Nehemiah Persoff


“HE’S still alive? He was middle aged when most media was still black and white!” was a reliable staple for casual deadpoolers in the earlier bits of this century. Prolific character actor Nehemiah Persoff was one of the very last great instances of that tradition, appearing in 200+ films and TV shows with a chunky build that did not look conductive to making the new millennium, let alone 2022. Born in Jerusalem, Persoff immigrated to the US aged 9 and later decided to take up acting. Taught by Elia Kazan as part of the inaugural Actors Studio class, over the course of his career he generally veered towards villainous roles, and ran the whole gamut of ethnicities.

Persoff’s longevity and extensive career meant he was a surviving link to countless classics. One of his first roles was as the cab driver in the “coulda been a contender” scene in On the Waterfront. He was the last surviving credited cast member of Some Like It Hot, portraying Mussolini-esque mobster Little Bonaparte. A rare leading role came through early Twilight Zone episode “Judgment Night”. And he was murdered by Jack Cassidy in Columbo, in fan favourite “Now You See Him”, where he portrayed the grody boss of Cassidy’s magician character who long cloaked his client’s Nazi past for financial gain. In an episode that highlights the importance of capable actors – the “magician with a Nazi secret” concept could’ve easily been a hokey novelty in lesser hands but is a delight to watch in Cassidy’s – Persoff too did what he had to do in giving his character the odiousness the part asked for. The Nehemiah Persoffs of the world ably doing the unheralded bit parts mattered.

In the 80s, Persoff was best known for genial roles such as Barbra Streisand’s father in Yentl and the voice of Papa Mousekewitz in An American Tail. Made of stern stuff, he suffered a stroke that curtailed his acting career yet he lived another quarter century! Pursuing painting likely helped his post-stroke longevity, but he’s now been brushed out at a venerable 102. He was picked by an octet of teams, including joker points for Zombie Dance Party and Old As Dirt.

Nehemiah Persoff
2 August 1919 – 5 April 2022, aged 102
8 TEAMS (💀💀💀💀 4 POINTS, 🃏 (x2) 8 POINTS)