Robert Loggia, Tough-Guy Actor, Dies at 85

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Robert Loggia

The New York native earned an Oscar nomination for playing a detective in the 1985 film 'Jagged Edge.'

Robert Loggia, the veteran actor whose portrayal of a seedy detective in the 1985 Joe Eszterhas film Jagged Edge earned him an Academy Award nomination, died Friday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 85.

His wife of 33 years, Audrey, said that he had been battling Alzheimer's for the past five years.

Most recognizable for playing tough-talking heavies in film and on TV, Loggia sported other major film credits including An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), as the womanizing father of Richard Gere's character; Scarface (1983), playing Tony Montana’s (Al Pacino) doomed mentor Frank Lopez; Prizzi’s Honor (1985), as a brother in crime; and Big (1988), in which he danced alongside Tom Hanks on a oversized piano keyboard.

He played surly toughs with a tongue-in-cheek panache. Loggia had the recurring role of Bruno Langois, the head of the French Connection, in two of Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther escapades, and he portrayed Sallie (The Shark) Macelli, a gangster turned vampire, in the dark comedy Innocent Blood (1992).

In the thriller Jagged Edge, Loggia stood out as Sam Ransom, a P.I. hired by defense attorney Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close) who works from the gut to investigate a brutal murder.

Loggia appeared in many TV movies, include a stint as Anwar Sadat in A Woman Called Golda (1982) with Ingrid Bergman, and on dozens on shows in guest-starring appearances.

Loggia starred in the 1989-90 NBC series Mancuso, F.B.I., an offshoot of the character he created in the Favorite Son miniseries that starred Harry Hamlin; was the patriarch in the short-lived 1991 Norman Lear sitcom Sunday Dinner for CBS; and played Feech La Manna, an Italian gangster who also owned a bakery, on HBO’s The Sopranos.

Loggia also portrayed the psychiatrist treating Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) in Psycho II (1983), and for Edwards, he also appeared in the Hollywood satire S.O.B. (1981) and as an alcoholic priest in That’s Life (1986).

His film résumé also includes playing Joseph in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Che (1969), The Believers (1987), Triumph of the Spirit (1989) and Opportunity Knocks (1990).

In the late 1950s, Loggia starred in The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca, a series for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, then toplined the 1966-67 NBC series T.H.E. Cat as a retired acrobat and thief now working as a bodyguard.

Loggia was born Jan. 3, 1930, in New York on Staten Island. His high-school athletic prowess earned him a football scholarship to Wagner College in the borough. He got his first taste of acting at the school when he performed in The Taming of the Shrew.

Loggia transferred to the University of Missouri his junior year, entering its journalism school.

While at Missouri, he performed in plays at nearby Stephens College and Christian College and graduated with a journalism degree in 1951. He decided to forego a career as a newsman and continue with acting, but he was drafted, serving for two years in the Army.

After the service, a former schoolmate turned agent, John Foreman, encouraged him to make acting his career. Loggia made his stage debut in a 1956 off-Broadway production of The Man With the Golden Arm, playing the drug addict in the title, and landed an uncredited role in the Paul Newman boxing film Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956).

In a 1986 interview with UPI, Loggia said a turning point for him came when T.H.E. Cat was canceled.

“I had always lived in New York,” he said, “and when the series died, I didn’t want any more of Hollywood. I did a lot of traveling and skiing. As I reflect on my life in 1969, I ask myself, ‘Who was that guy?’

"I didn't want to work. I was played out and had to re-spark myself. It was like cutting a motor on a plane and just gliding. … I was floating, looking for answers to a lot of questions. I went through a divorce and decided to move to Los Angeles to strike out on my own and live a bachelor’s life. That lasted two weeks. I met my wife, Audrey, and that was it.

“When I came back to Hollywood, I was a born-again actor. I re-established my credentials as a good actor in episodic TV. For six years I appeared in more guest shots than I cared to. My first job was a two-part Mannix in [1975]. After that I never stopped working.”

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