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The Goodfellas Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas" remains one of the most acclaimed motion pictures of all time. Released in the United States on September 19, 1990, the film went on to earn nearly $47 million at the box office, an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor Joe Pesci, and five additional Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. 

The film stars Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, and Paul Sorvino and is based on the book "Wiseguy" by Nicholas Pileggi. The work tells the true-life story of Henry Hill (Liotta), who rose to fame in the powerful Lucchese crime family alongside his partners Jimmy Conway (DeNiro) and Tommy DeVito (Pesci) before becoming an FBI informant.

Since its release, "Goodfellas" has continually been lauded as one of the all-time great films by critics and audiences alike, frequently landing on lists such as AFI's "100 Years ... 100 Movies" and Empire's "100 Greatest Movies." Roger Ebert even wrote that "No finer film has ever been made about organized crime" and placed it in his Great Movies collection. In other words, Scorsese's picture is a genuine classic that perfectly captures the alluring but ultimately dangerous world of the mob.

Nearly 32 years have passed since "Goodfellas" hit theaters, which means many of the cast members have either changed considerably or departed this world. And while the main cast remains mostly intact — many of them appeared in Scorsese's epic "The Irishman" — a surprising amount of key players in the gangster epic are no longer with us. As such, we wanted to highlight the many actors from the classic film who have died and remember their valuable contributions to cinematic history.

Frank DiLeo

Frank DiLeo is best known for his role in the music industry, where he served not only as an executive at Epic Records but also as the manager of Michael Jackson. DiLeo held this role for roughly five years following the release of "Thriller," and then again briefly just before Jackson died in 2009. During this time, he produced a number of Jackson's music videos and short films, including "Bad," "Speed Demon," "Moonwalker," "Leave Me Alone," and "HIStory."

Naturally, as the King of Pop's manager, DiLeo was on hand during the shooting of the famous "Bad" music video, which just happened to be directed by one Martin Scorsese. The pair got to know one another, leading to DiLeo's casting in "Goodfellas" as Paul Cicero's younger brother, Tuddy.

DiLeo's role in the film is small but pivotal. He serves as a mentor to young Henry early on and, at one point, chastises the kid for using his clean aprons to help a wounded man. More importantly, Tuddy is the one who ends up shooting Tommy in retribution for Billy Batts' murder, among other notable crimes.

After "Goodfellas," DiLeo appeared in a handful of films, notably the 1992 blockbuster comedy "Wayne's World" and its 1993 sequel, "Wayne's World 2," where he played Frankie "Mr. Big" Sharp alongside Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. He also appeared in the 1995 crime drama "Kiss of Death" opposite David Caruso, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicolas Cage.

On August 24, 2011, DiLeo passed away following complications with heart surgery. The cigar-chomping actor/producer was 63.

Chuck Low

Being friends with Robert DeNiro certainly has its advantages. Just ask actor Chuck Low, a former real estate developer who met Robert DeNiro in the 1970s (via Deadline). The Academy Award-winning actor was one of Low's tenants at the time and the pair quickly hit it off. As such, DeNiro secured roles for his friend in films such as "The King of Comedy," "Once Upon a Time in America," "The Mission," and, of course, "Goodfellas," where the actor memorably portrayed Morrie's Wig Shop owner, Morrie Kessler (based on real life gangster Martin Krugman).

Low's most notable scene sees his character getting choked by DeNiro's Jimmy Conway after refusing to pay a debt. He appears sporadically throughout the film, often alongside DeNiro. Following the famed Lufthansa heist — in which he plays a significant role — Morrie begins demanding the money owed to him by Jimmy, eventually becoming a nuisance (and liability) to the big-time gangster. Ultimately, Morrie is stabbed in the back of the head with a knife by Tommy — a moment that shows just how ruthless and paranoid Jimmy had become following his rise in power.

Low went on to feature in DeNiro-led films such as "Mistress," "Night and the City" and "Sleepers," and even appeared in the TV series "The Sopranos" before dying in a nursing home at the age of 89 on September 18, 2017.

