The man whose character was the subject of Barbra Streisand's plaintive ballad "Papa Can You Hear Me" has died at 102.
Nehemiah Persoff, a veteran character actor with well over 200 performances to his name, died Tuesday, April 5, 2022. The charter member of the fabled Actors Studio died at an acute care facility in San Luis Obispo, California.
Persoff, who was born in Jerusalem on August 2, 1919, and migrated to the U.S. in 1929. After WWII service, where he had acted to entertain the troops, he broke into the NYC theater scene, appearing on Broadway 11 times from 1949-1959.
He made his first, uncredited movie appearance in 1948's The Naked City.
Though uncredited, he was the taxi driver in the "I coulda been a contender!" scene in On the Waterfront (1954). He was famous for his flamboyant performance as gangster Little Bonaparte in Some Like It Hot (1959), and appeared in such films as Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956), The Wild Party (1956), Al Capone (1959), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Voyage of the Damned (1976), An American Tail (1986) and several sequels, The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Twins (1988) and was Yentl's father in Yentl (1983).
He was far more prolific on TV, where he appeared in a 1949 teleplay as his debut, and on such shows as The Twilight Zone (1959), Wagon Train (1961), The Untouchables (1959-1962), Naked City (1959-1963), Gilligan's Island (1965), Honey West (1966), The Wild Wild West (1965-1968), The Big Valley (1966), Mission: Impossible (1966-1969), Adam-12 (1972), Columbo (1976), Wonder Woman (1977) and Charlie's Angels (1977), among countless others.
After 1999, his focus was on his fine-arts painting career, though IMDb lists an uncredited role in the TV film Angels in America (2003) as his swan song.
He published his autobiography at 101 — 2021's The Many Faces of Nehemiah.
Persoff was preceded in death by his wife, Thia, in 2021. He is survived by four children and five grandchildren.