Herrmann, after a brief career on the Broadway stage in the early 1970s, came to Hollywood to work in film. His first credited role was that of a law student in Timothy Bottom’s characters study group in the 1973 film, The Paper Chase. He would work in supporting roles in films such as The Great Gatsby and The Great Waldo Pepper before taking on the role that would become his trademark. In 1976, he starred as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the TV movie, Eleanor and Franklin, a role he would reprise a year later in the TV movie sequel, Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years.
For many, Herrmann’s FDR was the definitive FDR. It certainly was for me. I remember seeing those films as a kid, and Herrmann’s Emmy-nominated turn in those films took a man I had just started learning about in school books and who I had known mostly as being on the and turned him into a vibrant, living human being. I have Mr. Herrmann to thank for my love of history in general, American history in particular, and Presidential history in specific, as his performance was one of the reasons I started down that path. Herrmann would return to the role in 1982’s Annie and in voice-over form in Ken’ Burns’ 2014 documentary series, The Roosevelts: An Intimate Portrait.
Herrmann would go on to a long and successful career in film, appearing in a diverse array of films ranging from Reds to The Lost Boys, from The Purple Rose of Cairo to The Wolf of Wall Street, and from Richie Rich to Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star. But Herrmann probably gain the most recognition from his work in television, appearing in guest appearances in shows such as M*A*S*H, Law & Order and Homicide: Life On the Street and recurring roles in St. Elsewhere, The Practice (which won him an Emmy), and Gilmore Girls, where he played family patriarch Richard Gilmore.
His voice was also a sought after commodity in the voice over market, and Herrmann provided narration to a number of TV and film documentaries.