Paul Sorvino

The mob boss is always among the most captivating, charismatic, and inscrutable characters in a mob movie. In "Goodfellas," one of the greatest mob movies, that mob boss was played memorably and to the hilt by veteran character actor Paul Sorvino. One of the top-billed stars in the 1990 film, Sorvino portrayed Paulie Cicero, a Brooklyn-based organized crime lord and head of an Italian-American enterprise who hires wannabe made-man Henry Hill to do his bidding, serving as a frightening superior and father figure in equal measure.

An actor of the stage and screen with dozens of credits to his name before he found his most prominent, career-making role in "Goodfellas" when he was in his early fifties, Sorvino enjoyed a second act as one of the most prolific actors in the entertainment industry. Often playing criminals, tough guys, authority figures, and imposing men, the same year that he starred in "Goodfellas," Sorvino played outrageous gangster Lips Manlis in "Dick Tracy" before moving into a two-year stint on "Law & Order" in 1991 as Sergeant Phil Cerreta. Sorvino played global political figure Henry Kissinger in Oliver Stone's "Nixon," Juliet's father in Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet," and Frank Costello in "Godfather of Harlem," among other roles.

According to Sorvino's publicist (via CNN), the actor died of natural causes on July 25, 2022. Sorvino was 83.

Frank Vincent

Frank Vincent has only a few minutes of screen time in "Goodfellas," but he certainly leaves quite the impression as the ill-fated gangster Billy Batts, who memorably scolds Tommy for his lack of respect and tells him to "Go home and get your f****** shinebox." The exchange leaves Tommy reeling, prompting him and Jimmy to beat Billy to death in Henry's bar. The murder sends repercussions through "Goodfellas" gangland as Batts was a "made" man who worked for the Gambino crime family, eventually leading to Tommy's death and, later, the downfall of the Lucchese crime family.

This wasn't Vincent's first or last foray into the crime genre. The actor, who has 90 film credits to his name, appeared in the classic pictures "Raging Bull," "Do the Right Thing," and "Casino," as well as Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever," Sidney Lumet's "Before Night Falls on Manhattan," James Mangold's "Copland" and the animated film "Shark Tale." He also famously voiced the character Salvatore Leone in "Grand Theft Auto III" and, later, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" and its spinoff, "Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories." Even more notable, Vincent was cast as vicious mob boss Phil Leotardo in the hit TV series "The Sopranos," where he appeared in 30 episodes before his character was killed off in Season 6.

Vincent died on September 13, 2017, of complications from heart surgery. The iconic actor was 80 at the time of his passing.

Henny Youngman

Famed comedian and violinist Henny Youngman made a reputation as the "King of One-Liners" over nearly seven decades, notably with the popular series of jokes, "Take my wife, please," which often came at the expense of his spouse, Sadie.

The talented artist appears in "Goodfellas" as himself during the iconic three-minute tracking shot during which Henry Hill escorts his girlfriend Karen through a nightclub and eventually lands a front-row table amidst Henny's standup routine. Naturally, Henny's series of jokes revolve around his popular catchphrase: "Take my wife, please," he begins. "I take my wife everywhere, but she finds her way home."

Apparently, the famed scene took dozens of takes to get right, as detailed in producer Irwin Winkler explains in his book "A Life in Movies" (per MovieMaker Magazine). At one moment, Scorsese felt he nailed the complicated scene just right before Henny came out and flubbed his signature line. It took another five takes to finally land the big moment, which earned Henny applause from the crew.

"Goodfellas" wasn't the comedian's first performance as himself. Over the years, he dropped into films such as "Nashville Rebel" and "The Great Masquerade" and TVs "The Mary Tyler Moore Hour" to perform a few jokes. He also enjoyed gigs on the popular Adam West "Batman" series, where he played Manny the Mesopotamian, and in Mel Brooks' "History of the World: Part I," where he appeared as the Roman Empire's chemist.

