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Pat Renella, a suave character actor who played the mobster shot and killed by Steve McQueen in the waning moments of the 1968 classic crime thriller Bullitt, has died. He was 83.
Renella, who worked in Hollywood for more than five decades, died Nov. 9 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a lengthy illness, his niece, Judy Portone, told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday.
Renella also starred as one of con man Phil Silvers’ cohorts on The New Phil Silvers Show in the early 1960s, guest-starred in five episodes of Mannix in the 1970s (his best friend was the show’s executive producer and writer, Bruce Geller) and played Dr. Nelson on General Hospital for a 26-week stint in 1980.
The actor also starred in TV commercials and ad campaigns; one notable assignment was for Viceroy cigarettes.
In Bullitt, directed by Peter Yates, Renella plays Johnny Ross, who fakes his murder so he can become free of the mob. After McQueen’s San Francisco Police Lt. Frank Bullitt discovers the ruse, he chases down Ross across the runways of San Francisco Airport and gets his man in the terminal.
Renella was a busy actor in the 1970s, appearing mostly as hoods and heels on such TV series as McCloud, The Streets of San Francisco, The Rockford Files, Cannon, Faraday and Company, Police Woman, S.W.A.T. and Hunter.
Born on March 24, 1929, in Chicago, the dark-haired Renella came to Los Angeles and worked as an entertainer and nightclub singer in the club the Roaring ’20s. He appeared on the TV show The Alaskans in 1960 before making his first movie appearance in X-15 (1961).
His film résumé also includes Riot on Sunset Strip (1967), Moonchild (1974), Run for the Roses (1977) and Beverly Hills Brats (1989). He was a member of SAG for more than 50 years.
Geller, most famously known as the creator of the Mission: Impossible TV series, died in May 1978 at age 47 when his small plane crashed in a canyon near Santa Barbara. Renella’s niece said it was her uncle who identified Geller’s body.
In addition to his niece and her husband John, Renella’s survivors include his sister Florence and another nephew, Steven.
A mass was held Nov. 14 at Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, followed by another mass three days later at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville, Ill.
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Jon M. Chu