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To be a part of one legendary franchise that defined a decade is a pretty special achievement for any actor to log on their resume. George Gaynes, a veteran character actor of television and film, had two to his credit, as he was part of the Police Academy movies, as well as the TV series Punky Brewster. These are two of the many achievements that Gaynes will be remembered for, as he has passed away at the age of 98.
Deadline was one of the many publications that made the announcement this evening, and as of yet there has been no official cause of death announced. All that is known is that George Gaynes passed at his home in the Washington town of North Bend, and he is survived by his wife, a daughter and granddaughter, as well as two great-granddaughters. While his passing may seem sudden, he had been retired since 2003, and has lived a full life with many roles for fans to fondly reminisce over.
Despite having his work from the 1980's garnering the most notice, George Gaynes built up a long and varied resume between the 1950's and the 1970's. The earlier phases of his career saw him taking supporting parts in TV shows like Bonanza, Mission: Impossible, and Columbo. This was after a stint as a stage actor / opera singer both before and after World War II, both in Europe and the U.S, which included the role of Professor Henry Higgins in a touring company of My Fair Lady. It wasn't until the late 1970's / early 1980's that Gaynes saw his film career take off, with his roles in Sydney Pollack's Tootsie and the original Police Academy putting him on the map.
While the former saw him playing a soap opera actor who developed a bit of an affection for Dustin Hoffman's cross-dressing persona, it was his role as Commandant Lassard in the latter that audiences really latched onto. Playing the lovable, yet slightly clueless head of the infamous Police Academy crew, George Gaynes saw the role through the various cast shake-ups that all seven entries would entail. You can see one of the many memorable moments that Gaynes had contributed to the series in the clip below.
George Gaynes retired from acting in 2003, with his last role being that of Father Robert in the Ashton Kutcher / Brittany Murphy comedy Just Married. Not much was heard from Gaynes after that point, except for the odd interview here and there, so it's to be assumed that his retirement had served him as well as he'd served the audiences that enjoyed his work. Our thoughts go out to his surviving family members in this time of grief, and we are thankful that we have his colorful body of work to reflect on during this mourning period.