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Abe Vigoda
Abe Vigoda 1975.jpg
Vigoda in 1975
Abraham Charles Vigoda

(1921-02-24)February 24, 1921
Died January 26, 2016(2016-01-26) (aged 94)
Resting place Beth David Cemetery, Elmont, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1947–2014
  • Sonja Gohlke (died 1969)
    (m. 1939; div. 1963)
  • Beatrice Schy
    (m. 1968; died 1992)
Children 1

Abraham Charles Vigoda (February 24, 1921 – January 26, 2016) was an American actor known for his portrayals of Salvatore Tessio in The Godfather (1972) and Phil Fish in both Barney Miller (1975–1977, 1982) and Fish (1977–1978).

Early life, family and education

Vigoda was born in Brooklyn, New York, New York, on February 24, 1921, the son of Samuel Vigoda and Lena Moses, Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father was a tailor who had two other sons: Hy and Bill. The latter was a comic book artist who drew for the Archie Comics franchise and others in the 1940s. Upon leaving school, Vigoda worked as a printer before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1943, serving in World War II. After his military service, he studied acting on the GI Bill at the American Theatre Wing. In the late 1940s, he began working in radio and made his television debut in an installment of the live drama series Studio One.


Abe Vigoda Fish 1977
Vigoda as Phil Fish in Fish (1977)

Vigoda began acting while in his 20s, working with the American Theatre Wing. His career as a professional actor began in 1947.

He gained acting notability in the 1960s with his work in Broadway productions, including Marat/Sade (1967), portraying Mad Animal; The Man in the Glass Booth (1968), portraying Landau; Inquest (1970); and Tough to Get Help (1972), portraying Abraham Lincoln.

His best known film role is that of Salvatore Tessio in The Godfather (1972). He also appeared briefly in The Godfather Part II in a flashback sequence at the end of the film. According to Francis Ford Coppola's commentary on the DVD's widescreen edition, Vigoda landed the role of Tessio in an "open call", in which actors who did not have agents could come in for an audition.

He gained further fame as Phil Fish on Barney Miller, a character known for his world-weary demeanor.

Vigoda's character on Barney Miller was popular, and a spin off television series, Fish, was created for him in 1977. The series, a situation comedy, ran from February 5, 1977, to May 18, 1978.

Personal life

Vigoda and his first wife Sonja Gohlke had one daughter named Carol. The marriage ended in divorce. His second marriage to Beatrice Schy lasted from 1968 until her death in 1992.

Vigoda enjoyed playing handball and stated in an interview that he was "almost" a champion at the game in his youth.


On January 26, 2016, one month before his 95th birthday, Vigoda died in his sleep at his daughter Carol Fuchs' home in Woodland Park, New Jersey, of natural causes. He had gone there "to escape the hazards of a blizzard."

Vigoda's funeral was held on January 31, 2016. Notable figures including comic Gilbert Gottfried and former New York City mayor David Dinkins attended. He was buried in the Beth David Cemetery at Elmont, Nassau County, New York.

On the 2017 Academy Awards show, Vigoda was not included in the show's memorial reel, surprising many and prompting a small PR backlash.



  • Three Rooms in Manhattan (1965) as Waiter (uncredited)
  • The Godfather (1972) as Salvatore Tessio
  • The Devil's Daughter (1973) as Alikhine
  • The Don Is Dead (1973) as Don Talusso
  • The Story of Pretty Boy Floyd (1974) as Dominic Morrell
  • Newman's Law (1974) as John Dellanzia
  • The Godfather Part II (1974) as Salvatore Tessio
  • Having Babies (1976) as Al Schneider
  • The Cheap Detective (1978) as Sgt. Rizzuto
  • Death Car on the Freeway (1979) as Mr. Frisch
  • Gridlock (1980) as Herb
  • The Big Stuffed Dog (1981) as Carnival Pitchman
  • Cannonball Run II (1984) as Caesar
  • The Stuff (1985) as Special Guest Star in Stuff Commercial (cameo)
  • Plain Clothes (1987) as Mr. Wiseman
  • Grandmother’s House (1988) as the Grandpa
  • Look Who's Talking (1989) as Grandpa
  • Prancer (1989) as Orel Benton
  • Keaton's Cop (1990) as Louis Keaton
  • Fist of Honor (1993) as Victor Malucci
  • Sugar Hill (1993) as Gus Molino
  • Me and the Kid (1993) as Pawn Broker
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) as Salvatore Valestra (voice)
  • North (1994) as Alaskan Grandpa
  • Home of Angels (1994) as Grandpa
  • Jury Duty (1995) as Judge Powell
  • The Misery Brothers (1995) as Don Frito Layleone
  • Love Is All There Is (1996) as Rudy
  • Saturday Night Live (1996) as himself
  • Underworld (1996) as Will Cassady
  • Good Burger (1997) as Otis
  • Me and the Gods (1997) as Zeus
  • A Brooklyn State of Mind (1997) as Uncle Guy
  • Witness to the Mob (1998) as Paul Castellano
  • Just the Ticket (1999) as Arty
  • Chump Change (2000) as The Frog
  • Tea Cake or Cannoli (2000)
  • Crime Spree (2003) as Angelo Giancarlo
  • Farce of the Penguins (2007) as Penguin from Boca (voice)
  • The Unknown Trilogy (2007) as Uncle Morty (segment "Frankie the Squirrel")
  • Sweet Destiny (2014) (final film role)


  • Studio One (1949)
  • Dark Shadows (cast member in 1969) as Ezra Braithwaite
  • Sesame Street (1973) guest appearance
  • Toma (1973) as Donzer
  • Mannix (1973) as Anton Valine
  • Hawaii Five-O (1974) as Abe Kemper
  • Barney Miller (cast member from 1975–1977)
  • The Bionic Woman (1976) as Barlow
  • Fish (1977–1978) as Det. Phil Fish
  • Cannon (1975) as Mr Couzellous
  • The Comedy Company (1978) as Jake
  • How to Pick Up Girls! (1978) as Nathan Perlmutter
  • The Rockford Files (1978) as Phil 'The Dancer' Gabriel / Al Dancer
  • $weepstake$ (ep. 1, 1979) as Anthony
  • B. J. and the Bear (1980) as Grandpa Ben Rule
  • The Littlest Hobo (1980) as Howard Mattson
  • As the World Turns (cast member in 1985)
  • Tales from the Darkside – "A Choice of Dreams" (1986) as Jake Corelli
  • Superboy (Season 1, Episode 3 "Back to Oblivion" – 1988) as Mr. Wagner
  • Santa Barbara (cast member in 1989) as Lyle DeFranco
  • Monsters (ep. "The Gift" – 1990) as Dolan
  • MacGyver (ep. 7 season 6) as Bill Cody
  • Lucky Luke (1993) as Judge Rinehart
  • Law & Order – "Remand" (1996) as Ret. Detective Landis
  • Wings – "All about Christmas Eve" (1996) as Harry
  • The Norm Show – "Norm, Crusading Social Worker" (1999) as Sal
  • Family Guy – "The Kiss Seen Around the World" (2001) as Himself (voice)
  • Late Night with Conan O'Brien (recurring) (2005-2007) as Himself
  • High School USA! (ep. 12, 2013) as Otto

Video game

Year Title Role
2006 The Godfather Salvatore Tessio (voice)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Abe Vigoda para niños

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