George Gaynes was born in Helsinki, the son of Iya De Gay (later known as Lady Iya Abdy) and Gerrit Jongejans. He is an accomplished Broadway actor, as well as a film and television star in the United States. He is best-known to movie fans as Commandant Eric Lassard in the Police Academy series, and to television fans as the curmudgeonly Henry Warnimont on the NBC series Punky Brewster, in which his wife, Allyn Ann McLerie, guest-starred as his love interest. Gaynes is of Russian, Finnish and Dutch ancestry, and speaks several languages.
A United States citizen for most of his life, and blessed with a superb singing voice and an amiable stage presence, Gaynes rapidly built a reputation as a Broadway musical comedy performer in the 1940s and '50s (his best-known appearance was in Wonderful Town, the musical version of My Sister Eileen). He had a career on the opera stages of Italy and France before World War II and in the US after the war.
He alternated between stage musicals and both comic and dramatic plays, including his role as Bob Baker in the original production of Wonderful Town (1953), Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and as Henry Higgins in the 1964 US tour of My Fair Lady. In television, Gaynes provided Henry Warnimont's voice for the animated series version of Punky Brewster, and directed several episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati. Films in which he appeared include The Way We Were, Nickelodeon and Tootsie.
In 1984, he played Commandant Lassard, the titular leader, in the first of seven Police Academy movies, and audiences of the 1980s may remember him as Frank Smith, the Mafia boss who was after Luke and Laura on the popular soap opera General Hospital. In 1994, he played Serybryalzov in Louis Malle's acclaimed independent feature, Vanya on 42nd Street.
Entering films and television in the early 1960s, Gaynes was a regular on the TV daytime dramas Search for Tomorrow and General Hospital, and showed up in such movies as The Group (1968), Marooned (1969) and Doctor's Wives (1971).
He has been married to Canadian-born stage and television actress and dancer Allyn Ann McLerie since December 20, 1953; they have two children.