Alex Rocco, Character Actor in ‘Godfather,’ ‘Facts of Life,’ Dies at 79

Alex Rocco Dead
Peter Kramer/Getty

Character actor Alex Rocco, who played casino owner Moe Greene in “The Godfather” and appeared in dozens of other movies and TV shows, died Saturday of cancer in Studio City, Calif. He was 79.

Often appearing as a heavy, hood or cop, in “The Godfather,” he had the famous line, “Do you know who I am?” Recently he had a recurring role in Starz’s “Magic City” and appeared on “Episodes” and “Maron.” His daughter Jennifer Rocco reported his death on her Facebook page.

He appeared in several episodes of 1980s TV show “The Facts of Life” as Charlie Polniaczek, and had recurring roles on other shows including “Starsky and Hutch” and “The Famous Teddy Z,” for which he won a supporting actor Emmy in 1990. He did voices for animated shows including “The Simpsons,” for which he voiced the executive who made Itchy and Scratchy cartoons, and “Family Guy.”

His film career included roles in “Freebie and the Bean,” “Get Shorty,” “Gotcha!,” “The Stunt Man” and “That Thing You Do.” His son, Marc Rocco, who died in 2009, directed him in “Dream a Little Dream” and “Scenes From the Goldmine.”

Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who appeared with him in “Magic City,” said in a statement, “We lost a great one yesterday. An amazing talent to be sure… But, more than that, an amazing husband, father, and friend. For those of us lucky enough to get to know Rocco, we were blessed. He gave the best advice, told the best and dirtiest jokes, and was the first to give you a hug and kiss when it was needed.”

Rocco’s family said the veteran actor often cited his role as conniving talent agent Al Floss in the 1989-90 CBS sitcom “Famous Teddy Z” as his favorite of the many characters he played. Rocco co-starred with Jon Cryer in the comedy, created by “WKRP in Cincinnati’s” Hugh Wilson, that revolved around a talent agency mailroom wunderkind who winds up representing a mega star actor and clashing with Rocco’s character in the process. The inside-showbiz series drew strong reviews but only lasted one season.

Cryer on Sunday remembered Rocco as “the sweetest man.”

Rocco’s longtime agent, Susan Zachary, cited the actor’s “insatiable” zeal for his life and work.

“For all who had the privilege and pleasure of being in his intimate circle, he was and will always be a tremendous inspiration about living life to its fullest with an unparalleled appreciation for each moment – even at its most challenging times,” Zachary said. “His sly wit, rapier sense of humor, curiosity, insatiable desire for knowledge and connection are just a small part of his legacy.”

Rocco was born Alexander Federico Petricone Jr. in Boston, and studied acting with Leonard Nimoy. He made his first TV appearance on “Batman” and went on to guest star on numerous TV series, including “The Rockford Files,” “The Love Boat,” “Get Smart” and “Murder She Wrote.”

He is survived by his wife, actress Shannon Wilcox; daughters Jennifer and Kelli, sons Lucien and Sean; four grandchildren and a sister.

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  1. Stacey Williams says:

    I was a hotel front desk manager in my 20’s at a North Hollywood hotel Alex used to stay at while working at the local studios. We had a lot of charm – free industry types as guests, but Alex was never one of them. I always enjoyed his company, and still remember what he taught me about the Baha’i faith, more than thirty years later.

    My heart goes out to his wife and family. Godspeed and safe passage through your season of grief.

    Stacey Williams
    Santa Clarita

  2. J.P. Giuliotti says:

    Mr Rocco was a kind and giving man in Hollywood. I produced a tribute project to “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”. I asked his agent to pass along a few of the scenes we recreated to Mr. Roc and ask him if we would sit down for an interview to get his thoughts on the film. A week alter he called me and told me to come over to his house in Studio City. Here is that interview. He was so warm and open and told some fun stories. Enjoy!

  3. Tayllr says:

    Great Actor! Why is there no mention of his daughter that was born in 1957 in Medford, MA, she should be acknowledged as well, after all she is his first born.

  4. Dave J. says:

    May he rest in peace!

  5. Kambiz says:

    Great man , he also gave of his time and took part in this historic video
    bless his soul

  6. Alex says:

    A great actor, God rest him.

  7. Bill B. says:

    I remembered the name, but didn’t now why until I read he was in The Stunt Man, one of my favorite films, when it suddenly hit me who he was. The picture here barely looks like him. He was a lot of fun in that movie. I don’t remember him in The Godfather, but this guy has waaaay more credits than what is listed here. He’s been working constantly since the 60’s. One of those very useful and under appreciated character actors that so often get overlooked, but are essential to the making of a whole film or TV show.

    • trinigurl98 says:

      You don’t remember him in The Godfather? have you looked at the film? He played Moe Green. a pivotal character.

      • Bill B. says:

        I haven’t seen it since 1972. I know it’s a well made film and I still remember some scenes, though not him unfortunately, but the subject matter was never all that interesting to me so I’ve never looked at it again other than bits and pieces by accident.

    • Robert Crutchfield says:

      Also not mentioned was his short-lived series for MTM Enterprises in 1974 “Three For The Road” in which he starred as a photojournalist father to Vince Van Patten and Leif Garrett, traveling the country in a big RV. It was one of the first series I worked on upon joining MTM as head of publicity and Alex was one of the kindest, most cooperative and appreciative actors I ever worked with. RIP Alex Rocco.

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