Elliot Gould was one of Hollywood's hottest actors of the early '70s and though he reached the peak of his popularity years ago, he remains a steadily employed supporting and character actor. Gould's lifelong involvement in show business is partially the result of his mother. In classical stage mother fashion, she made an eight-year-old Gould take numerous classes in performing, singing, and dance, including ballet. She enrolled him in Manhattan's Professional Children's School and then had him perform in hospitals, temples, and sometimes on television. Gould was also a child model. During summers, Gould performed at Catskill mountain resorts. When he was 18, he made it into a Broadway chorus line. Working odd jobs in between minor stage gigs, Gould did not get his big break until he joined the chorus line of the musical Irma La Douce. From there he won the leading role opposite Barbra Streisand in I Can Get It for You Wholesale. Though the two leads got good reviews, the show did not and rapidly closed. During its short run, Gould and Streisand fell in love, and in 1963, married. The following year, Gould made an inauspicious feature-film debut playing a deaf-mute in The Confession (1964). He did much better in his second film, The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968). While Gould's career seemed jammed in neutral, his wife's popularity hit the stratosphere, and for a time, he helped arrange her television appearances. By 1967, after years of being called Mr. Streisand and undergoing analysis, Gould untied the knot with Streisand.
Gould became a star in 1969 when his co-starring role in the sex comedy Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination. After playing Trapper John in Robert Altman's counterculture classic M*A*S*H, Gould at last made it to the big league. Tall, curly-haired, more homely than handsome, laid-back, unconventional, sensitive, and unabashedly Jewish, Gould was tremendously popular with young adults who strongly identified with the often confused and neurotic characters he played. Gould's subsequent few films, notably Getting Straight (1970) and Little Murders, reinforced his counterculture image. For a while, he seemed to be everywhere, but by 1973, his career had already begun tapering off. A powerfully subtle performance as Philip Marlow in Altman's Long Goodbye (1973) proved that Gould had talent to spare, but over the next few years, he chose several independent, under the radar films, like California Split and Capricorn One. Over the coming decades, Gould would eventually find an ideal level of fame and activity, appearing in a massive number of films, like Dangerous Love, Bugsy, Ocean's Eleven (and its sequels), and Contagion. Gould would also enjoy a beloved recurring role on the massively successful sitom Friends as the father of Ross and Monica Geller.