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George Segal was a legendary character actor. Here's a breakdown of his greatest screen moments.

Remembering George Segal’s Greatest Moments on Film

After the devastating news of George Segal’s passing, it seemed only right to take a trip down memory lane and remember some of the greatest moments from his history on camera. Segal was beloved by many as a comic actor, with his quick wit and charming smile lighting up the faces of those who watched his films. Of course, Segal was not just a comic, some of his greatest performances were in serious dramas. We’ll be remembering both his laugh-out-loud performances and his more sombre appearances here.

California Split

California Split is widely regarded as one of the best gambling movies of all time, thanks in no small part to Segal’s incredible portrayal of Bill Denny. Bill is the long-suffering friend of Charlie Waters, played by Elliot Gould, who has decided to embark on a casino-based quest. Segal accurately portrays the level of enthusiasm with which Bill joins him: not very much.

Bill’s glum persona and hangdog expression created a character that we can’t help but chuckle with. Far from being a subtle lesson in character acting, all of the people portrayed in California Split are caricatures of themselves, yet still, the film seems believable. As you follow Charlie and Bill on their adventures, you can almost taste the stale smoke of the casino and feel the static of the nylon carpets. 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

This film was adapted from a hugely successful screenplay and sees an aging academic couple, played by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, invite a bright young couple, played by George Segal and Sandy Dennis, into their home for drinks. The whole film takes place in a cramped and uncomfortable house and garden, with Taylor and Burton constantly squabbling amongst themselves.

The pair continually try to drag Segal and Dennis into their arguments, always just over-stepping the line between being flamboyant and downright rude. It makes for entirely uncomfortable viewing but is a brilliant portrayal from all four actors of how relationships change with time and alcohol.

A Touch of Class

This brilliant romantic comedy reminds us of the highs and lows of infidelity.

This brilliant film will have you both laughing and, if you’re predisposed to shedding a tear at a film, then almost certainly crying too. Segal plays an American insurance executive who meets by surprise a dazzling British divorcee, played by Glenda Jackson. What ensues is one of the great early romantic comedies. The two overcome Segal’s back problems during what should have been a romantic holiday. After heated arguments abroad they return more in love than ever and immediately see about finding a pied-a-terre in Soho.

Far from being the glamorous affair that Segal had imagined, he finds that despite his love for Jackson, having an affair is much like married life but far less convenient. Throughout the film, Segal makes hilarious gaffs, such as having to take first his wife and then his mistress out for dinner in the same evening, or claiming to take the dog out for a walk, then seeing his mistress, and returning home to his wife having forgotten the dog entirely. It’s a laugh a minute, but the connection between Segal and Jackson has us perhaps wrongly hoping that this affair could blossom into something more permanent.

Flirting With Disaster

Although Segal plays a more minor part in this film than he usually does, his presence takes this from a movie that could raise the occasional giggle, to one that will have you howling with laughter. Ben Stiller plays the main character Mel Colpin, who was adopted at birth and before naming his son has decided that he simply must find his birth parents.

George Segal and Mary Tyler-Moore play Mel’s adoptive parents, who are both supportive and a little apprehensive about their son’s decision. Segal plays the role of the hen-pecked father perfectly, dithering in his decisions and looking to his wife for approval. A heart-warming and laughter-inducing performance in equal measures.

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