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Actor Nehemiah Persoff (1919-2022)


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https://deadline.com/2022/04/nehemiah-persoff-dead-obituary-actor-yentl-gunsmoke-was-102-1234995573/

Nehemiah Persoff Dies: Prolific Actor Of ‘Yentl’, ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Gunsmoke’ & Many More Was 102

Nehemiah Persoff, an actor who went from the uncredited role of a cab driver in On The Waterfront‘s iconic “coulda been a contender” scene to become one of the busiest character actors in television and film for five decades, died Tuesday at a rehabilitation facility in San Luis Obispo, California. He was 102.

Persoff had retired from acting in recent decades after suffering a stroke and other health issues. His death was reported to Deadline by a family friend.

Born in Jerusalem, Palestine, Persoff and his family moved to the United States in 1929, and after serving in the U.S. Army in World War II he relocated to New York to pursue a career in theater. He became a member of the famed Actors Studio in the late 1940s, studying with Elia Kazan, who would pay him a reported $75 to play the silent cab driver in Waterfront.

Persoff was also performing in small roles on television during the early 1950s, a career that would flourish in the years to come. A small sampling of his early TV roles included such shows as Goodyear Playhouse, The Philco Television Playhouse, Appointment with Adventure, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Kraft Theatre, The United States Steel Hour, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Playhouse 90.

Subsequent decades brought roles on scores of television series, making Persoff one of the most recognizable character actors of the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and into the ’90s. A selection of titles includes The Untouchables, Naked City, Rawhide, Burke’s Law, The Big Valley, I Spy, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Land of the Giants, The Magical World of Disney, Mod Squad, Love, American Style, Gunsmoke, Marcus Welby, M.D., Baretta, The Six Million Dollar Man, McCloud, Little House on the Prairie, TV miniseries The Word, Hawaii Five-0, Barney Miller, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Chicago Hope. He played Leonid Brezhnev in the 1983 miniseries Sadat, and in 2003, he came out of retirement to appear uncredited as a rabbi, along with Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak, in a scene of the HBO miniseries adaptation of Kushner’s Angels in America.

On the film side, Persoff had roles in Humphrey Bogart’s final film The Harder They Fall (1956), and in following decades appeared in The Wild Party, Some Like It Hot, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Voyage of the Damned and Twins. He voiced Papa Mousekewitz in 1986’s An American Tail, and in perhaps his most indelible film role played Reb Mendel, the father of Barbra Streisand’s title character of Yentl (and the subject of the film’s best known song “Papa, Can You Hear Me”).

Persoff was preceded in death by wife Thia, who died last year of cancer.  He is survived by children Daniel, Jeff, Perry and Dahlia, several grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

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What an incredible variety of character parts Nehemiah Persoff played over the years. He could be good guys. He could be bad guys. He could play it small and mousy but, boy, sometimes did he ever play it big and loud. I recently saw the four seasons of TV's The Untouchables. Persoff appeared in six episodes and always gave an outstanding account of himself in them, with a particular highlight when he played gangster Jake Guzik.

Most of Persoff's work was in television over a period of more than 40 years, appearing in everything from Wagon Train to The Naked City to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to Law And Order. Yet the role for which I will probably always remember him best is when he came on big, as Little Napoleon in Billy Wilder's legendary Some Like It Hot, responsible for that tommy gun-filled giant birthday cake and, with it, the mowing down of a gangster rival and his men.

Some Like It Hot (1959)Some Like It Hot

RIF, Nehemiah Persoff, a character actor's character actor.

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2 hours ago, TomJH said:

What an incredible variety of character parts Nehemiah Persoff played over the years. He could be good guys. He could be bad guys. He could play it small and mousy but, boy, sometimes did he ever play it big and loud. I recently saw the four seasons of TV's The Untouchables. Persoff appeared in six episodes and always gave an outstanding account of himself in them, with a particular highlight when he played gangster Jake Guzik.

Most of Persoff's work was in television over a period of more than 40 years, appearing in everything from Wagon Train to The Naked City to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to Law And Order. Yet the role for which I will probably always remember him best is when he came on big, as Little Napoleon in Billy Wilder's legendary Some Like It Hot, responsible for that tommy gun-filled giant birthday cake and, with it, the mowing down of a gangster rival and his men.

Some Like It Hot (1959)Some Like It Hot

RIF, Nehemiah Persoff, a character actor's character actor.

