Nehemiah Persoff

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Nehemiah Persoff

Born

8/14/1920, Jerusalem, Palestine

Birth Name

Gender

Male
9.7
out of 10
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Biography

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Short, dark, and stocky framed character actor who specialized in playing ethnic type villains although he frequently essayed sympathetic roles as well. Appeared in more than 200 TV guest shots over the years until the mid-90's when his health began to decline. Most famous TV role was that…more

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  • You probably don't know the name....

    10
    but you would definitely recognize the face of Nehemiah Persoff if you're a fan of television from the 50's through the 80's. Persoff was one of those talented and reliable character actors which make up the backbone of nearly every television show. He played a German U-boat commander on an episode of Twilight Zone, a madman on an episode of Wild, Wild West, a mob turncoat on an episode of Hawaii Five-O, and a rabbi on episodes of L.A. Law and Chicago Hope. These two latter shows illustrate Persoff's versatility. He could switch from playing heavies to sympathetic roles with little fuss and be believable in both types of roles.



    Perhaps his three most famous roles are as the cab driver in the "I coulda been a contenduh" scene between Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger in the classic On the Waterfront, as Barbra Streisand's father in Yentl, and as mobster Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik on the Untouchables. Persoff appeared on The Untouchables six times and essayed other roles but it's his three appearances as Guzik for which he's the best remembered. And, oh yes, for those who are fans of the Fivel animated movies, Persoff also provides the voice of Papa Mousekewitz.



    Ill health forced Persoff to wind down his acting career in the mid-90's. These days he's retired and living on the coast of California although he's still found time to take up painting and sell a few. Maybe he could call his paintings Jake Guzik Originals. Or maybe not.moreless