Character actor Abe Vigoda, best known for playing sullen Detective Phil Fish on “Barney Miller” and mob soldier Tessio in “The Godfather,” died Tuesday in New Jersey at age 94.
His daughter, Carol Vigoda Fuchs, told the Associated Press Vigoda died in his sleep at her home.
A New York native, Vigoda began his acting career primarily on the stage, appearing in a series of Broadway productions in the 1960s. He made a series of small television appearances before he landed the role of Tessio, a longtime associate of mob boss Vito Corleone — played by Marlon Brando — in “The Godfather.”
Tessio met his demise toward the end of the film on the orders of Michael Corleone — played by Al Pacino. Before being led to his death, Tessio makes a plea to Robert Duvall’s character, asking, “Can you get me off the hook, for old times’ sake?”
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Duvall said, “It was great working with Abe in ‘The Godfather’ and wonderful to have him among us. We had some great memories together and he will really be missed.”
Vigoda appeared via flashback sequences in “The Godfather, Part II.”
In 1974, he landed the role of Detective Sgt. Phil Fish on the comedy “Barney Miller.” His persistently sad-faced portrayal of the detective coping with his age and impending retirement made him a favorite on the show — so much so that he got a show of his own, “Fish,” following the retired detective’s home life.
Vigoda was repeatedly the subject of false reports about his death, often making him the source of jokes online. A website, AbeVigoda.com, even featured a photo of Vigoda along with the date and the pronouncement that he was still alive.
The site was updated Tuesday, stating, “Abe Vigoda is dead.”
—Staff and wire reports