George Gaynes,who was popular for his portrayal of the bewildered commandant in seven “Police Academy” films died on Monday in North Bend, Wash. He was 98.
Gaynes, was not only a character actor but a baritone singer, who made hundreds of appearances both on TV comedies and dramas, as well as 35 films (counting both features and and made-for-TV movies) and many plays, musical comedies and even operas in the U.S. and Europe.
While Gaynes became a know face to TV viewers and filmgoers, he never achieved name recognition, let alone stardom.
On “Punky Brewster,” Gaynes played building manager Henry Warnimont, who finds an abandoned girl (Soleil Moon Frye) and becomes her foster parent and eventually her adoptive father. The sweet relationship between the two of them was the crux of the show.
The actor got the part after two of his most memorable big-screen performances: in 1982’s “Tootsie,” and in 1984’s first entry in the long-running “Police Academy” franchise. (He appeared in all seven of the movies.)
George Jongejans was born in Helsinki to a Russian mother and Dutch father. Actor Gregory Gaye, who played a Nazi official in “Casablanca,” was an uncle.
Young George was raised in France, England and Switzerland. World War II interrupted his budding opera career. He was interned in Spain for three months; after his release, he traveled to the U.K. and enlisted in the Royal Dutch Navy.
After the war he went to New York, where he joined the New York City Opera. But he considered himself more an actor than a singer.
He changed his last name to Gaynes and guested on TV series including “The Defenders,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Bonanza,” “Mannix,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Hawaii Five-0” and “Chicago Hope.” In addition he appeared on the daytime soaps “General Hospital” and “Search for Tomorrow.” Film credits included “The Way We Were,” “Altered States” and “Wag the Dog.”
He retired in 2003 after appearing in the feature comedy “Just Married,” starring Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy.
In addition to his wife, Gaynes is survived by a daughter; one granddaughter; and two great-granddaughters. His son, Matthew, died in a 1989 car crash.