Edward Herrmann, an Emmy-winning character actor best known for his seven-season run on Gilmore Girls and his long run as the voice of the History Channel, died today at a New York hospital where he was being treated for brain cancer. He was 71. The actor’s manager, Robbie Kass, told Deadline Herrmann died a year after being diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma brain tumor. “Besides being an accomplished actor, Ed was also a true gentleman and a scholar, as well as being an incredibly kind and decent man,” Kass said. “He will be sorely missed.”
Herrmann worked in TV and films for more than 40 years, racking up more than 120 credits. He began his career on the big screen in such movies as The Paper Chase, The Great Gatsby and The Great Waldo Pepper before landing the role of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1976 ABC telefilm Eleanor And Franklin, playing the future president from age 20 to 50 opposite Jane Alexander. The movie won 11 Emmys and six other noms, one of which was the first of five for Herrmann during his career. He reprised the role the following year for Eleanor And Franklin: The White House Years, which also scored a slew of Emmys and noms including a second for Herrmann. We would play America’s only four-term president again in the 1982 film adaptation of Annie and later narrated the 2005 documentary FDR: A Presidency Revealed. He revisited the character yet again in 2014, voicing Roosevelt in the Ken Burns docu The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. Meryl Streep voiced Eleanor Roosevelt.
The Washington, D.C., native continued to work steadily into the current decade, appearing in films including Best Picture Oscar-nominated Reds, The Purple Rose Of Cairo, The Lost Boys, Born Yesterday and Nixon and such TV fare as M*A*S*H, Homicide: Life On The Street and recurring roles on St. Elsewhere (earning a pair of Emmy noms for guest actor), Oz and The Practice, for which he earned his lone Emmy statuette in 1999. The next year, Herrmann began the role that would define his career, playing family patriarch Richard Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, which ran for six seasons on the WB and one on the CW. He appeared in all 154 episodes of the series alongside Lauren Graham, Alexis Blidel and Melissa McCarthy.
Herrmann also was a busy voice-over actor, doing commercials, dozens of audiobooks and numerous TV projects. In 1999, he hosted History’s Lost And Found, a History Channel series on the whereabouts of famous artifacts. The gig led to the actor becoming the go-to voice on dozens of History programs on subjects ranging from politics, wars and revolutions to people, places and nature.
The 6-foot-5 actor also had a career on Broadway, winning a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for Mrs. Warren’s Profession (1976). He earned a Tony nom for the 1983 drama Plenty. He appeared on the Great White Way in a half-dozen shows from 1972-98.
Earlier this month, Herrmann filed a $14.5 million lawsuit against CohnReznick, a Manhattan-based accounting firm. He claimed negligence and malpractice by the company and its predecessors over two decades that cost him millions. The papers say Herrmann and his wife Star could owe more than $1 million in taxes, penalties and interest because tax returns filed in the past half-dozen years by CohnReznick and their personal accountant had “massive errors on nearly every line.”
Herrmann is survived by his second wife, Star; daughters Ryan and Emma; and stepson Rory.