‘Police Academy’ star George Gaynes dead at 98

Washington, Feb 17 (IANS) Actor George Gaynes, who played a beleaguered commandant in seven “Police Academy” films and a grouchy foster parent on the 1980s sitcom “Punky Brewster”, is no more. He was 98.

Gaynes died on Monday at his daughter’s home in North Bend here, reports The New York Times. His death was confirmed by his daughter Iya Gaynes Falcone Brown.

With his baritone voice, chiselled good looks and versatility as a character actor and singer, Gaynes appeared in hundreds of episodes of sitcoms and dramas on television, 35 Hollywood and made-for-TV films, and many plays, musical comedies and operas in New York and Europe.

Critics often applauded his work in supporting roles, and his face became familiar to millions of Americans. But he never achieved leading man 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 heart 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.

Gaynes recurred from 1987-1991 on the critically acclaimed NBC comedy “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd”, starring Blair Brown and Gaynes’s wife, actress Allyn Ann McLerie; he was a series regular, as Sen.

Strobe Smithers, on the first season (1992-1993) of Linda Bloodworth-Thomason-created CBS comedy “Hearts Afire”, starring John Ritter and Markie Post.

He retired in 2003 after appearing in the feature comedy “Just Married”, starring Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy.

Gaynes is survived by his wife, a daughter, one granddaughter, and two great-granddaughters. His son, Matthew, died in a 1989 car crash.

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