Edward Kirk Herrmann (July 21, 1943 – December 31, 2014) was an American actor, director, writer, and comedian, best known for his portrayals of Franklin D. Roosevelt on television, Richard Gilmore in Gilmore Girls, a ubiquitous narrator for historical programs on The History Channel and in such PBS productions as Nova, and as a spokesman for Dodge automobiles in the 1990s.
Edward Kirk Herrmann was born on July 21, 1943, in Washington, D.C., the son of Jean Eleanor (née O'Connor) and John Anthony Herrmann. Of German and Irish descent, Herrmann grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and graduated from Bucknell University in 1965, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi. He studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art on a Fulbright Fellowship.
Herrmann began his career in theatre. One of the first professional productions he appeared in was the U.S. premiere of Michael Weller's Moonchildren at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in November 1971. He moved with the show to New York City to make his Broadway debut the following year. Herrmann returned to Broadway in 1976 to portray Frank Gardner in the revival of Mrs. Warren's Profession. For his performance he won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
Herrmann was known for his portrayal of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the made-for-television movies, Eleanor and Franklin (1976) and Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years (1977) (both of which earned him Best Actor Emmy Award nominations), as well as in the first feature film adaptation of the Broadway musical Annie (1982). Herrmann portrayed Herman Munster in the Fox made-for-television film Here Come the Munsters, which aired on Halloween, October 31, 1995. In 1980 Herrmann also starred in an episode of M*A*S*H as an army surgeon suffering from PTSD.
He was nominated for a Tony Award for Plenty in 1983 and Emmy Awards in 1986 and 1987 for two guest-starring appearances as Father Joseph McCabe on St. Elsewhere. He played Tobias Beecher's father on Oz. Herrmann earned an Emmy in 1999 for his guest appearances on The Practice. From 2000-07, he portrayed Richard Gilmore on The WB's Gilmore Girls.
Herrmann's film career began in the mid-1970s, playing supporting roles as Robert Redford's partner in The Great Waldo Pepper, a law student in The Paper Chase, the idle, piano-playing Klipspringer in The Great Gatsby and opposite Laurence Olivier in The Betsy (1978).
Herrmann played the lead in the 1979 Kieth Merrill movie, Take Down, in the role as the high-school English teacher turned wrestling coach. Among Herrmann's better known roles are as the title character in another Kieth Merrill film, Harry's War (1981), Goldie Hawn's gold-digger husband in Overboard, Reverend Michael Hill in Disney's The North Avenue Irregulars, one of the characters in the film-within-a-film in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, and as Max, the mild-mannered head vampire in The Lost Boys. Herrmann also had a supporting role as William Randolph Hearst in the 2001 film The Cat's Meow, starring Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies.
Herrmann was known for his voluminous voice work for The History Channel and various PBS specials, including hosting a revival of Frank Capra's Why We Fight, and made appearances and did voiceovers in Dodge commercials from 1992 to 2001, and Rayovac batteries in the same timeframe. His voice work includes dozens of audiobooks, for which he won several Audie awards. He played Gutman in Blackstone Audio's Grammy-nominated dramatization of The Maltese Falcon and played Cauchon in Blackstone's audio version of Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan.
After his well-received portrayal of J. Alden Weir in the play My Dearest Anna at the Wilton Playshop in Wilton, Connecticut, he was a special guest of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in their Ring Christmas Bells holiday concert in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 11–14, 2008. He reprised his role of Franklin Roosevelt in 2014, providing the voice of F.D.R. in Ken Burns' PBS series, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. His final work was as narrator for another Burns documentary, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, which aired three months after Herrmann's death.
Herrmann came from a prominent Unitarian family, based in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. He became a Roman Catholic as an adult.
Herrmann was married twice and had two daughters, Ryen and Emma. In 1978, he married his longtime girlfriend, screenwriter Leigh Curran. The marriage ended in 1992. Prior to his second marriage, Herrmann's future second wife, Star Roman, filed a paternity suit against him after he fathered a child with her while filming Harry's War (1981). Roman and Herrmann eventually married, and the union lasted from 1994 until his death in 2014. Herrmann had one stepson, Rory Herrmann (formerly Rory Roman), biological son of Star and Richard Roman who, as an adult, changed his last name to Herrmann in honor of Edward Herrmann. Rory is currently serving as director of culinary operations for Bill Chait's Sprout Restaurant Group in Los Angeles.
