Abe Vigoda, best known for his role as Phil Fish on the 1970s TV show Barney Miller and as a Mafia solder in The Godfather died on Tuesday at the age of 94.
Carol Vigoda Fuchs, Abe Vigoda’s daughter, confirmed her dad died in his sleep at her home in Woodland Park, New Jersey, of old age.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 26, 2016
“This man was never sick,” she said.
Abe Vigoda got his start in New York theater. His first big break on the big screen was when Francis Ford Coppola cast him in The Godfather in 1972. CBS reports 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.”
His character returned as a flashback in The Godfather II.
Abe Vigoda’s greatest recognition came via his Phil Fish role on Barney Miller, which he portrayed from 1975 to 1982. The show also starred Hal Linden. Vigoda took his character to a spinoff dubbed Fish, that lasted just one season. He continued to make guest appearances as Phil Fish until the show ended.
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) January 26, 2016
It’s likely when people hear of his passing today, they’ll think Abe Vigoda died several years back. For some reason his name kept turning up on the internet as a celebrity death hoax.
In 1997 the actor was reportedly shopping in Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan when a salesman said, “You look like Abe Vigoda. But you can’t be Abe Vigoda because he’s dead.”
The TV and film world has lost an exceptional character actor, but his legend will no doubt live on for many years to come.