George Gaynes

George Gaynes

Birth name: George Jongejans
Born: May 3, 1917
Died: February 15, 2016 (at age 98)
Birthplace: Helsinki, Grand Duchy of Finland, Russian Empire

George Gaynes (May 3, 1917 - February 15, 2016) born George Jongejans in Helsinki, then Grand Duchy of Finland, Russian Empire, was an American singer, actor, voice artist, and comedy performer of stage, screen, and television. Born to Dutch and Russian parents in Finland, he served in the Royal Netherlands Navy during World War II and subsequently immigrated to the United States, where he became a citizen and began his acting career on Broadway.

Gaynes' most recognized roles in cinema were, arguably, that of Commandant Eric Lassard in the Police Academy series and the comedy film Tootsie. To television fans, he is perhaps best remembered as the curmudgeonly but lovable foster parent Henry Warnimont on the NBC series Punky Brewster; as high-powered theatrical producer Arthur Feldman on The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, in which Gaynes' real-life wife, Allyn Ann McLerie, co-starred as his love interest; and as Frank Smith, the mob boss brought down by Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) on the soap opera General Hospital.

Early life

Gaynes was born on May 3, 1917, in Helsinki, in what was then the Grand Duchy of Finland and part of the Russian Empire (Finland became independent that year), the son of Iya Grigorievna de Gay (later known as Lady Abdy), a Russian artist, and Gerrit Jongejans, a Dutch businessman. His uncle was the actor Gregory Gaye. He was raised in France, England, and Switzerland. Gaynes graduated from the Collège Classique Cantonal near Lausanne in 1937. He also attended the Music School of Milan from 1938 to 1939, and many years later trained at the Actors Studio in New York City from 1953 to 1958.


Gaynes had a career on the opera stages of Italy and France before World War II, and in the U.S. after the war. A United States citizen for most of his life, he rapidly built a reputation as a Broadway musical comedy performer in the 1940s and 1950s. During this time, his best-known appearances were in Wonderful Town and the musical version of My Sister Eileen. Gaynes alternated between stage musicals and both comedic and dramatic plays, including his role as Bob Baker in the original production of Wonderful Town (1953), Jupiter in the Cole Porter musical Out of This World (credited as George Jongejans), Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and as Henry Higgins in the 1964 U.S. tour of My Fair Lady. In television, Gaynes played the role of Henry Warnimont, the eventual foster father for Punky Brewster in the eponymous series. He also provided the voice for Henry in the animated Ruby-Spears version of the show. Behind the camera, he directed the very last episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. Films in which he appeared include The Way We Were, Nickelodeon, and Tootsie.

Entering films and television in the early 1960s, Gaynes was a regular on the TV daytime dramas Search for Tomorrow (replacing Robert Mandan in the role of Jo's husband, Sam Reynolds) and General Hospital (originating the role of mobster Frank Smith), and showed up in such movies as The Group (1966), Marooned (1969), and Doctor's Wives (1971). He appeared in one episode of the sci-fi television series Sliders as the old-aged version of Quinn Mallory, played by Jerry O'Connell. In 1984, he played Commandant Lassard, the titular leader, in the first of seven Police Academy movies. In 1994, he played Serybryalzov in Louis Malle's acclaimed independent feature, Vanya on 42nd Street.

Personal life

Gaynes was married to the stage and television actress and dancer Allyn Ann McLerie from December 20, 1953; they had two children, Matthew (Matt) and Iya. After early teenage experimentation with marijuana, Matthew was sent to the Catalina Island School; there he learned ocean kayaking, and his life changed completely. He grew to be one of the most respected kayakers of his generation; he was shortlisted for the Olympic team the year that President Jimmy Carter boycotted the Olympics after the Russians invaded Afghanistan. Matt died in a car crash in India in 1989. He was on his way to Nepal to film a kayaking special for ESPN. He was not the driver, and the car had no seatbelts. He left behind a widow whom he had married earlier that year. Iya Gaynes Falcone, a lawyer, served as campaign director for a variety of California political candidates, and then ran for office herself in Santa Barbara. She served on the Santa Barbara City Council for two terms. During a subsequent run for mayor, her husband of many years died, and she took actions that effectively withdrew herself from the campaign. She has since remarried.

In addition to George Gaynes joining the cast of his wife's series The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd in 1989, he and McLerie had previously worked together on Punky Brewster, when she guest starred in a first season episode as a love interest of Henry Warnimont's. In an interview from 2011, he stated that he had an "easy", "open", and "cordial" relationship with his Punky Brewster co-star Soleil Moon Frye, but added that they never had any relationship outside of their work. He also added that the series' dog, "Brandon the Wonder Dog", was named after the NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff.