Herrmann was a well-known automotive enthusiast and restored classic automobiles. Herrmann was a regular master of ceremonies for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and hosted the television show Automobiles on The History Channel. He owned and restored several classics of his own, including a 1929 Auburn 8-90 Boattail Speedster and a 1934 Alvis Speed 20.
Herrmann died on December 31, 2014, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Hospital of brain cancer, at the age of 71.
In December 2014, it was reported that Edward and Star Herrmann had filed a lawsuit against their accountants seeking $14.5 million that they allege had been misappropriated.
TV and filmography
- The Paper Chase (1973)
- The Day of the Dolphin (1973)
- The Great Gatsby (1974)
- The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)
- Eleanor and Franklin (1976, TV)
- Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years (1977, TV)
- A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story (1978, TV)
- The Betsy (1978)
- Brass Target (1978)
- Take Down (1979)
- The North Avenue Irregulars (1979)
- Portrait of a Stripper (1979, TV)
- 3 by Cheever: "The Sorrows of Gin" (1979, TV)
- 3 by Cheever: "O Youth and Beauty!" (1979, TV)
- Freedom Road (1979, TV)
- M*A*S*H: "Heal Thyself S08E17" (1980)
- Harry's War (1981)
- Reds (1981)
- The Electric Grandmother (1982, TV)
- A Little Sex (1982)
- Death Valley (1982)
- Annie (1982)
- Mrs. Soffel (1984)
- Concealed Enemies (1984,TV)
- The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
- The Man with One Red Shoe (1985)
- Compromising Positions (1985)
- St. Elsewhere (1986, TV)
- The Lawrenceville Stories (1986, TV)
- The Lost Boys (1987)
- Overboard (1987)
- Big Business (1988)
- Sweet Poison (1991)
- The End of a Sentence (1991, TV)
- Born Yesterday (1993)
- My Boyfriend's Back (1993)
- A Foreign Field (1993)
- Richie Rich (1994)
- The Face on the Milk Carton (1995, TV movie)
- Law & Order (1995, TV)
- Nixon (1995)
- Wings (1995, TV)
- Here Come the Munsters (1995, TV)
- A Season in Purgatory (1996, TV miniseries)
- Oz (1997, TV)
- The Practice (1997–99, TV)
- Better Living (1998)
- Atomic Train (1999, TV)
- Law & Order (1999, TV)
- RKO 281 (1999, TV)
- Gilmore Girls (2000–2007)
- Down (aka The Shaft) 2001
- Double Take (2001)
- The Cat's Meow (2001)
- James Dean (2001)
- The Emperor's Club (2002)
- Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
- Russia, Land of the Tsars (2003)
- The Aviator (2004)
- Isaac's Storm (2004)
- Bereft (2004)
- Tom Goes to the Mayor (2005, TV)
- The Presidents (2005)
- FDR: A Presidency Revealed (2005)
- The American Revolution (2006, narrator)
- Relative Strangers (2006)
- Wedding Daze (2006)
- Factory Girl (2006)
- I Think I Love My Wife (2007)
- Sherman's March (2007)
- The States (2007)
- Grey's Anatomy (2007) Norman - 3 episodes (season four)
- 30 Rock (2008, TV) Co-Op Board Member
- The Skeptic (2009) Shepard
- Law & Order (2009, TV)
- Hatching Pete (2009, TV)
- Ring Christmas Bells (2009, TV, narrator)
- The Good Wife Lionel Greenfield (2010, TV)
- Better with You (2011, TV)
- Drop Dead Diva (2011, TV)
- The Christmas Pageant (2011, TV movie)
- Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star (2011)
- Redemption: For Robbing the Dead (2011)
- Christmas Oranges (2012)
- Treasure Buddies (2012)
- How I Met Your Mother (2013, TV)
- Are You Here (2013)
- The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
- The Roosevelts (2014, PBS-TV documentary)
- Perception (2015, TV)
- Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies (2015, PBS-TV documentary)