Michael V Gazzo
April 5, 1923
Hillside, New Jersey, United States
February 14, 1995
Los Angeles, California, United States
Actor, Playwright, Director, Screenwriter, Acting teacher, Machinist
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A broad-playing, gravel-voiced character player best known as Frankie Pentangeli, capo of the old neighborhood, in "The Godfather, Part II" (1974), Gazzo was also a renowned acting teacher and award-winning playwright. He began working simultaneously as a stage director and actor at the Great Neck (NY) Playhouse. From 1946-49, while studying at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research, he directed several shows and acted in numerous productions, including "The Little Foxes" and "Juno and the Paycock." After graduating, Gazzo began a life-long association with the Actors Studio out of which developed his acclaimed play "A Hatful of Rain" (1955), a portrait of a lower-middle-class man attempting to break his addiction to drugs. It was filmed in 1957, co-written by Gazzo, with a cast that included Don Murray as the addict, Eva Marie Saint as his pregnant wife and Anthony Franciosa (repeating his stage role) as his brother. His second play, "Night Circus," was produced in New York in 1958, with less stellar results. That same year he also wrote "King Creole," a movie starring Elvis Presley.Gazzo began his film acting career in the 50s with a small role in Elia Kazan's "On the Waterfront," but he turned his attention to writing and teaching until 1971 when he returned to the big screen in "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight." But few in the movie audience had heard of him until he burst onto the screen as Pentangeli, the subordinate who tells Michael Corleone, "Your father never trusted Hyman Roth" in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather, Part II." Gazzo received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his work, and while he would go on to be a kingpin in "King of the Gypsies" (1978), Mike in "Fear City" (1985) and play a memorable role in "The Last Action Hero" (1993), none of his subsequent feature film roles equaled his "Godfather II" impact. Gazzo was also much in demand on TV, and performed in numerous episodes as well as longforms. Often his parts were of mobsters, such as Salina, the gangster held hostage in "Blood Ties" for Showtime in 1986. He also received much applause for his work in "Brink's: The Great Robbery" (CBS, 1976) and as Marullo in the adaptation of "John Steinbeck's 'The Winter of Our Discontent'" (CBS, 1983).