George Segal kicked off his performing career as a boy magician in his Long Island neighborhood. An accomplished banjoist, Segal played with Bruno Lynch and His Imperial Jazz before enrolling at Columbia University. After three years' military service, Segal resettled in New York in 1959, and that same year was cast in his first off-Broadway play. Entering films with 1961's The Young Doctors, Segal quickly established himself as one of Hollywood's most accomplished young character actors; in 1967, he received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Nick in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. When one compiles a list of favorite films from the late 1960s-early 1970s, one usually spends a great deal of time exclaiming "Hey! Segal was in that, too." He played a hustling POW in King Rat (1965), a Cagneyesque hood in Saint Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), ulcerated homicide detective Mo Brummel in No Way to Treat a Lady (1968), a neurotic New York Jewish intellectual in Bye Bye Braverman (1968), a straight-laced bachelor in love with a foul-mouthed hooker in The Owl and the Pussycat (1970), and a repressed lawyer saddled with an outrageously senile mother in Where's Poppa? (1970). During this same period, Segal had an arrangement with the ABC TV network, permitting him to star in television adaptations of classic Broadway plays: he was cast as George opposite Nicol Williamson's Lenny in Of Mice and Men, then switched gears as vicious escaped criminal Glenn Griffin in The Desperate Hours. Throughout this busy period in his life, Segal fronted the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band, cutting several records and making a number of memorable Tonight Show appearances. In 1973, Segal's successful screen teaming with Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class enabled him to demand a much higher price for his film services; unfortunately, many of the films that followed--The Black Bird (1975) and The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox (1976) in particular--failed to justify Segal's seven-figure price tag. In the 1980s, Segal starred in two well-written but low-rated TV weeklies, Take Five (1987) and Murphy's Law (1989). His film career was lifted from the doldrums in the late 1980s with such plum roles as the pond-scum father of Kirstie Alley's baby in Look Who's Talking (1989) and the "pinko" comedy writer in For the Boys (1991). Segal's projects of the 1990s have included the syndicated TV adventure series High Tide (1994) and such film roles as the bemused husband of abrasive Jewish mama Mary Tyler Moore in the 1996 Ben Stiller vehicle Flirting with Disaster. In 1996, Segal found renewed success on television playing a well-meaning but rather duplicitous publisher whose estranged daughter comes to work for him in the razor-sharp NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me. Though he worked less frequently during the 21st century, he appeared in a variety of projects including The Linda McCartney Story as the main character's father, Fielder's Choice, 2012, and Love and Other Drugs.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Attended a private Quaker boarding school.
- As a child, he began his entertainment career as a magician and musician.
- An accomplished banjo player, he performed in the band Bruno Lynch and His Imperial Jazz Band during his college days.
- Served in the Army for several years.
- As an aspiring actor, he toiled as a janitor at Circle in the Square Theatre in New York.
- Pulled out of the lead role in Blake Edwards' popular 1979 film 10.
- Played the banjo in the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band, which played a gig at Carnegie Hall in 1981, opening for Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.
- In 1996, staged a career comeback playing Mary Tyler Moore's husband in the romantic comedy Flirting with Disaster, which led to a lead role on NBC's sitcom Just Shoot Me from 1997 to 2003.