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​Alex Rocco, "Godfather" star, dead at 79

Alex Rocco, the veteran of tough-guy roles and the Emmy-winning star of "The Amazing Teddy Z," is best remembered as casino owner Moe Greene, who runs afoul of the Corleone family in "The Godfather."

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Last Updated Jul 19, 2015 11:31 AM EDT

Alex Rocco, an Emmy Award-winning character actor best known for portraying mobster Moe Greene in "The Godfather," died on Saturday. He was 79.

His death was announced by his daughter, Jennifer Rocco, on her Facebook page.

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A 1970s publicity shot of actor Alex Rocco.
CBS

A veteran of more than 150 films and TV shows, Rocco played tough guys -- on either side of the law -- in such movies as "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre," "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," "Detroit 9000," "Three the Hard Way," "Get Shorty," "Find Me Guilty" and "Smokin' Aces," and in guest appearances on such popular series as "Mission: Impossible," "Get Christie Love!," "Kojak," "Cannon," "The Rockford Files," "Baretta," "Police Story," "Starsky and Hutch," "Simon & Simon," "The A-Team," "Walker, Texas Ranger," and "One Life to Live."

Rocco won an Emmy in 1990 as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, portraying Hollywood agent Al Floss opposite Jon Cryer in "The Famous Teddy Z."

(It was a character that Rocco also played in a guest appearance on another sitcom, "Murphy Brown.")

"Do you know who I am? I'm Moe Greene!"

But it was as Las Vegas casino owner Moe Greene that Rocco is best known -- both for brazenly disrespecting Michael Corleone ("I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!") and for his spectacular end, when he is shot in the eye while putting on his glasses.

His death scene in "The Godfather" required some technical ingenuity. Using the thick-framed glasses the character wore, special effects man A.D. Flowers rigged two small tubes running along from behind Rocco's head, using air pressure in one tube to blow a tiny BB at high speed outward through the breakaway glass, while another tube spurted out blood -- a lot of it.


Born in Cambridge, Mass., on Feb. 29, 1936, Alessandro Federico Petricone, Jr. was a bookie with the Winter Hill Gang in Boston. In 2012 he told the Onion's AV Club that in 1961, after getting into some trouble (which just happened to precipitate a gang war), he had to get out of town, and flipped a coin: "Heads Miami, tails California."

Tails, it was. In California Rocco took acting lessons from Leonard Nimoy (who recommended voice lessons to lose his strong Boston accent). He "stole" his first job when, working at a bar on Santa Monica Blvd., he picked up a phone call from 20th Century Fox trying to track down an actor and talked his way into the job instead.

He later got his first film role in Russ Meyer's 1965 exploitation film, "Motor Psycho."

After starring in the short-lived 1975 TV series, "Three For the Road," he played the father of Nancy McKeon in "The Facts of Life." He also played the father of McKeon's characters in the sitcom "Can't Hurry Love" and the police series "The Division." He was also featured in "The George Carlin Show," and provided the voice of Roger Meyers Jr. on "The Simpsons."

Other film and TV credits include "Wild Riders," "Freebie and the Bean," "Hearts of the West," "Voices," "The Stunt Man," "Wired," "That Thing You Do!," "Dead of Night," "A Bug's Life," "The Pope Must Diet," "Magic City" and "Episodes."

To watch Moe Greene (Alex Rocco) "talk business" with Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in "The Godfather" click on the player below.

Updated:

On Sunday Jon Cryer tweeted:

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.