Wednesday, February 17, 2016

'General Hospital' and 'Search for Tomorrow' Alum George Gaynes Dead at 98

George Gaynes
Actor George Gaynes died on Monday, February 15. He at 98.

Gaynes was born George Jongejans in Helsinki in 1917 to a Russian artist mother and Dutch businessman father. He was raised in France, England and Switzerland and studied opera in Italy before World War II and a brief internment in Spain derailed his schooling. He spent the rest of the war serving in the Royal Dutch Navy. At the war's end, he headed to America, where he performed with the New York City Opera, as well as Broadway, where he joined the cast of "Out of This World."

In 1953, he was cast in Leonard Bernstein's "Wonderful Town," changed his last name to Gaynes and married actress Allyn Ann McLerie, with whom he spent the rest of his life. They had a daughter, Iya, and a son, Matthew, a world-class kayaker who missed out on the Olympics due to the 1980 boycott. He died in a 1989 car accident in India.

On television, Gaynes played Sam Reynolds on CBS soap opera Search for Tomorrow, and the original Frank Smith on ABC's General Hospital. Other credits included Columbo, Hawaii Five-0 and Quincy, M.E.

In film, he played a supporting role in 1973's The Way We Were. He also starred in 1982's Toostie as well as the Police Academy franchise, which spanned seven movies.

George Gaynes (center) on General Hospital in 1980.
In, 1984, at the age of 64, he was cast in Punky Brewster as Chicago building manager-turned-foster dad Henry Warnimont. But it came at a cost: In an interview that year, he told the New York Times, "The two things an actor dreads most are children and dogs. I have both in this series."

He played the role for four seasons, as well as in a short-lived animated spinoff. He would also find steady gigs on CBS' Hearts Afire and NBC's The Days of Nights of Molly Dodd, which allowed him to work alongside his wife.

Gaynes called it a career after 2003 Ashton Kutcher film Just Married. He spent several years of his retirement in Santa Barbara before moving to Washington State to live with his daughter's family.

Soleil Moon Frye, his TV daughter, remembered Gaynes on Twitter Wednesday.

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