Godfather actor Abe Vigoda dies aged 94

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Abe Vigoda’s role in The Godfather launched his career

The actor Abe Vigoda, who played a doomed Mafia soldier in The Godfather, has died aged 94.

His family said he died peacefully in his sleep.

Vigoda played Sal Tessio, an old friend of Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone, who plots to take over the family after the Don’s death by killing his son.

The role made him recognisable to millions and led to many more roles, including as detective Phil Fish in the 1970s TV series Barney Miller.

His most memorable line in The Godfather comes just before his character Tessio is taken to his death, when he tells family adviser Tom Hagen: “Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.”

Before the Godfather films Vigoda had worked in relative obscurity in TV and on the New York theatre circuit.

Many of his later roles were as gangsters, but in Barney Miller he became much-loved in the comedy role and in 1977 his character got his own series, focusing on domestic life.

He also appeared in films such as Canonball Run II, Look Who’s Talking and North.

Towards the end of his life, he often appeared on lists of living celebrities believed to have died and he played along with the hoaxes on TV chat show appearances.

Vigoda was married twice and is survived by a daughter from his first marriage, two grandchildren and a great-grandson.

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