Michael Constantine, dad in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding,' dies at 94

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Monday, May 27, 2024

Michael Constantine, dad in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding,' dies at 94
My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

by Margalit Fox

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Michael Constantine, an Emmy-winning character actor known as the genially dyspeptic school principal on the popular TV series “Room 222” and, 30 years later, as the genially dyspeptic patriarch in the hit film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” died Aug. 31 at his home in Reading, Pennsylvania. He was 94.

His death was from natural causes, said his agent, Julia Buchwald.

Constantine, who began his career on the Broadway stage, was endowed with fierce eyebrows, a personal warmth that belied his perennial hangdog look and the command of a babel of foreign accents. Of Greek American extraction, he was routinely cast by Hollywood to portray a welter of ethnicities.

Over time, Constantine played several Jewish characters, winning an Emmy in 1970 for the role of Seymour Kaufman, who presided with grumpy humanity over Walt Whitman High School on “Room 222,” broadcast on ABC from 1969 to 1974.

He also played Italians, on shows including “The Untouchables” and “Kojak”; Russians, as on the 1980s series “Airwolf”; a Gypsy in the 1996 horror film “Thinner,” adapted from Stephen King’s novel; and, on occasion, even a Greek or two.

Constantine, possessed of a gravitas that often led to him being cast as lawyers or heavies, starred as the night-court judge Matthew Sirota on “Sirota’s Court,” a short-lived sitcom shown on NBC in the 1976-77 season.

He had guest roles on scores of other shows, including “Naked City,” “Perry Mason,” “Ironside,” “Gunsmoke” and “Hey, Landlord” in the 1960s, and “Remington Steele,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “Law & Order” in the ’80s and ’90s.

On film, he appeared in “The Last Mile” (1959), a prison picture starring Mickey Rooney; “The Hustler” (1961), starring Paul Newman; “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” (1969); “Don’t Drink the Water” (1969); and “Voyage of the Damned” (1976).

Constantine became known to an even wider, younger audience as Gus Portokalos, the combustible, tradition-bound father whose daughter is engaged to a patrician white Anglo-Saxon Protestant in the 2002 comedy “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

An immigrant who made good as the owner of a Chicago diner, Gus is an ardent amateur etymologist who can trace any word to its putative Greek origin. (“Kimono,” he concludes after pondering the matter, surely comes from “cheimónas” — Greek for winter, since, he explains in his heavily accented English: “What do you wear in the wintertime to stay warm? A robe!”)

Gus is also a fervent believer in the restorative power of Windex, applied directly to the skin, to heal a panoply of ailments like rashes and boils.

“He’s a man from a certain kind of background,” Constantine said of his character in a 2003 interview with The Indianapolis Star. “His saving grace is that he truly does love his daughter and want the best for her. He may not go about it in a very tactful way. So many people tell me, ‘My dad was just like that.’ And I thought, ‘And you don’t hate him?’”

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which also starred Lainie Kazan as Gus’ wife and Nia Vardalos and John Corbett as the young couple, was a surprise international hit. The film took in more than $360 million worldwide, becoming one of the highest-grossing romantic comedies of all time.

Constantine reprised the role on television in “My Big Fat Greek Life,” a sitcom that appeared briefly on CBS in 2003, and on the big screen in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” in 2016.

The son of Theoharis Ioannides, a steelworker, and Andromache Foteadou, Constantine was born Constantine Ioannides in Reading, Pennsylvania, on May 22, 1927. (The family name is sometimes Romanized Joanides.)

He settled early on an acting career, an idea reinforced after a youthful visit to a friend who was studying acting in New York.

“I just knew I belonged there,” Constantine told Odyssey, an English-language magazine about Greek life, in 2011. “They could make fun of this hick from Pennsylvania, but I just belong here — this is me.”

Constantine studied acting with Howard da Silva, supporting himself with odd jobs, among them night watchman and shooting-gallery barker. He became an understudy to Paul Muni playing the character modeled on famed defense lawyer Clarence Darrow in “Inherit the Wind,” which opened on Broadway in 1955.

In “Compulsion” — a 1957 Broadway dramatization of Meyer Levin’s novel about the Leopold and Loeb murder case — Constantine took over the role of the defense lawyer from Frank Conroy just before opening night. (Conroy withdrew after suffering a heart attack during previews.)

“Michael Constantine gives an excellent performance as the prototype of Clarence Darrow,” Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times. “He avoids the sentimentality that the situations might easily evoke and plays with taste, deliberation, color and intelligence.”

Constantine’s other Broadway credits include Anagnos, director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind in the original cast of “The Miracle Worker” (1959), and Dogsborough in Bertolt Brecht’s anti-fascist satire “Arturo Ui” (1963).

Constantine’s first marriage, to actress Julianna McCarthy, ended in divorce, as did his second, to Kathleen Christopher. His survivors include two sisters: Patricia Gordon and Chris Dobbs, his agent said. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

For all Constantine’s credits, for all his critical acclaim, it was for a single role — and for a single prop wielded in the course of that role — that he seems destined to be remembered.

“I can’t tell you,” he said in a 2014 interview with his hometown paper, The Reading Eagle, “how many times I’ve autographed a Windex bottle.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

September 10, 2021

Art fairs come blazing back, precarious but defiant

Art Basel and UBS publish 'Resilience in the Dealer Sector: A Mid-Year Review 2021'

A blue-chip art bonanza: Macklowe Collection goes to Sotheby's

Why art struggled to address the horrors of 9/11

Hindman Auctions to present Native American Art Auction this month

New York exhibition celebrates Dior's American influence

The first Dutch Neanderthal now has a face

Artpace San Antonio announces a transformative gift from Janet Lennie Flohr

Royal Institute of British Architects announces 2021 National Award winners

Cao Fei wins the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2021

'Our Secret Fire: Contemporary Artists and the Alchemical Tradition' opens at Hirschl & Adler

Funding gap forces British Council to scale back

National Museum of Women in the Arts announces new acquisitions

The Approach opens solo exhibitions by Jack Lavender and Sara Barker

Cooke Latham Gallery opens an exhibition of paintings by Francisco Rodriguez

James Allen St. John original artwork for century-old Edgar Rice Burroughs novels heading to Heritage Auctions

Frederik Vercruysse opens a show with new and exclusive prints and objects editions at Spazio Nobile Gallery

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture exhibition marks the 55th anniversary of the Harlem Institute of Fashion

Phillips announces The Crossover with Saint Fleur and Project Backboard

Xavier Hufkens opens an exhibition of works by Lynda Benglis

MFA Boston appoints theo tyson as Curator of Fashion Arts

Michael Constantine, dad in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding,' dies at 94

rodolphe janssen opens two new exhibitions of works by Thomas Lerooy and Betty Tompkins

JD Malat Gallery opens Physis, a solo exhibition by Spanish artist Luis Olaso

National Gallery of Canada welcomed more than 75,700 visitors this summer since reopening in mid-July

Rehabilitation of Alcohol Addicts: Importance of Rehab Clinics

Playing PKV Games Domino through Applications Get Various Benefits

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful