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-w...
Worked as associate director on productions at Great Neck (NY) Playhouse
NY stage directing debut, "The Dog Beneath the Skin" (co-directed with Alexis Solomas)
Played recurring role of Henry on "Punky Brewster" (NBC)
Wrote "King Creole" for Elvis Presley
TV writing debut, adaptation of "A Hatful of Rain"
Film acting debut, "On the Waterfront"
Played Frank Pentangeli in "The Godfather, Part II"; received Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor
Played recurring role on "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd"
TV-movie acting debut, "Brinks: The Great Robbery"
Debut as playwright, "A Hatful of Rain"
Voiced Henry in animated version of "Punky Brewster" (NBC)
Screenwriting debut, "A Hatful of Rain"; adaptation co-written Alfred Hayes
Final TV-movie, "Blood Ties" on Showtime
First film acting role in 17 years, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight"
Stage acting debut, "The Aristocrats"
Final film appearance, "Ring of the Musketeers"
TV acting debut, bit part, "Philco Television Playhouse"
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.<p> 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.<p> 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).
married on July 8, 1944; survived him
Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research
He founded the Gazzo Theatre Workshop in Los Angeles.
According to accounts, Gazzo was drunk during the key Senate Committee Hearings scene in "The Godfather, Part II," and had to be sobered up in between takes. The role of Pentagenli was created when Richard Castellano demanded more money to repise his "The Godfather" role of Clemenza than Paramount was willing to pay.