Gaynes died at his home in North Bend, Washington on February 15, 2016. He was 98 years old.



Year Film Role Notes
1963 PT 109 PT boat base commander A biographical war film, which depicts the actions of John F. Kennedy (JFK) as an officer of the United States Navy in command of Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109, during the Pacific War of World War II.
1966 The Group Brook Latham Ensemble film directed by Sidney Lumet, based on the novel of the same name by Mary McCarthy.
1969 Marooned Mission Director Eastmancolor film directed by John Sturges, based on the 1964 novel Marooned by Martin Caidin.
1971 Doctor's Wives Paul McGill Drama film directed by George Schaefer.
1973 The Way We Were El Morocco Captain Romantic-drama film directed by Sydney Pollack, and considered one of the greatest romance films ever made.
Slaughter's Big Rip-Off Warren Blaxploitation film directed by Gordon Douglas.
The Boy Who Cried Werewolf Dr. Marderosian Horror film directed by Nathan H. Juran.
1976 Nickelodeon Reginald Kingsley Comedy film directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
Harry and Walter Go to New York Prince Period comedy film, written by John Byrum & Robert Kaufman and directed by Mark Rydell.
1980 Altered States Dr. Wissenschaft
  • Science fiction-horror film adaptation of a novel by the same name, by playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky.
  • The film was Chayefsky's only novel, while also being his final screenplay.
  • Both the novel and the film are based on John C. Lilly's sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like mescaline, ketamine and LSD.
1982 Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid Dr. John Hay Forrest Comedy-mystery film directed by Carl Reiner.
Tootsie John Van Horn Comedy film directed by Sydney Pollack.
1983 To Be or Not to Be Ravitch War comedy film, directed by Alan Johnson and produced by Mel Brooks.
1984 Police Academy Cmdt. Eric Lassard Comedy film directed by Hugh Wilson.
Micki + Maude Dr. Eugene Glztszki Comedy film directed by Blake Edwards.
1985 Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment Cmdt. Eric Lassard Comedy film directed by Jerry Paris, and the first of six sequels in the Police Academy series.
1986 Police Academy 3: Back in Training Cmdt. Eric Lassard Comedy film directed by Jerry Paris, and the second of six sequels in the Police Academy series.
1987 Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol Cmdt. Eric Lassard Comedy film directed by Jim Drake, and the third of six sequels in the Police Academy series.
1988 Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach Cmdt. Eric Lassard Comedy film directed by Alan Myerson, and the fourth of six sequels in the Police Academy series.
The Numbers Game Don Salvatore Directed and co-written by Giancarlo Giannini.
Un tassinaro a New York The Admiral Italian film directed and co-written by Alberto Sordi.
1989 Police Academy 6: City Under Siege Cmdt. Eric Lassard Comedy film directed by Peter Bonerz, and the fifth of six sequels in the Police Academy series.
1994 Vanya on 42nd Street Serybryakov An intimate, interpretive performance of the play Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov, as adapted by David Mamet and directed by Louis Malle.
Police Academy: Mission to Moscow Cmdt. Eric Lassard
  • Comedy film directed by Alan Metter, and the final sequel in the Police Academy series.
  • Also known as Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow.
The Fantastic Four Professor An independent superhero film; unreleased.
1996 The Crucible Judge Samuel Sewall Drama film written by Arthur Miller adapting his play of the same title, inspired by the Salem witchcraft trials, and directed by Nicholas Hytner.
1997 Wag the Dog Senator Cole
  • Black comedy film produced and directed by Barry Levinson.
  • Screenplay by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet was loosely adapted from Larry Beinhart's novel American Hero.
2003 Just Married Father Robert Romantic comedy film directed by Shawn Levy.


