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Nehemiah Persoff - Still With Us Today At 101


TomJH
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Lately I've been watching a DVD box set of The Untouchables TV series from the late '50s and early '60s.

There is a lot of great character work in the show by Hollywood veterans and I noticed, in particular, the contributions in six different episodes of character actor Nehemiah Persoff. Incredibly he will turn 102 this August and I thought it would be nice to pay a brief tribute to him while he was still with us.

Persoff's first film work was in The Naked City in 1948. He would later play a gangster's accountant in The Harder They Fall, Bogart's last film, and, most memorably, would be Little Napoleon in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot. Can anyone forget him in that film with his Mussolini-like bald head and manner, booming voice ("You mean you missed them TWICE!?!") and hearing aids which he conveniently turned down when anyone was getting shot in the same room with him. Years later he would play Streisand's father in Yentl.

Persoff's TV credits, though, seem almost endless, ranging over a half century from 1949 to 2003. Among the countless series in which he made appearances were The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Playhouse 90 (in one episode he actually did play Mussolini). Route 66, Wagon Train, Naked City, Rawhide, Burke's Law, Ben Casey, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Big Valley, Time Machine, Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Wild Wild West, It Takes A Thief, Mission Impossible, Flying Nun, Bill Cosby Show, Adam 12, Mannix, Marcus Welby, Gunsmoke, Barney Miller and, well, the list goes on and on.

Persoff could play it big, larger than life and, yes, at times, a little hammy. But he could, in the true tradition of great character actors, also play it small (that is fully demonstrated by some of the contrasting characters he played in The Untouchables). He's a true acting veteran who has been with us for years, even if he never had a big star name. Everyone who has seen movies or television from the 50s though to the '80 will surely recognize his face.

Nehemiah Persoff- Little Bonaparte in Some Like It Hot (1959) – Lawrence of  Cinema

As Little Napoleon in Some Like It Hot. He even got George Raft and his hoods to rise to their feet. ("You too, Spats. UP!!!).

Harder They Fall, The (1957) -- (Movie Clip) What Are You Made Of? - Turner  Classic Movies

Harder They Fall

The Empty Chair (1959)

The Untouchables

presidente.jpg

Gilligan's Island

CBS_MISSION_IMPOSSIBLE_005_IMAGE_CIAN_1280x720_1204550723711.jpg

Mission Impossible

MILLER%2BPERSOFF.jpg

Barney Miller

The Scott Rollins Film and TV Trivia Blog: Happy Birthday Nehemiah Persoff!  Legendary Character Man of SOME LIKE IT HOT, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, ON THE  WATERFRONT, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, YENTL, VOYAGE OF THE

Yentl

Nehemiah Persoff - Age, Bio, Faces and Birthday

Star Trek The Next Generation

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-HAxz3F02qLo/XkrVmS3zhvI/AAAAAAACLbs/INeib_Do3iACOuqtdpNciVtMy2j0FRqMQCNcBGAsYHQ/s1600/persoff1.jpg

Persoff has turned to painting watercolours since retirement in 2003 with 206 acting credits

 

Nehemiah Persoff - Wikipedia

So let's hear it for a great acting veteran while he's still with us . . .

 

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Just saw him as the murder victim in a classic 1976 episode of NBC's "Columbo" titled "Now You See Him." The killer was a magician (played by Jack Cassidy) who did the evil deed while an audience thought he was onstage chained inside a box.

See the source image

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J.D. Salinger makes an unflattering reference in one his better short stories, I believe it is in "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" in which two depressed women are talking and one of them refers to her boss (or someone else perhaps) as "an unwashed Nemehiah Persoff." The story appeared in The New Yorker in 1948. Salinger sold the rights to Hollywood and the movie was My Foolish Heart (1949). To the author's chagrin, the story bore practically no resemblance to the original story but as I understand got good box office and a couple of awards. This is the origin I believe of Salinger's staunch refusal ever again to sell to Hollywood. In The Catcher in the Rye (also published in 1948), Holden Caulfield repeatedly denounces movies as "phony" and criticizes his brother D.B (given name) as a "prostitute" for writing screenplays for Hollywood.

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3 hours ago, jakeem said:

Just saw him as the murder victim in a classic 1976 episode of NBC's "Columbo" titled "Now You See Him." The killer was a magician (played by Jack Cassidy) who did the evil deed while an audience thought he was onstage chained inside a box.

See the source image

I watch Columbo on Sunday nights at METV... I was delighted to see him! 

