Friday, December 04, 2015

A Tough Guy’s Quiet End

The opening title sequence from T.H.E. Cat.

“He struggled with Alzheimer’s disease for five years,” Audrey Loggia, the longtime spouse of veteran character actor Robert Loggia, is quoted in The New York Times as saying. “It just took its natural progression.” And that progression ended earlier today, when Loggia died at his home in Los Angeles at age 85.

The Times goes on to note that “Mr. Loggia’s career began on the New York stage in the 1950s and soon moved into film and television in its early years. His rugged looks and gravelly voice made him a natural for playing characters with a hard edge, like a drug lord in Scarface (1983), a Sicilian mobster in Prizzi’s Honor (1985) and a private detective in Jagged Edge (1985), a role that got him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. (Don Ameche won that year, for Cocoon.)” Variety adds that Loggia, who was born on Staten Island, New York, in January 1930, racked up additional film credits with his appearances in An Officer and a Gentleman, Independence Day, and Big. In the last of those, “he played a toy company owner and performed a memorable duet on a giant foot-operated piano with Tom Hanks.”

The first starring role for Loggia, however, was as circus performer and cat burglar-turned-bodyguard Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat in the fondly remembered 1966-1967 NBC-TV drama T.H.E. Cat. He went on from there to score parts in an extensive array of small-screen series, from The Wild Wild West, Mannix, and Harry O to The Rockford Files, Magnum, P.I., Ellery Queen, The Sopranos, and Monk. (Click here to see his page on the Internet Movie Database.) Loggia was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1989 for his portrayal of no-nonsense federal investigator Nick Mancuso in the short-lived NBC crime series Mancuso, FBI. “Loggia also appeared in five films for comedy director Blake Edwards,” recalls the Associated Press, “including three Pink Panther films and the dark comedy S.O.B. He also portrayed Joseph, husband of Mary, in George Stevens’ biblical epic, The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Loggia’s widow told Variety, “He loved being an actor. He used to say that he never had to work. He never had to wait tables.” It’s not hard to argue that this performer who could summon up a tough guy’s demeanor without breaking a sweat, and command a scene simply by turning his silent gaze upon fellow actors, was far better off enjoying a life of movie-making rather than slinging burgers and fries.

FOLLOW-UP: I tend to see Robert Loggia through the lens of his more serious movie and TV roles. But as Jeremy Lynch of Crimespree Magazine observes, “Many may know him as the boss in Big and will remember Tom Hanks and Robert playing ‘Chop Sticks’ on the giant keyboard.” A video clip of that performance is here.


Jerry House said...

Long before T.H.E. CAT, Loggia starred as Detective Steve Carrelli (note the spelling) in the 1958 movie of Ed McBain's COP HATER. He went on to star as Elfego Baca in Disney's THE NINE LIVES OF ELFEGO BACA, a ten episode series on WALT DISNEY'S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR .

Shay said...

Yes! How could anyone forget "Elfego Baca?"