Joe Bologna, the celebrated actor, director and Oscar-nominated and Emmy- and Writers Guild Award-winning screenwriter, died Sunday at City of Hope in Duarte, CA. He was 82. “He had a beautiful life and a beautiful death having fully and gratefully experienced three years since being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai,” his wife of 52 years actress-writer Renée Taylor said in a statement.
Bologna was a role model in the Italian-American community. He shined shoes to put himself through Brown University, where he graduated as an art history major. From there, he went on to serve in the Marine Corps and later worked as a successful commercial director and earned many Clio Awards.
He and his wife wrote their first Broadway show Lovers and Other Strangers, which was directed by Charles Grodin and ran for two months in 1968. They adapted it for the 1970 film, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay. They continued their writing streak and wrote and starred in the acclaimed Made for Each Other, which won a Writers Guild Award. They also went on to win an Emmy for the 1973 Marlo Thomas TV special, Acts of Love and Other Comedies.
Their other credits include the critically acclaimed CBS TV series Calucci’s Department, HBO special Bedrooms and the PBS series American Dream Machine. They co-wrote and co-directed 1996’s Love Is All There Is, where they discovered and introduced Angelina Jolie. In addition, they wrote an impressive list of 22 published plays including It Had to Be You, Bermuda Avenue Triangle and 2001’s If You Ever Leave Me I’m Going With You, their last Broadway show that they wrote and co-starred in together.
His diverse acting credits are extensive and span three decades. He appeared in Blame It on Rio with Michael Caine and Demi Moore, Woman in Red with Gene Wilder, Honor Thy Father with Raf Vallone as well as Big Daddy with Adam Sandler. He also was a staple during the “Movie of the Week” golden age, starring in One Cooks The Other Doesn’t with Susan Pleshette and Rosanna Arquette and Sins with Joan Collins. On TV he is remembered for his roles on the Married … with Children spinoff Top of the Heap with Matt LeBlanc and the 1980s musical TV drama Rags to Riches with Tisha Campbell.
Bologna’s final work is the forthcoming Tango Shalom, which he wrote and starred in alongside his wife and longtime friend Lainie Kazan. His daughter Zizi Bologna serves as the Music Supervisor while his son Gabriel directed the project.
Taylor and Bologna met through their mutual manager and celebrated their 52nd anniversary on August 11. During his last night, Taytor, hoping he would say something funny, asked him, “So Joe, what do you think is the meaning of life?” and Joe answered, “Love.
“His team of doctors, who prolonged his life, were Dr. Roger Lerner and Dr. David Hoffman of Cedars Sinai, in Beverly Hills,” Taylor said in her statement. “For the last six months during the cancer’s most aggressive stage, Dr. Vincent Chung and Dr. Stefanie Mooney of City of Hope gave him back a wonderful quality of life by creating a personalized treatment and palliative care plan, so that he could receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Night of 100 Stars on February 26, of this year, take a month-long trip to his favorite place, Italy, with his family in June, and attend the 35th Anniversary celebration of My Favorite Year, on July 27th.”