Carmine Caridi, who played the traitorous Carmine Rosato in The Godfather, Part II (1974) and returned to the Francis Ford Coppola franchise to portray Albert Volpe in The Godfather Part III (1990), died Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, where he had been in a coma. He was 85.
The veteran actor had screen credits in the triple-digits by the end of his career but his signature roles was Rosato, a key figure in the bloody mob battle that played out as a centerpiece of The Godfather, Part II, which won the Academy Award for best picture to match the gold-plated achievement of its predecessor, The Godfather (1972). Rosato’s machinations created turmoil and confusion for the Corleone Family but in the end his gambit failed and his fate was a shotgun execution.
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Caridi also gained a measure of industry notoriety in 2004 when he became the first person to be expelled by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over illegally circulating DVDs of Oscar screeners. A federal piracy investigation of pirated films led authorities to the Illinois home of Russell William Sprague where they found hundreds of Academy screeners, many of which traced back directly to Caridi.
Caridi’s Academy membership was subsequently revoked, an unprecedented move at the time. The incident puts the actor on an ignominious shortlist: Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby, and Caridi are the only four members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ever banished from the organization.
A statement released by the New York native’s reps lauded a long career that veered from stage to screen: “From Broadway, to film and television, Carmine spent over six decades entertaining audiences, and nothing made him happier. His talent, wit, warmth, and charm will be missed. Carmine passed peacefully, surrounded by friends and family, yesterday afternoon at Cedars Sinai Hospital.”
A year after The Godfather, Part III, Caridi was back in the mob mindset for Barry Levinson’s Bugsy (1991), which would be Oscar-nominated for best picture and featured Caridi as legendary hitman Frank Costello. Caridi played another gangland giant the next year in Ruby (1992) when he portrayed Chicago mob boss Salvatore “Sam” Giancana in the JFK-centric biopic of Jack Ruby. His other feature film credits include Prince of the City, The Money Pit, Brewster’s Millions, Havana, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Summer Rental.
Caridi’s television credits spanned six decades, beginning with an appearance on Naked City in 1962 and concluding this year with an appearance as Uncle Murray on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Among his notable recurring guest roles: Angelo Martelli on 14 episodes of Fame, Dan Valenti on 24 episodes of Phyllis, and Det. Vince Gotelli on 15 episodes of NYPD Blue.
Two notable roles that don’t appear among Caridi’s career credits were pair of notable parts that eluded him. In his memoir, The Kid Stays in the Picture, producer Robert Evans noted that Caridi was the first choice to play Sonny Corleone in the Godfather franchise but was later deemed too tall to play opposite Al Pacino. The Sonny part went instead to James Caan and became a signature performance in his filmography. Caridi was also reportedly close to get the part of Paulie in Rocky (1976), which went on to claim the Oscar for best picture.
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