George Gaynes Of ‘Police Academy’ And ‘Punky Brewster’ Fame Dies At 98

George Gaynes Of ‘Police Academy’ And ‘Punky Brewster’ Fame Dies At 98
Candles Luigi Mengato / Flickr CC BY 2.0

George Gaynes, best known for his unforgettable roles in the Police Academy movies and the 1980s sitcom, Punky Brewster, passed away on Monday. He was 98.


The news was confirmed by his daughter, Iya Gaynes Falcone Brown, to the New York Times.

Gaynes’ most iconic roles included Commandant Eric Lassard in the Police Academy movies, and the foster parent Henry Warnimont in Punky Brewster. He is also known for his role in the 1982 film, Tootsie, where he starred opposite Dustin Hoffman. Gaynes went on to receive 10 Oscar nominations.

Born as George Jongejans in 1917 in Helsinki, he studied Opera in Italy growing up and was raised in France, England and Switzerland. He was part of the Royal Dutch Navy during the World War II. After moving to America following the war, he performed at the New York City Opera; and as part of Broadway, was also a member of the cast of the 1950’s Out of This World. His credits include starring in the original production of Wonderful Town.

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During his career in cinema, the veteran actor appeared in The Way We Were, Altered States and Wag the Dog. In addition, he also featured in several television shows such as The Defenders, Bonanza, The Six Million Dollar Man and Hawaii Five-0.

Spending decades in the entertainment business, he ended his career after the 2003 film Just Married, USA Today reports. Thereafter, he retired to Santa Barbara and eventually moved to Washington State where he lived with his daughter’s family.

Jonathan Howard, of the Innovative Artists, first met Gaynes in the 1980s and the two worked together for 30 years. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Howard said, “The last couple times I got in touch with him, even in his 90s, he was always happy to take the call and consider something. He was really one of the true gentlemen in this business and was working steadily for 50 years or more. A sad, sad loss. But he had a really long, great life.”

Gaynes is survived by his wife, Allyn Ann McLerie; a daughter; one granddaughter and two great-granddaughters.

Gaynes’ daughter on Punky Brewster, Soleil Moon Frye, paid tribute to the actor on Twitter.

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