Remembering Edward Herrmann

HerrmannHearing about the death today of Edward Herrmann at 71, I imagined a slow moving funeral procession, a flag draped coffin on a caisson pulled by a team of horses. But I was thinking of the funeral of FDR, who Herrmann portrayed repeatedly in his career, most recently for Ken Burns’ documentary series “The Roosevelts.”

Previously he played FDR in TV’s “Eleanor and Franklin” miniseries and its sequel, and was also FDR in the first version of the musical “Annie” in 1982.

He also played historical figures from Nelson Rockefeller to William Randolph Hearst. But one of his most familiar roles employing that aristocratic tone was that of Richard Gilmore, patriarch of the family that brought forth “The Gilmore Girls.”

In addition to his towering presence, Herrmann brought something else to that show: actual knowledge of Connecticut. Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Gross Point, Mich., he lived in Salisbury.

“I’ve tried to inform them from time to time what goes on in Salisbury, where I live,” he told me when I interviewed him a decade ago when he was on the show.

He said “Gilmore Girls” producer Amy Sherman-Palladino “spent the night in Washington, Conn., once. That’s what they are basing their idea of Connecticut on.”

But he credited her with hitting “a lot of nails on the head on quirkiness and oddness in small towns. Like the postmaster here, when I walk in he says, ‘Oh, here comes Hollywood.”’

“I do have to tell them nobody really cares about the DAR here,” Herrmann said. “I have to tell them a lot of people came out here before the pilgrims; that they drive rusty Subarus and don’t throw their money around.”

He said he enjoyed being on the show, despite how fast people talked.

“The scripts are big. The scripts are 80 pages for 47 minutes,” Herrmann said. “Everybody talks fast. It’s the only thing on TV like this. If we had 60-page scripts, it would be ideal. But there is a particular style they are after, that’s rather like a Preston Sturges movie. They just never shut up. But when it leads to a stop, it all makes the pauses that much more effective.”

Herrmann, who also played Herman Munster in an attempt to revive that series in 1995, said people always liked he and Kelly Bishop on the show that starred Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel and introduced Melissa McCarthy.

“The grandparents are surprisingly popular,” he said, adding, “They’re the cornerstone of this crazy family.”

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