television movie Eleanor and Franklin in 1976, as well as in its sequel Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years in 1977. He was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama or Comedy Special both times. He also played Lou Gehrig in the television movie A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story. Edward Herrmann was a regular on the short lived TV shows Beacon Hill and 3 by Cheever. He also appeared in the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation Valley Forge and guest starred on M*A*S*H.

In the Eighties Edward Herrmann appeared on Broadway in productions of Plenty and Love Letters. He appeared in such films as Harry's War (1981), Reds (1981),  A Little Sex (1982) Annie (1982--in which he once more played FDR), Mrs. Soffel (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), The Man with One Red Shoe (1985), The Lost Boys (1987), Overboard (1987), and Big Business (1988). On television he was a regular on the short lived series The Lawrenceville Stories and had a recurring role on St. Elsewhere from its third to fifth seasons. He guest starred on the shows American Playhouse, the revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Hothouse. He also appeared in the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation Dear Liar and the TV movie Murrow.

In the Nineties Edward Herrmann appeared on Broadway in a revival of The Deep Blue Sea. On television he was a regular on The Practice and Oz. It was in 2000 that he began playing Richard Gilmore, father of Lorelei Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham), on Gilmore Girls. He guest starred on such shows as Screen One, Wings, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Crossing Jordan. Mr. Herrmann appeared in the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation Saint Maybe. He appeared in the films Hero (1992), Born Yesterday (1993), My Boyfriend's Back (1993), Foreign Student (1994), Ri¢hie Ri¢h (1994), Nixon (1995), Critical Care (1997), and Walking Across Egypt (1999).

In the Naughts Edward Herrmann continued to play his regular roles on Gilmore Girls and Oz. He guest starred on the shows Grey's Anatomy, 30 Rock, and Law & Order. He appeared in the films Intolerable Cruelty (2003), Bereft (2004), The Aviator (2004), Factory Girl (2006),  I Think I Love My Wife (2007), The Skeptic (2009), and The Six Wives of Henry Lefay (2009).

In the Teens Edward Herrmann had recurring roles on Harry's Law and The Good Wife. He guest starred on the shows CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, How I Met Your Mother, and Black Box. He appeared in the films Heaven's Door (2013), Are You Here (2013), and The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014). He will appear in the film Coach of the Year, due to be released later this year.

Edward Herrmann also did an enormous amount of voice work. He served as a narrator on a number of episodes of PBS programmes (including Nova), as well as History Channel programmes. Throughout the Nineties he also did voice work for Dodge commercials, in which he sometimes appeared on screen. He provided voice work for a number of audio books.

Edward Herrmann was an incredible actor. There can be no doubt that for many he will always be Richard Gilmore on Gilmore Girls. What is more, there is good reason for this beyond the show's success. Edward Hermann was perfect as Richard, the somewhat conservative yet avuncular Gilmore patriarch. It is impossible to picture any other actor in the role. Of course, Edward Herrmann played many other roles than Richard Gilmore and many that were very different. In fact, aside from Richard Gilmore, he may be best known for playing FDR.  He played President Roosevelt in two TV movies, Annie, and even provided FDR's voice in the PBS documentary series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. For many when they think of FDR, they be more inclined to think of Edward Herrmann than they are the actual Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Over the years Mr. Hermann was called upon to play a number of historical figures, from Max Eastman in Reds to Fred Friendly in Murrow to Nelson Rockefeller in Nixon to Joseph Breen in The Aviator.

While Edward Herrmann played a number of historical figures, as well as many men of upper class birth, he also played a wide variety of roles throughout his career. He was the head vampire and hence chief villain Max in The Lost Boys. In the 1993 BBC television movie A Foreign Field he played Ralph, the henpecked husband of Beverly (Geraldine Chaplin), a role as far from Max (or FDR) as one could get. He even played Herman Munster in the 1995 television movie Here Come the Munsters. Throughout his career Edward Herrmann played captains of industry and milquetoasts, stuffed shirts and freethinkers, and he did all of them well.

Of course, beyond his sheer talent as an actor, Edward Herrmann was also gifted with an incredible voice. Mr. Herrmann's voice was mellifluous and always easy to understand. What is more, as a narrator Mr. Hermann spoke with authority, but did so in such a way that he did not sound pedantic or staid. It is little wonder that he did as much voice work as he did, as his voice and his delivery were both perfect.

While many might remember Edward Hermann as Richard Gilmore and others might remember him as FDR, he did so many more great roles throughout his career. What is more, not only was Edward Hermann prolific, but he was also extremely talented. It was a rare thing he when he did not give an outstanding performance in any role he played. He was truly one of the great character actors of the late Twentieth and early Twenty First centuries.

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