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3 hours ago, laffite said:

J.D. Salinger makes an unflattering reference in one his better short stories, I believe it is in "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" in which two depressed women are talking and one of them refers to her boss (or someone else perhaps) as "an unwashed Nemehiah Persoff." The story appeared in The New Yorker in 1948. Salinger sold the rights to Hollywood and the movie was My Foolish Heart (1949). To the author's chagrin, the story bore practically no resemblance to the original story but as I understand got good box office and a couple of awards. This is the origin I believe of Salinger's staunch refusal ever again to sell to Hollywood. In The Catcher in the Rye (also published in 1948), Holden Caulfield repeatedly denounces movies as "phony" and criticizes his brother D.B (given name) as a "prostitute" for writing screenplays for Hollywood.

Just to add :  I was curious to see whether Salinger might have been referring to an actual screenwriter with the initials D.B., as a sort of slam. He might have been still smarting over the short story adaptation when he wrote Catcher and wanted to take a swipe at someone. I looked up the movie on IMDB and there a couple of Epsteins who are responsible for the screenplay, but I didn't look further other possible significance of D.B.

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Just saw Persoff in the first episode of The Wild Wild West today on INSP. He was in a few other WWW

episodes as well. Shows up a lot on TV shows of the time. p.s. Cather in the Rye was published in 1951.

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1 hour ago, Allhallowsday said:

I think parts of Catcher were serialized before book...

They were. To be specific, one incident appeared in a different form as a story in Collier's December 1945.

One incident appeared in a different form as a story in The New Yorker December 1946. By the wording

I assume they were modified before they were made part of the novel, which was published in 1951.

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6 hours ago, TomJH said:

Lately I've been watching a DVD box set of The Untouchables TV series from the late '50s and early '60s.

There is a lot of great character work in the show by Hollywood veterans and I noticed, in particular, the contributions in six different episodes of character actor Nehemiah Persoff. Incredibly he will turn 102 this August and I thought it would be nice to pay a brief tribute to him while he was still with us.

Persoff's first film work was in The Naked City in 1948. He would later play a gangster's accountant in The Harder They Fall, Bogart's last film, and, most memorably, would be Little Napoleon in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot. Can anyone forget him in that film with his Mussolini-like bald head and manner, booming voice ("You mean you missed them TWICE!?!") and hearing aids which he conveniently turned down when anyone was getting shot in the same room with him. Years later he would play Streisand's father in Yentl.

Persoff's TV credits, though, seem almost endless, ranging over a half century from 1949 to 2003. Among the countless series in which he made appearances were The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Playhouse 90 (in one episode he actually did play Mussolini). Route 66, Wagon Train, Naked City, Rawhide, Burke's Law, Ben Casey, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Big Valley, Time Machine, Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Wild Wild West, It Takes A Thief, Mission Impossible, Flying Nun, Bill Cosby Show, Adam 12, Mannix, Marcus Welby, Gunsmoke, Barney Miller and, well, the list goes on and on.

Persoff could play it big, larger than life and, yes, at times, a little hammy. But he could, in the true tradition of great character actors, also play it small (that is fully demonstrated by some of the contrasting characters he played in The Untouchables). He's a true acting veteran who has been with us for years, even if he never had a big star name. Everyone who has seen movies or television from the 50s though to the '80 will surely recognize his face.

Nehemiah Persoff- Little Bonaparte in Some Like It Hot (1959) – Lawrence of  Cinema

As Little Napoleon in Some Like It Hot. He even got George Raft and his hoods to rise to their feet. ("You too, Spats. UP!!!).

Harder They Fall, The (1957) -- (Movie Clip) What Are You Made Of? - Turner  Classic Movies

Harder They Fall

The Empty Chair (1959)

The Untouchables

presidente.jpg

Gilligan's Island

CBS_MISSION_IMPOSSIBLE_005_IMAGE_CIAN_1280x720_1204550723711.jpg

Mission Impossible

MILLER%2BPERSOFF.jpg

Barney Miller

The Scott Rollins Film and TV Trivia Blog: Happy Birthday Nehemiah Persoff!  Legendary Character Man of SOME LIKE IT HOT, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, ON THE  WATERFRONT, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, YENTL, VOYAGE OF THE

Yentl

Nehemiah Persoff - Age, Bio, Faces and Birthday

Star Trek The Next Generation

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-HAxz3F02qLo/XkrVmS3zhvI/AAAAAAACLbs/INeib_Do3iACOuqtdpNciVtMy2j0FRqMQCNcBGAsYHQ/s1600/persoff1.jpg

Persoff has turned to painting watercolours since retirement in 2003 with 206 acting credits

 

Nehemiah Persoff - Wikipedia

So let's hear it for a great acting veteran while he's still with us . . .

 

Lovely, Multi-Faceted Talent.

🌈🎨🌈

_

Offhand.. ... While There Are A Couple Artists Out There, Still With Us Today that Are Aporoaching the Milestone Hundred.

