George Gaynes

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George Gaynes
George Gaynes 1964.jpg
Gaynes in 1964
Born George Jongejans
(1917-05-16) May 16, 1917 (age 103)
Helsinki, Grand Duchy of Finland, Russian Empire
Years active 1940s-2003
Spouse(s) Allyn Ann McLerie (1953-present) 2 children - Iya, Matthew (Matt) (Died in India 1989)

George Gaynes (born George Jongejans; May 16, 1917) is a Finnish-born[1] American singer and actor of stage, screen and television and voice artist

Gaynes' most recognized role in cinema was arguably that of Commandant Eric Lassard in the Police Academy series. To television fans, he is perhaps best known as the curmudgeonly 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.

Life and career

Gaynes was born in 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 Iya Abdy), a Russian artist, and Gerrit Jongejans, a Dutch businessman.[1] His uncle was actor Gregory Gaye.[1]

A United States citizen for most of his life, Gaynes rapidly built a reputation as a Broadway musical comedy performer in the 1940s and 1950s (his best-known appearance was in Wonderful Town, the musical version of My Sister Eileen). He had a career on the opera stages of Italy and France before World War II and in the US after the war.[citation needed]

He alternated between stage musicals and both comic 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, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and as Henry Higgins in the 1964 US 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.

In 1984, he played Commandant Lassard, the titular leader, in the first of seven Police Academy movies, and audiences of the 1980s may remember him as Frank Smith, the Mafia boss who was after Luke and Laura on the soap opera General Hospital. In 1994, he played Serybryalzov in Louis Malle's acclaimed independent feature, Vanya on 42nd Street.

Entering films and television in the early 1960s, Gaynes was a regular on the TV daytime dramas Search for Tomorrow and General Hospital, and showed up in such movies as The Group (1966), Marooned (1969) and Doctor's Wives (1971). He also played a role in the sci-fi television series Sliders for one episode, being the aged character of the leading role Quinn Mallory, played by Jerry O'Connell.

Gaynes has been married to Canadian-born American stage and television actress and dancer Allyn Ann McLerie since 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, 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.[1][2]

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 a 2011 interview, 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.[3]


Year Film Role Notes
2003 Just Married Father Robert
1998 Police Academy: The Series Cmdt. Eric Lassard
1997 Wag the Dog Senator Cole
1996 The Crucible Judge Samuel Sewall
1994 Vanya on 42nd Street Serybryakov
Police Academy: Mission to Moscow Cmdt. Eric Lassard
The Fantastic Four Professor
1989 Police Academy 6: City Under Siege Cmdt. Eric Lassard
1988 Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach Cmdt. Eric Lassard
The Numbers Game Don Salvatore
Un tassinaro a New York The Admiral
1987 Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol Cmdt. Eric Lassard
1986 Police Academy 3: Back in Training Cmdt. Eric Lassard
1985 Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment Cmdt. Eric Lassard
1984 Police Academy Cmdt. Eric Lassard
Micki + Maude Dr. Eugene Glztszki
1983 To Be or Not to Be Ravitch
1982 Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid Dr. John Hay Forrest
Tootsie John Van Horn
1980 Altered States Dr. Wissenschaft
1976 Nickelodeon Reginald Kingsley
Harry and Walter Go to New York Prince
1975 Trilogy of Terror Dr. Chester Ramsey
1973 The Way We Were El Morocco Captain
Slaughter's Big Rip-Off Warren
The Boy Who Cried Werewolf Dr. Marderosian
1969 Marooned Mission Director
1963 PT 109 PT boat base commander

Television roles


External links