Character actor Abe Vigoda, whose leathery, sunken-eyed face made him ideal for playing the over-the-hill detective Phil Fish in the 1970s TV series “Barney Miller” and the doomed Mafia soldier in “The Godfather,” died Tuesday at age 94.
Vigoda’s daughter, Carol Vigoda Fuchs, told The Associated Press that Vigoda died Tuesday morning in his sleep at Fuchs’ home in Woodland Park, New Jersey. The cause of death was old age. “This man was never sick,” Fuchs said.
Vigoda worked in relative obscurity as a supporting actor in the New York theater and in television until Francis Ford Coppola cast him in the 1972 Oscar-winning “The Godfather.” Vigoda played Sal Tessio, an old friend of Vito Corleone‘s (Marlon Brando) who hopes to take over the family after Vito’s death by killing his son Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). But Michael anticipates that Sal’s suggestion for a “peace summit” among crime families is a setup and the escorts Sal thought were taking him to the meeting turn out to be his executioners.
“Tell Mike it was only business,” Sal mutters to consigliere Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) as he’s led away.
The great success of the film and “The Godfather Part II” made his face and voice, if not his name, recognizable to the general public and led to numerous roles, often as hoodlums. Read the rest of this entry »
A photograph from the set of The Godfather (1972) Actors Al Lettieri (left) and Al Pacino (right). With an unidentified stage hand, or property master, seen here preparing for the scene where Michael Coreleone avenges his father’s assassination attempt. Leaving behind any chance of a legitimate life, free from the family’s criminal empire, Michael embraces his true destiny: heir to his father’s throne.
How did the good son become the ambitious, cold-blooded fratricidal killer and criminal mastermind we all know and love? First, by volunteering to shoot these two guys.
Besides great cinematography, the sound design in this scene is fantastic, the way it amplifies the tension. The audible train sounds, contributing to the suspense, right before Michael exits the bathroom, after retrieving the hidden weapon, never fails to impress me.
Killing Sollozzo and McCluskey
From this one audacious murderous act, Michael Corleone‘s dark ascendance begins. Brilliantly staged by Francis Ford Coppola, not only one of America’s most celebrated film directors, but also one of the great dramatists of the 20th century.
For CITY JOURNAL, Michael Anton writes: The times in New York are about to get, as they say, “interesting.” Having elected a liberal dopier than David Dinkins and John Lindsay combined, New Yorkers are in for a wild ride. It’s been pointed out that fully one-third of the city’s population is under age 24 and another third between 25 and 44. That means that at least a third has no memory of the Dinkins or Lindsay eras at all—and well over half have no memory of the financial crisis, the welfare spike, the crime wave, the crack epidemic, the Crown Heights riots, the “vibrant” old Times Square, and the whole panoply of scum and villainy that for the better part of two decades made New York so gosh-darn “colorful.” And that’s only if you assume that everyone who lives here was born here. But New York’s fantastic run over the last 20 years has attracted a lot of out-of-towners, so the actual number of ignorant rubes in for the shock of their lives is higher. Well, all these transplants are about to discover, the hard way, that they aren’t in Kansas anymore.
For anyone wishing to get acclimated ahead of time, New York’s colorful past has been amply recorded on film. What follows is a short tour through some of the most memorable, classic films of Old New York—not Edith Wharton’s but Travis Bickle’s.
Three caveats: first, please don’t consider this list exhaustive. It’s meant merely to be representative. Second, I’m including only films that were actually shot on location in New York. Hollywood back lots just can’t provide the same flavor. Third, I’m not including period pieces. Only films actually set and shot during New York’s Rust Age will be considered.
So, in chronological order, here we go…