 

    To the Best,  i Can Determine; Madam Marsha Hunt is the Sole Additiinal Artist, at present; > 100. At an Exquisite One Hundred And Three,.

🎨🌈🎨🎨🎨

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There are a lot of great character actors, movie stars, and to be movie stars on "The Untouchables", but Nehemiah Persoff was at the top.

He made a historical character of Al Capone's accountant, Jake "greasy thumb" Guzik.

Persoff's characterization of the gangster Waxey Gordon was particularly brutal and vitriolic in his targeting of hatred against Eliot Ness.

Among the greats, Nehemiah was one of the best.

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7 hours ago, Vautrin said:

Just saw Persoff in the first episode of The Wild Wild West today on INSP. He was in a few other WWW

episodes as well. Shows up a lot on TV shows of the time. p.s. Cather in the Rye was published in 1951.

I (Freaking) Adore that Show,.

🎨🌈👠🎩👙💎💥💣💨🐴🐎

 

 

      Own the Box Set,.

(For me.. ...thats one of the few shows where .. even the "dud"; or, not quite so good episodes are Still Solid and Impressive...

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1 hour ago, Aritosthenes said:

I (Freaking) Adore that Show,.

🎨🌈👠🎩👙💎💥💣💨🐴🐎

 

 

      Own the Box Set,.

(For me.. ...thats one of the few shows where .. even the "dud"; or, not quite so good episodes are Still Solid and Impressive...

The WWW is ending its run on the INSP channel this week. It has been on that station for about two years,

two episodes a day except for Saturdays, so I've seen them all. The mix of that time period and all the gadgets

that they used was quite entertaining. I'd say that in all TV shows there are a few clunkers here and there,

but not that many. I got tired of Dr. Loveless and always hoped he would be killed off, but that never happened.

I always liked the episodes that had a gothic/haunted house vibe to them. The farewell marathon is on Sunday.

 

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1 hour ago, Vautrin said:

The WWW is ending its run on the INSP channel this week. It has been on that station for about two years,

two episodes a day except for Saturdays, so I've seen them all. The mix of that time period and all the gadgets

that they used was quite entertaining. I'd say that in all TV shows there are a few clunkers here and there,

but not that many. I got tired of Dr. Loveless and always hoped he would be killed off, but that never happened.

I always liked the episodes that had a gothic/haunted house vibe to them. The farewell marathon is on Sunday.

 

This is Rather Quite Peacemeal Here..

(😏 But then again.. .when is my correspondence style "not"...).

_

The more.. ... "haunted" episides were actually some of my lesser favourites..

 

..but to Each One's Own, tbs,.

. ...

That wildness of the west box set, i spoke of.. -

-- - i had actually heard before (i think on some of those aforementioned specialty dvd's);

 

   ..that Michael Dunn was a Real Sweetheart in fact, in /"during" real life...

 

    ..cant remember the exact episode now..

(Save for it had Everything to do with a water stunt)..

 

          Theres a story that goes, that Dunn Stepped In (and (Subsuquently) Stepped Up); and (Helped) Save the Life of a Madam Co-Star...

 

..Who ?,....

     Knuckle Brain Here, Unfortunately Does Not Remember at present; Sadly..

. ... ..if i DO Remember Though and/or if i dig around and uncover it..

--- - i,ll let Ya Know, If Intrested..

. ... ..

And Ap Pro Po.. .....of pretty much nothing else.. ..save for the topic..

 

 

      Id Take Gordon & West > 007 ANY day of the week...

🎨🌈👙🎨🎨🎨🎨

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2 hours ago, Vautrin said:

The WWW is ending its run on the INSP channel this week. It has been on that station for about two years,

two episodes a day except for Saturdays, so I've seen them all. The mix of that time period and all the gadgets

that they used was quite entertaining. I'd say that in all TV shows there are a few clunkers here and there,

but not that many. I got tired of Dr. Loveless and always hoped he would be killed off, but that never happened.

I always liked the episodes that had a gothic/haunted house vibe to them. The farewell marathon is on Sunday.

 

*dont know if;. Or How Much (so to speak) this is obvious or not but (im) Totally Not tryin' to blackmail (change /alter) Your Mind about Mr Nehimiah (sp); Professor Loveless.   Nor about/upon Your Aforementioned Thoughts Upon This Awesome Show,.

 

 

      If That Pretzel of a paragraph made remote sense.

 

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8 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

There are a lot of great character actors, movie stars, and to be movie stars on "The Untouchables", but Nehemiah Persoff was at the top.

He made a historical character of Al Capone's accountant, Jake "greasy thumb" Guzik.

Persoff's characterization of the gangster Waxey Gordon was particularly brutal and vitriolic in his targeting of hatred against Eliot Ness.