Imho he Possesed SUCH a Commanding Presence in; ANY Thing He Did and Was In. Favourite Role/Performance of his - ALL Of 'Em. But I Especially Liked When he showed up on/in Wild Wild West.

 

Rest In Peace to a MAGNIFICENT Attention Grabbing Artist.🎨

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Loved his guest star appearance in the 1966 episode of ABC's "The Time Tunnel" titled "Secret Weapon"! Time travelers Dr. Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert) and Dr. Tony Newman (James Darren) wound up behind the Iron Curtain in 1956. To their dismay, they discovered  that Professor Anton Biraki (Persoff) had created a Soviet version of America's Project Tic-Toc a decade earlier.

The Time Tunnel" Secret Weapon (TV Episode 1966) - IMDb

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1 hour ago, Swithin said:

So sorry to hear this, a great actor and one of the few links to the great age of classic movies -- and classic television.

MV5BNTNlMTJlNmYtODM2Ni00NjYyLTlmZmQtOWIy

With Vera Miles in The Wrong Man (1956)

A bit of a digression Unfortunately but how a bout a bit of Gooder news ?; Madam Vera June Miles IS Still With Us at Ninety-Two Years Young.🎨

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A film probably available only online, and then in a mostly B&W version, is This Angry Age, where Nehemiah Persoff has a large supporting role in a starry international cast: Jo Van Fleet, Anthony Perkins, Silvana Mangano, Richard Conte, and Alida Valli, directed by Rene Clement. To see this in a restored color version on the big screen would be wonderful.

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My cousin met him a couple of years ago. A tremendous actor. He could be hilarious (Gilligan's Island) or fiercely menacing (Some Like It Hot). 7 Hawaii 5-0 episodes, 6 Naked City shows, Wild Wild West, Mission Impossible... A massive resume.

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I  remember  him mostly from the  scads  of  TV  shows  he was in. He quite often played the generic European immigrant

with much pride and sometimes a low boiling  point. Always entertaining.  

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I've been seeing quite a lot of Mr. Persoff while watching the old Untouchables TV show episodes lately. He really was an outstanding actor. And I was very surprised about a month back when I decided to find out when he was born and died and discovered he was still with us at the time. 

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14 hours ago, MikaelaArsenault said:

https://deadline.com/2022/04/nehemiah-persoff-dead-obituary-actor-yentl-gunsmoke-was-102-1234995573/

Nehemiah Persoff Dies: Prolific Actor Of ‘Yentl’, ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Gunsmoke’ & Many More Was 102

Now, y'see, I forgot he was Papa, who could hear Barbara Streisand, in Yentl, but every time I heard Nehemiah's name, the one thing I associated it with was "Wasn't he in one of the Twilight Zone episodes?"

Well, he was, but none of the ones I was thinking--He was Carl Lanser, the strange, worried German ship passenger in "Judgment Night":

PDVD_009.BMP

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Nehemiah Persoff Dies: Prolific Actor Of ‘Yentl’, ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Gunsmoke’ & Many More Was 102 -

"...........He played Leonid Brezhnev in the 1983 miniseries Sadat, and in 2003, he came out of retirement to appear uncredited as a rabbi, along with Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak, in a scene of the HBO miniseries adaptation of Kushner’s Angels in America.

On the film side, Persoff had roles in Humphrey Bogart’s final film The Harder They Fall (1956), and in following decades appeared in The Wild Party, Some Like It Hot, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Voyage of the Damned and Twins. He voiced Papa Mousekewitz in 1986’s An American Tail, and in perhaps his most indelible film role played Reb Mendel, the father of Barbra Streisand’s title character of Yentl (and the subject of the film’s best known song “Papa, Can You Hear Me”).........

https://deadline.com/2022/04/nehemiah-persoff-dead-obituary-actor-yentl-gunsmoke-was-102-1234995573/

 

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Just saw an old GUNSMOKE episode in which Nehemiah played an itinerant cutler.   I could say that I grew up seeing Mr. Persoff on various TV shows and in small parts in some old movies all my life.  But went years before learning it was him as that cab driver in "Waterfront".    Which also had an uncredited  favorite character actor of mine..... MARTIN BALSAM.  ;) 

What a great run of an equally great life!

Rest In Peace, Nehemiah.  :)

Sepiatone

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