Year Title Role Notes
1962 Cheyenne Rod Delaplane Episode: "Vengeance is Mine"
The Defenders John Ames Episode: "The Last Six Months" (S. 1: Ep. 27).
Hawaiian Eye Roger Korvin Episode: "The Broken Thread" (S. 4: Ep. 4).
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Mr. Campbell Episode: "Ride the Nightmare" (S. 1: Ep. 11).
1963 Empire Guest Episode: "The Four Thumbs Story" (S. 1: Ep. 15).
The Gallant Men Major Neumann Episode: "Operation Secret" (S. 1: Ep. 19).
East Side/West Side Mr. Stowe Episode: "Who Do You Kill" (S. 1: Ep. 7).
1965 The Patty Duke Show Gaylord Episode: "The Perfect Hostess" (S. 2: Ep. 18).
1968 Bonanza Purdy Episode: "The Late Ben Cartwright" (S. 9: Ep. 22).
Mannix Professor Brendan Episode: "Who Will Dig the Graves?" (S. 2: Ep. 8).
Mission: Impossible Dr. Paul van Bergner Episode: "The Elixir" (S. 3: Ep. 7).
1970 Hawaii Five-O Thurman Elliott Episode: "Kiss the Queen Goodbye" (S. 2: Ep. 25).
1971 Hogan's Heroes 3 Star US Army Air Corp General Episode: "Easy Come, Easy Go" (S. 6: Ep. 15).
Search for Tomorrow Sam Reynolds Replacement for Robert Mandan.
1972 Columbo Everett Episode: "Étude in Black" (S. 2: Ep. 1).
Search Major Giles Matthews Episode: "In Search of Midas" (S. 1: Ep. 8).
1973 Columbo Frenchman Episode: "Any Old Port in a Storm" (S. 3: Ep. 2).
1974 The Six Million Dollar Man General Wiley Episode: "Nuclear Alert" (S. 2: Ep. 1).
Cannon Edward Foxworth Episode: "The Avenger" (S. 4: Ep. 7).
McMillan & Wife Burton Rohner Episode: "Guilt by Association" (S. 4: Ep. 4).
1975 Trilogy of Terror Dr. Chester Ramsey
  • Made-for-television anthology-horror film, first aired as an ABC Movie of the Week on 4 March 1975.
  • Directed by Dan Curtis.
  • Also known in the United States as Tales of Terror, or Terror of the Doll.
McCloud Floyd Spencer Episode: "Fire!" (S. 6: Ep. 3).
1976 Captains and the Kings Orestes Bradley Made-for-TV-Movie
City of Angels Eisley Episode: "Palm Springs Answer" (S. 1: Ep. 7).
Rich Man, Poor Man Book II Max Vincent Miniseries
Black Sheep Squadron Gen. Chennault Episodes:
  • "Flying Misfits, part 1" (S. 1: Ep. 1).
  • "Flying Misfits, part 2" (S. 1: Ep. 2).
The Quest Gotham Episode: "Day Of Outrage" (S. 1: Ep. 4).
Delvecchio Commissioner Schaub Episode: "Hot Spell" (S. 1: Ep. 8).
1977 Washington: Behind Closed Doors Brewster Perry Miniseries
Carter Country Murdock Episode: "Out of the Closet" (S. 1: Ep. 3).
1979 Quincy, M.E. Airline Executive Episode: "Aftermath" (S. 4: Ep. 16).
Stockard Channing in Just Friends Rock La Rue Episode: "Health May Be Hazardous" (S. 1: Ep. 5).
WKRP In Cincinnati Henri Episode: "Jennifer's Home For Christmas" (S. 1: Ep. 11).
1980 General Hospital Frank Smith Contract role
1981 Evita Peron Evita's Doctor Made-for-TV-Movie directed by Marvin J. Chomsky.
1982 Quincy, M.E. Powell Dixon Episode: "The Unquiet Grave" (S. 7: Ep. 21).
1983 Cheers Malcolm Kramer Episode: "Where There's A Will" (S. 2: Ep. 12).
1984 Blue Thunder Doctor Willi Von Hartig Episode: "Payload" (S. 1: Ep. 8).
ABC Afterschool Special Cmdr. Arnold Arrangussen Episode: "Mom's On Strike" (S. 13: Ep. 4)
1984-87 Punky Brewster Henry Warnimont Contract role
1986 Hotel Gerald Milburn Episode: "Scapegoats" (S. 3: Ep. 12)
1987 Punky Brewster Lars Warnimont Episode: "It's a Dog's Life" (S. 3: Ep. 10).
Matlock Judge Hollis D. Dunaway Episodes:
  • "The Power Brokers, part 1" (S. 2: Ep. 5).
  • "The Power Brokers, part 2" (S. 2: Ep. 6).
1989 The New Lassie Mr. Ogilvy Episode: "Dangerous Party (a.k.a. Halloween)" (S. 1: Ep. 6).
1989-91 The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd Arthur Feldman Contract role
1992 Dinosaurs Elder in Chief Episode: "Nuts to War, part 2" (S. 2: Ep. 20).
1992-93 Hearts Afire Senator Strobe Smithers Contract role
1996 Chicago Hope Brook Austin Recurring
1998 Police Academy: The Series Cmdt. Eric Lassard Episode: "Lend Me Your Ears" (S. 1: Ep. 15).
1999 Sliders Old Quinn Mallory Episode: "Roads Taken" (S. 4: Ep. 21).

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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