Among the greats, Nehemiah was one of the best.

The Untouchables has so much great work by so many Hollywood veterans, doesn't it? For me Steve Cochran, Luther Adler and a pre-stardom Lee Marvin really stood out, but Persoff, what a wonderful contribution he made to that series, as well.

In The Waxey Gordon Story, which you mentioned, Princess, he is great fun to watch as a particularly ruthless gangster determined to take over the local prohibition business. He is stone cold impassive when a couple of gangster big shots are shot down by his "boys" in front of him (one of them, Frank de Kova, begging him for a break seconds before he is shot). In contrast to that is a scene I love in which Persoff literally gets in Eliot Ness's face, with his booming "Little Napoleon" voice, to tell him that he's yellow. Ness responds by slapping him across the face and a wide eyed Persoff reflects on the last person to do that to him (which the audience knows was de Kova, gunned down immediately afterward).

The Waxey Gordon Story - Teaser | The Untouchables - video Dailymotion

"You're YELLOOOOOOOOOOOW!"

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11 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

There are a lot of great character actors, movie stars, and to be movie stars on "The Untouchables", but Nehemiah Persoff was at the top.

He made a historical character of Al Capone's accountant, Jake "greasy thumb" Guzik.

Persoff's characterization of the gangster Waxey Gordon was particularly brutal and vitriolic in his targeting of hatred against Eliot Ness.

Among the greats, Nehemiah was one of the best.

The Untouchables is on ME-TV now and I find myself watching it,  but only for those character actors and movie stars that I love from the movies of the 30s - 50s.

I really can't stand the Eliot Ness character;   just too self righteous for my taste.   Also since many cases revolve around booze, I find the crusading cops out to stop people from drinking beer and wine to be silly.     

But as you note:  see those high quality actors is a treat.    So I watch and root for the bad guys!  (who of course never win).

 

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8 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

The Untouchables is on ME-TV now and I find myself watching it,  but only for those character actors and movie stars that I love from the movies of the 30s - 50s.

I really can't stand the Eliot Ness character;   just too self righteous for my taste.   Also since many cases revolve around booze, I find the crusading cops out to stop people from drinking beer and wine to be silly.     

As far as being self-righteous, that's why they're called The Untouchables.  That was a nickname given to them in the 1930s.  It is not just the title of the TV series.  This was a group of agents working for the Bureau of Prohibition.  At the time, corruption within police units was fairly common.   Ness recruited a group that were seen to be incorruptible, and thus given the name The Untouchables.  The Chicago mafia tried and failed to bribe them.

As far as stopping people from drinking, that was their job.  The Bureau's main function was to stop the sale and consumption of alcohol.

This group only existed from 1930-32.  Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and agents in the Bureau then focused on tax evasion (the so-called "revenuers" the hillbilly moonshiners worried about)

 

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2 hours ago, txfilmfan said:

As far as being self-righteous, that's why they're called The Untouchables.  That was a nickname given to them in the 1930s.  It is not just the title of the TV series.  This was a group of agents working for the Bureau of Prohibition.  At the time, corruption within police units was fairly common.   Ness recruited a group that were seen to be incorruptible, and thus given the name The Untouchables.  The Chicago mafia tried and failed to bribe them.

As far as stopping people from drinking, that was their job.  The Bureau's main function was to stop the sale and consumption of alcohol.

This group only existed from 1930-32.  Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and agents in the Bureau then focused on tax evasion (the so-called "revenuers" the hillbilly moonshiners worried about)

 

Uh,  of course I was aware of everything you mention here:  The show, plot lines, etc... reflect the point in time when the USA had prohibition.  I get all that,  but  I still can't stand the Ness character,  and I'll continue to root for some of the bad guys.

E.g. John Banner (Sergeant Schult) played a German brew master that had come to the USA.   He claimed he was making zero-alcohol beer but of course he wasn't.

 Here is a basically decent guy,  who was a master at a certain age-old craft going back centuries,  and all Ness cares about is putting him in prison.    

I was pulling for Ness to be put into Stalag 13,  with Schult as his guard!  

 

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By the way one of TV's The Untouchables is still with us today.

Nicholas Georgiade - IMDb

Nicholas Georgiade, 88, who played Enrico "Ricco" Rossi in 105 of the 118 episodes of the series, was brought in by producer Desi Arnaz in response to initial criticism of the series from Italian Americans (including Frank Sinatra) over the negative stereotypical Italian portrayal of many of the gangsters in the early episodes of Season One. Rico was a hot tempered Italian barber recruited by Ness to become one of the "untouchable" federal agents battling the gangster element in America in the early '30s. In order words, Rico was a "good" Italian.  Georgiade is actually Greek. But, as far as Desilu Productions were concerned, close enough.

 

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