Police Academy Star George Gaynes Dies At 98

George Gaynes, the star of movies like ‘Tootsie’ and the 'Police Academy’ series, has died.

The character actor, who had retired in 2003, was 98, the news being confirmed by his daughter Iya Gaynes Falcone Brown, according to the New York Times.

As well as being an actor, Gaynes was also a noted baritone singer, but is perhaps best known for his role as Commandant Eric Lassard in the 'Police Academy’ movies.

He was also the curmudgeonly widower Henry Warnimont in the US sitcom 'Punky Brewster’.

Born in Helsinki, he was the son of a Russian artist and a Dutch businessman, while his uncle was the actor Russian-born Gregory Gaye, who had appeared in movies like 'Casablanca’.

Gaynes was raised in France, Switzerland and England, and served in the Royal Dutch Navy during World War II, a move which curtailed a burgeoning opera career having appeared in productions in Italy and France.

Following the war, his family moved to the US, and in New York, Gaynes joined the New York City Opera, and later took to Broadway.

However, his screen acting career took off in the 1970s, starring in movies like 'The Way They Were’ and 'Nickelodeon’, and TV shows like 'Hawaii Five-O’, 'Hogan’s Heroes’, 'General Hospital’ and 'Columbo’.

In the 80s, he played the lothario John Van Horn opposite Dustin Hoffman in 'Tootsie’, before going on to play the role of Lassard in the 'Police Academy’ movies’.

He also appeared in 'The Fantastic Four’ in 1994, and 'Wag The Dog’ in 1997.

Gaynes retired in 2003, his last movie having been 'Just Married’ with Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher.

He is survived by his wife, a daughter and two granddaughters. His son Matthew, who was a world class kayaker, died in a car crash in India in 1989.

Image credits: Rex Features/Yahoo