Grunwald was born Heinz Anatol Grünwald in Vienna. His father, Alfred Grünwald, wrote libretti for operettas by Lehár, Kálmán and Oscar Straus. His mother was Mila Löwenstein. After the 1938 Anschluss the family left Austria for Czechoslovakia and then Paris. In 1940 they arrived in the United States via brief periods in Biarritz, Casablanca, and Lisbon.
Mr. Grunwald had ambitions to be a playwright, but got a job as a copy boy at TIME while studying at New York University. He worked his way up at TIME magazine until his retirement in 1987, when he was succeeded as Editor-in-Chief by Jason McManus. He was the first to give TIME writers bylines, a practice which had not been allowed previously. He also introduced new departments such as Behavior, Energy, The Sexes, Economy and Dance. He ordered the famous (some say infamous) cover article, "Is God Dead?" He moved the magazine away from Republican partisanship. He personally wrote the TIME editorial calling for President Richard Nixon to resign.
In 1962 he edited and wrote the introduction to "Salinger, a Critical and Personal Portrait", a collection of essays about J.D. Salinger which includes previously published essays by John Updike, Leslie Fiedler and Joan Didion, among others, as well as Time's own article about the writer.
After serving 11 years as TIME's managing editor, Grunwald took on the role of editor-in-chief of all of Time, Inc.'s magazines, including Fortune, Sports Illustrated, People and Money. In 1987 President Ronald Reagan appointed him U.S. Ambassador to his native Austria, a post he held until 1990.
On September 5th of 1998, Grunwald released his auto-biography "One Man's America", describing his emigration to America, and his life in the States. He also wrote a novel, A Saint, More or Less, which was published in 2003.
In his final years Grunwald was gradually losing his eyesight due to macular degeneration, a condition he wrote about in Twilight: Losing Sight, Gaining Insight (1999). This led to his close relationship with the noted non-profit Lighthouse International. Annually The Lighthouse awards The Henry A. Grunwald Award for Public Service to those whose actions benefit society as a whole or, more specifically, benefit those with vision impairment issues. Grunwald is both the namesake and first recipient of this award.
He died on February 26, 2005 in New York City.
In 1953 Grunwald married Beverly Suser. They had three children, screenwriter Peter Grunwald, Democratic political consultant Mandy Grunwald, and writer Lisa Grunwald. They were married until her death of breast cancer in 1981.
In 1987, he married former Vogue editor and Manhattan socialite Louise Melhado (nee Liberman). This was her third marriage, as she had had previously been married to Richard Savitt and Frederick A. Melhado.