NEW YORK – Abe Vigoda, 94, a character actor whose leathery, sad-eyed face made him ideal for playing the over-the-hill detective Phil Fish in the 1970s TV series Barney Miller and the doomed Mafia soldier in The Godfather, died Tuesday.
Mr. Vigoda’s daughter, Carol Vigoda Fuchs, said that Mr. Vigoda died in his sleep at Fuchs’ home in Woodland Park, N.J. The cause of death was old age. “This man was never sick,” Fuchs said.
His death brought to an end years of questions on whether he was still alive – sparked by a false report of his death more than three decades ago. Though Mr. Vigoda took it in stride, the question of whether he was dead or alive became something of a running joke: There was even a website devoted to answering the much-Googled question, “Is Abe Vigoda dead?” (On Tuesday, it had been updated with “Yes,” with the date of his death.)
Mr. Vigoda worked in relative obscurity as a supporting actor in the New York theater and in television until Francis Ford Coppola cast him in the 1972 Oscar-winning The Godfather.