Ed Asner, Seven-Time Emmy-Winning Actor, Dies At 91

Ed Asner, the versatile character who gained pop culture stardom in the 1970s as the gruff newsroom producer Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and enchanted a later generation as the voice of the high-flying widower in The Walt Disney Company DIS animated feature “Up,” passed away at the age of 91.

Rise To Fame: Born Eddie Asner in Kansas City on Nov. 15, 1929, to Jewish immigrant parents, Asner attended the University of Chicago but left school to work on a General Motors GM assembly line. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951 and received his first entry into show business by appearing in plays staged in Army camps.

After his service, he relocated to Chicago to begin a theater company, later relocating to New York City. His first major part was in the 1955 Off-Broadway production of “The Threepenny Opera” opposite then-unknowns Beatrice Arthur, Charlotte Rae, John Astin and Paul Dooley.

Asner’s gruff and burly appearance gained him steady character acting work in theater, television and films. His big screen debut came in the Elvis Presley flick “Kid Galahad” (1962) and he menaced John Wayne in “El Dorado (1966).

Oh, Mr. Grant!: Asner’s big breakthrough came in 1970 as Lou Grant, the tough-talking but frequently exasperated newsroom producer on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Asner won three Emmy Awards for his work on the popular sitcom, which ran through 1977.

When “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ended, Asner’s character transitioned into a dramatic series titled “Lou Grant,” which took place in a newspaper publishing company. Asner won two additional Emmy Awards for this series, and the actor would earn Emmys for his performances in the miniseries “Rich Man, Poor Man” (1976) and “Roots” (1977) – Asner holds the record for the most Emmys won by an actor.

During the 1980s, Asner served two terms as the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981 to 1985 and became a prominent activist in support of progressive causes. His on-screen work became more infrequent after “Lou Grant” went off the air in 1982, but he continued working as a voice performer in animated productions and in theatrical productions.

In 2003, Asner was back in the spotlight as Santa Claus in the Will Ferrell comedy “Elf.” In 2009, he found a new audience as the voice of Carl Fredericksen, the widower whose balloon-propelled home takes him on unlikely adventures in the animated feature “Up.”

Asner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1992 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2002.

Photo: Ted Knight, Ed Asner and Mary Tyler Moore in a scene from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," courtesy of CBS.

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