Youngman, who once delivered 250 jokes in 45 minutes, died on February 24, 1998, at the age of 91 from complications of the flu.

Gina Mastrogiacomo

Gina Mastrogiacomo appears in "Goodfellas" as one of Henry's mistresses named Janice Rossi. The film introduces her about midway through the film immediately following Billy Batts' gruesome death. At this point, Henry and his cohorts, Jimmy and Tommy, are still living reasonably comfortable lives and spend their nights escorting a bevy of women around town while their wives stay at home with the kids.

As Henry explains in the film, "Saturday night was for the wives, but Friday night at the Copa was always for the girlfriends." This idea obviously doesn't sit well with Henry's wife, Karen, prompting the embittered woman to visit Janice's apartment and threaten to tell everyone in the complex about her infidelity. As such, Janice promptly exits the picture, forcing Henry to swap her out for Debi Mazar's Sandy, who was first introduced to Henry by Janice (the life of a Goodfella is complicated, to say the least).

At the time, "Goodfellas" was Gina's highest-profile film following her debut in 1989's "Alien Space Avenger." Her bit part in Scorsese's picture, however, led to roles in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever," the comedy sequel "The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear," "Seinfeld," "ER," and "The X-Files."

Clearly, Mastrogiacomo was a star on the rise. Unfortunately, the actress passed away due to a rare bacterial infection of the heart on May 2, 2001, at the age of 39.

Catherine Scorsese

Catherine Scorsese, the mother of "Goodfellas" director Martin Scorsese, appears in the crime drama as Tommy's mother in a brief but memorable scene following Henry, Jimmy, and Tommy's disposal of Billy Batts. In fact, the trio only turns up at the older woman's place to get some tools to help with their problem and eventually sit down for dinner — all while a mangled corpse lies in the trunk of their car outside. The moment allows audiences to witness the genuine love and affection these otherwise heartless gangsters have for their friends and family, and Catherine's performance helps sell the scene.

Intriguingly, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Martin said that Catherine improvised almost all of her lines in this scene. He directed her to welcome her son home and let his mother do the rest. In fact, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci followed her lead, which is why the moment feels so natural and genuine. Catherine appears sporadically throughout the film — turning up at Henry's wedding to chastise her son for not being more like Henry — and later in a quick sequence where she gives Tommy a kiss just before his execution.

Still, this was not Catherine Scorsese's first foray into the world of film. At this point, the veteran actress had appeared in many of her son's films, including "Mean Streets" and "Taxi Driver." She also had bit parts in classics such as Norman Jewison's "Moonstruck" — starring Cher and Nicolas Cage — and Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather Part III," which was released the same year as "Goodfellas." Catherine's final performance came in her son's crime drama "Casino," where she played the mother of Artie Piscano (Vinny Vella).

Sadly, Catherine, who would often cook dinners for the cast and crew — a gig that led to a published cookbook of family recipes — passed away from Alzheimer's in 1997. She was 84.

Charles Scorsese

Like his wife, Catherine, Luciano Charles Scorsese appeared in nearly all of his son's films, including "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "The King of Comedy," and "After Hours." In "Goodfellas," he cameos as Vinnie, the man making spaghetti sauce for Paul and Henry's gang in prison. Henry believes Vinnie uses too many onions but still maintains that it's a good sauce. Earlier, Charles appears at Henry's wedding — albeit in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role — and later, the actor stands alongside Tommy during his execution at the hands of Tuddy.  Following "Goodfellas," Charles made an uncredited appearance in John Badham's "The Hard Way," starring Michael J. Fox and James Woods, before bit cameos in two more films directed by his son — "Cape Fear" and "The Age of Innocence."

Neither Charles nor his wife were professional actors — Charles was actually a presser for much of his life — but that doesn't matter when your son is a legendary filmmaker.

The veteran actor died on August 23, 1993, after a long illness. He was 80.

