Saturday, December 5, 2015

R.I.P. Robert Loggia (1930-2015)

Robert Loggia

On December 4, 2015, actor Robert Loggia died at the age of 85 in his home in Brentwood, California. He was battling with Alzheimer's Disease since 2010, which lead to problems relating to his death. While not a household name, he was a supporting actor type who likely has been in more than one or two of your favorite movies or TV shows. Whether it be for his work on film in Big or Scarface, or on TV in The Sopranos, he was a prolific actor who was best known for his raspy voice and playing thug-types. He was an actor whose career spanned many decades and brought upon many memorable roles, including a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work in Jagged Edge, co-starring Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges. His career was special and something not to be trifled with.

Loggia was born on January 3, 1930 in Staten Island, New York as the son of two Italian immigrants. During his earlier career, he studied journalism at the University of Missouri, where he graduated in 1951. He also served in the United States Army briefly before starting his career as an actor. He began as a radio broadcaster in the Panama Canal Zone before transferring to a job playing characters in various Walt Disney programs in 1958, most notably as the burglar in T.H.E. Cat.  Among his early appearances was in the George Stevens biblical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told in 1965, where he played Joseph. He would continue to play bit parts for the next few decades.

Due to his raspy voice and very Italian demeanor, he often played thugs. This gave him an advantage, as he played various roles on popular TV series, including three different characters on three different episodes of The Rockford Files. Even as his roles grew, he still was relatively unknown for most of his early career. In 1978, he got his next noteworthy movie with The Revenge of the Pink Panther as Al Marchione (he would appear in subsequent sequels to the franchise). He also appeared in films like An Officer and  Gentleman, Psycho II, Scarface, Prizzi's Honor, and the film that earned him an Oscar nomination: Jagged Edge.

The film was a courtroom drama that was lead by Glenn Close. Loggia starred as Sam Ransom, who was an informer to Close's character. While the film featured far more recognizable talent, Loggia became the only actor from the film to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film received mixed reviews for being intense, yet predictable. Loggia's role wasn't the most abstract from his recent run of characters, but it clearly struck a chord for his abrasive performance. Despite all of this, Loggia would lose to Don Ameche in Cocoon.

Most of the rest of Loggia's career is very similar. He married twice and had three kids; the second wife of which he was married to in 1982 and remained with until his death. Other than that, he was fine starring in various other roles, including a few more Disney films such as Oliver & Company: an animated take on Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" story. He played Sykes, who was a major character in the story. 

Also in 1988, he turned in one of  his most beloved, least expected performances of his career with Big. In the film, he stars as Mr. MacMillan. Along with the film being one of Tom Hanks' first breakthrough roles, he starred in what is easily the film's more memorable scene. As they enter a toy store, they discover a large piano on the floor. They proceed to play "Heart and Soul" followed by "Chopsticks." While his role had larger significance to the story, this part has since been parodied and remembered as the highlight of Loggia's, Hanks' and director Penny Marshall's careers. It would go on to earn him a Saturn Award. He would continue to make appearances in films like Independence Day and later as Feech La Manna during the last two seasons of The Sopranos.

While his career could be summarized as that of the typical character actor, he was also willing to poke fun at himself. In 1998, he starred in a series of commercial parodies about the futility of celebrity endorsement. In one for Minute Maid, a boy eagerly calls for Robert Loggia's approval. He would later parody that moment again in Malcolm in the Middle, for which he received an Emmy nomination. He even did work for the risky comedy programming of [adult swim], including appearances on Tom Goes to the Mayor and in the even more juvenile film Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie

Even if Loggia's work isn't as remembered as some other character actors, it's impressive to not the many accomplishes that he made during his career that spanned close to 60 years. From his early days with Disney to Oscar-nominated roles and dancing on pianos, he was an actor who knew how to have fun, even if he wasn't doing anything too spectacular. He is an actor that was always around and thus likely impacted everyone more than they think. Whether you think of him as a gruff gangster or a heartwarming boss man, he's been there in the background, keeping many entertained. 

No comments:

Post a Comment