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Actor Campanella dies at 87

Character actor remembered for 'tough guy' roles

Frank Campanella, who played hulking tough guys in more than 100 films and TV shows, died Saturday Dec. 30 in his L.A. San Fernando Valley home. He was 87.

“He always wanted to be an actor and kind of influenced me,” said his older brother, actor Joseph Campanella.

One of Frank Campanella’s most distinctive roles was his first — Mook the Moon Man on the TV series “Captain Video and His Video Rangers” in 1949.

His many movie credits included Judge Harper in the movie “Dick Tracy,” Pops in “Pretty Woman,” Frank the Doorman in “Beaches,” Capt. Karl in “Overboard” and Col. Eastland in “The Flamingo Kid.”

On television, he appeared on such shows as “The Fall Guy,” “Hardcastle and McCormick,” “St. Elsewhere,” “The Love Boat,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Maude,” “The Rockford Files,” “All in the Family,” “Kojak,” “Route 66” and “Quincy M.E.”

He essayed Broadway roles in such plays and musicals as the original “Stalag 17,” a “Guys and Dolls” revival, “Nobody Loves an Albatross” and “The Deadly Game.”

The 6-foot-5-inch Campanella was the son of a musician and piano builder whose orchestra performed with Jimmy Durante, Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, among others. Frank learned music from his father and trained to be a concert pianist but entered Manhattan College as a drama major.

The music training came in handy when, later on, he appeared in a cigarette commercial playing piano. He later also co-hosted a radio program on KCSN called “Offbeat Notes on Music.”

During World War II he worked as a civilian interpreter, deciphering Italian and Sicilian dialects for the U.S. government, and later helped Robert De Niro with the Sicilian dialogue in “The Godfather Part II” and assisted in subtitles for the film.

“We grew up speaking Italian before speaking English,” Joseph Campanella recalled.

Survivors besides his brother include his sister-in-law and 13 nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Jan. 17 at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in North Hollywood. Donations can be made to Friends of El Faro, 11684 Ventura Blvd., Suite 243, Studio City, CA 91604; friendsofelfaro.com.

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