Joseph Bologna, Actor and Playwright Known for ‘My Favorite Year,’ Dies at 82

Joseph Bologna Dead

Joseph Bologna, an actor, writer, and director known for his role in 1982’s “My Favorite Year” and for his long collaboration on stage and screen with wife Renée Taylor, has died after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 82.

Bologna died Sunday morning at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif. Just last month, Bologna attended a 35th anniversary screening of “My Favorite Year” in Los Angeles. Bologna played the explosive TV star King Kaiser in the backstage comedy inspired by Mel Brooks’ experiences as a young TV writer on Sid Caesar’s legendary “Your Show of Shows.”

Taylor said Bologna had “a beautiful life and a beautiful death.” Bologna died just two days after the couple celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.


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Bologna and Taylor co-wrote and starred in the Broadway show “Lovers and Others Strangers” in 1968. The pair then earned Oscar nominations for their screenplay adaptation for the 1970 film starring Gig Young and Bea Arthur. Taylor and Bologna also won a Writers Guild Award for their 1971 movie “Made For Each Other,” in which they also starred.

In all, the couple co-wrote some 22 plays and collaborated on numerous film and TV projects, including the Marlo Thomas TV special “Acts of Love and Other Comedies,” and such series as CBS’ “Calucci’s Department,” HBO’s “Bedrooms,” and PBS’ “American Dream Machine.”

Bologna and Taylor were introduced by their mutual manager, Buddy Allen. The couple’s wedding was held on the stage of “The Merv Griffin Show” and featured on the talk show. Taylor noted that they renewed their vows five times over their half-century together, each time in a different religious ceremony.

A native of Brooklyn, Bologna grew up in a working-class Italian-American family and went on to serve in the Marine Corps. He then entered the advertising business in the “Mad Men” era. He directed numerous commercials before turning his focus to the stage with Taylor.

Bologna’s other film credits include 1976’s “Woman of the Year,” 1984’s “Blame It on Rio” and “The Woman in Red,” 1985’s “Transylvania 6-5000,” and 1989’s “It Had to Be You.” More recently, he lent his voice to 2006’s “Ice Age: The Meltdown.”

Bologna also logged dozens of TV credits over the years, from telepics to sitcoms to dramas. Among the notable made-fors were the 1986 miniseries “Sins” and 1983’s “One Cooks, the Other Doesn’t.” Bologna appeared opposite future “Friends” star Matt LeBlanc in the 1991 “Married With Children” spinoff “Top of the Heap” and also in the 1987-88 dramedy “Rags to Riches.” His last TV roles included guest shots on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “According to Jim,” and “Everwood.”

Bologna’s final project was the upcoming film “Tango Shalom,” a comedy directed by his son, Gabriel. The elder Bologna co-wrote the screenplay with Claudio and Jos Laniado and stars alongside Taylor. The couple’s daughter, Zizi, served as music supervisor.

A memorial will be held in his honor on Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills.

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  1. kathy3882 says:

    R.I.P. Joe Bologna. We watched you over the years in so many wonderful movies and TV shows. Most fond of appearances with you and your love, Renee Taylor. What a beautiful couple. Our prayers are with the family. Such a tremendous loss.

  2. Saw him in,”Honor Thy Father”March 1,1973,CBS Thursday Night Movie

  3. Michael Carlin says:

    The last married couple acting team! Very sad indeed.

  4. TV Viewer says:

    Another one of Joseph Bologna’s movies that was very good was “Cops and Robbers” (1973). A very entertaining movie. Mr. Bologna was a talented person and he left a very memorable legacy.
    Rest in Peace and condolences to friends, family, and those who knew him on a first name basis.

  5. 12th Man says:

    I remember when Ch. 13 here in Seattle(KCPQ)now our local Fox network affiliate showed “My Favorite Year” on their old “8:00 Movie” in the Spring of 1985. During one of the 2 commercial breaks in the movie , a locally aired JCPenney ad came on with a woman’s voice w/echo on it.

  6. John Byner says:

    Terrific Actor. Good Husband and Father. Great Friend. He will be missed.

  7. Sandy De Ciccio says:

    My husband and I are so sad to hear that we have lost our friend Joe. Our special trip to Italy with Joe and Renee, and times spent in Florida and New York are memories that will always remain in our hearts. Joe has made such an impact on our lives. We’ll never forget you. Rest In Peace. Love always, Sandy and Don

  8. James Hubbard says:

    So sad to hear of Mr. Bologna’s passing. Thanks for the enjoyment you brought. One of my all time favorite films just wouldn’t be the same had they cast anyone but you, “My Favorite Year”. My thoughts go out to his family and friends. World just got a little less bright.

    • John bologna says:

      Cousin joe you will truly be missed great talent but most of all unbelievable human being it was my pleasure to have you as my cousin God bless your family rest in peace you wonderful man

  9. ludivine Vernet says:

    Very sad. Blame it on Rio was fantastic..

  10. Blame it on Rio was and is a cult classic, as many of his works. RIP and congratulations on a good life lived.

  11. JOE S HILL says:

    What a great loss! Joseph Bologna and actress Barbara Harris co-starred in “MIXED COMPANY” that United Artists released in 1974, it was a great PG rated comedy family drama that Melville Shavelson had directed. Rest in Peace Mr. Bologna, you’ll be missed!

  12. Great actor and also don’t forget “Blame It On Rio”

  13. Griff says:

    MADE FOR EACH OTHER is a unique, even memorable romantic comedy, but I don’t recall the Taylor/Bologna screenplay winning a WGA award.

    [It was nominated for the WGA’s Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen award, but Paddy Chayefsky’s script for THE HOSPITAL won the award.]

    • mcgwynne says:

      Unforgettable with his winning ways and dangerously alluring smile.
      Even Peter O’Toole was captured.
      Well done sir.
      You have left a legend behind and a future for actors to aspire to.
      So there buddy!!

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