April 1, 1928 – You may not have heard of him, but he is a gay guy worth noting. He was one of those journeyman actors that inspired me when I was first getting in the biz: a strong supporting actor at important stages around the country & not above taking juicy bits in TV & films. He had much of his success in plays written by gay playwrights.
George Grizzard made more than 40 films & hundreds of TV appearances, but it was in the theatre that he had his greatest triumphs. He created the role of Nick, the young newlywed academic who finds himself subject to an evening of malicious mocking by an older couple, in openly gay playwright Edward Albee‘s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1962). Grizzard would eventually become one of the foremost interrupters of the works of Albee.
Grizzard was praised for his ability to swiftly switch moods & create the emotional climaxes characteristic of Albee’s work. After 4 nominations, he finally won a Tony for his work in the 1996 revival of Albee’s A Delicate Balance. Grizzard also starred with Frances Sternhagen in a revival of Albee’s Seascape. These are both roles that I also played. Maybe I am Grizzardian after all.
Grizzard had his finest film role in Otto Preminger‘s Advise & Consent (1962) as a ruthless, power-seeking senator who blackmails a young politician about his homosexual past. Even with such scene-stealers as Henry Fonda & Charles Laughton, Grizzard makes quite an impression. On TV he had a recurring role on Law & Order.
He returned to Broadway as Tom in a revival of gay playwright Tennessee Williams‘s The Glass Menagerie (1965) & in a revival of gay writer Clifford Odets‘ The Country Girl (1972), repeating the role in a TV film version in 1974.
I saw Grizzard give a sparkling performance in one of my favorite theatre experiences, Ellis Rabb‘s hit revival of George Kaufman & Edna Ferber‘s satire on the Barrymore Family, The Royal Family (1975). As Tony Cavendish, the heavy-drinking, womanizing actor (based on John Barrymore), he was flamboyantly charismatic. He matched the work Eva Le Gallienne & Rosemary Harris, & was a joy to see & listen to. His voice was rich & dreamy.
His last screen role was in Clint Eastwood‘s Flags Of Our Fathers (2006), in which he gave a powerful performance an old man haunted by memories of his younger self fighting in the battle of Iwo Jima.
Grizzard lived in NYC with his longtime partner, William Tynan. His final Broadway play was openly gay playwright Paul Rudnick‘s Regrets Only (2006), in which he played a fashion designer campaigning for gay rights. Grizzard took his final curtain call in autumn of 2007.