James Caan, the iconic American actor known for performances in “The Godfather” and “Misery,” among many others, died Wednesday, according to an official social media post.
He was 82.
“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6,” his Twitter account announced mid-day Thursday. “The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
Born March 26, 1940, in the Bronx, Caan was an up-and-comer when he landed the role of Sonny in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 hit “The Godfather,” which is frequently cited as the greatest film ever made.
He had appeared in such films as the 1966 western “El Dorado” with screen legends John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, Robert Altman’s “Countdown” (1967), had worked with Coppola in 1969’s “The Rain People,” and starred in the title role of “Brian’s Song” (1971), one of the first made-for-TV movies, which touchingly documented the friendship between Black football player Gale Sayers and his doomed white teammate, Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer.
But it was Sonny Corleone that gave Caan his chance to show what he could do, a character with a short fuse who died as spectacularly as he lived. The performance was so convincing he was often mistaken for Italian; his parents were Jews who had immigrated from Germany, raising him in Queens, New York.
Caan worked off-Broadway and on TV, making his debut on “Naked City” in 1961 and appearing on such series as “Route 66” (1961), “The Untouchables” (1962), “Dr. Kildare” (1963), and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” (1964).
His Broadway debut came in “Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole” (1961), and he saw himself on the big screen for the first time in an uncredited part in “Irma La Douce” (1963) ahead of a bigger part in the campy thriller “Lady in a Cage” (1964) opposite Olivia de Havilland.
More to come…