Jerry Vale

Martin Scorsese fans are likely familiar with the popular singer Jerry Vale. The talented musician had a hand in a number of the famed director's productions, albeit through popular musical hits from the 1950s that pop up in the soundtracks of almost all of Scorsese's films. According to the famed director, while he enjoyed the likes of Tony Bennett and Dean Martin as a young man, it was often Jerry Vale who dominated the record player in his home (via The New York Times).

For "Goodfellas," Vale actually pulls double duty, appearing as himself to sing "Pretend You Don't See Her" when Henry and Tommy are at the Copacabana nightclub with their girlfriends. Vale likewise appears in Scorsese's "Casino," where he sings the ballad "Love Me The Way I Love You." More notably, in Scorsese's "The Irishman," Steven Van Zandt portrays the iconic crooner, lip singing "Spanish Eyes" and "Al Di La" during a gala where the Teamsters discuss the fate of Jimmy Hoffa (played by Al Pacino).

Vale died on May 18, 2014, at the age of 83, leaving behind a storied legacy that includes more than 50 albums and a number of notable hits, namely "Two Purple Shadows" and the aforementioned "Al Di La" and "You Don't Know Me," which peaked at No. 14 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1956. He was also, famously, close friends with fellow crooner Frank Sinatra.

Frank Pellegrino

Frank Pellegrino portrayed real-life gangster Johnny Dio in "Goodfellas," but his life could also produce a solid film as it is quite extraordinary. Such is the case when one runs a popular celebrity attraction such as Rao's, an exclusive restaurant located in East Harlem.

As it turns out, Frank, an aspiring singer, was enlisted to help his aunt out at the joint. What started as a part-time gig eventually morphed into a career spanning 44 years and eventually earned him the nickname Frankie No due to his propensity for turning down guests no matter their rank or standing in the city. Naturally, such a character drew the attention of Martin Scorsese, who cast frank in his gangster epic and later used his restaurant as a location in his film "The Wolf of Wall Street," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, and Jonah Hill.

Frank eventually went on to star in a number of high-profile projects, including "It Could Happen to You," with Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda; "Cop Land," opposite Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, and "Goodfellas" cast members Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro; "Knockaround Guys," with Vin Diesel; and TV shows such as "New York Undercover," "Swift Justice," "Law & Order," and "Big Apple." More famously, Pellegrino appeared in HBO's popular "The Sopranos," where he played Bureau Chief Frank Cubitso in 11 episodes.

Sadly, Frank Pellegrino passed away on January 31, 2017, from lung cancer at age 72.

Frank Adonis

Frank Adonis appeared in over 40 films and TV shows throughout his career, which began in the early 1970s with an uncredited appearance in the crime drama "The French Connection," where he played a bidder at a New York car auction. His career led to high profile pictures such as "The Gambler," "Raging Bull," "Wall Street," "King of New York," "True Romance," "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," and "Casino."

His role in "Goodfellas," where he plays Anthony Stabile, is relatively minor, though he is present during the famous scene where Tommy grows angry at Henry for calling him funny. "Tommy, no, you got it all wrong," Frank's character mutters when Tommy presses Henry for the reason he called him funny. "Am I a clown? Do I amuse you?" Tommy infamously asks. Eventually, it turns out Tommy was just messing with Henry, though the sequence foreshadows the latter's eventual betrayal at the end of the picture.

Frank died on December 26, 2018, at the age of 83, after a long illness. His last credit was the drama "Proximity to Power," which was released in 2017.

Frank Albanese

Frank Albanese appears in the early part of "Goodfellas" as a mob lawyer who defends young Henry Hill when he's busted for selling cigarettes alongside his friend Tommy. Frank has no speaking lines other than telling the young kid where to stand during the trial. However, he does get a closeup, during which he makes a not-so-subtle nod to the judge presiding over the case, which ends in Henry's release.

Lucky for Frank, the bit part — as well as an uncredited turn in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather Part III" the same year — led to more lucrative roles in films such as "Dead Presidents," "Meatballs, Tomatoes and Mobsters," and "Old Secrets No Lies." More famously, Frank starred as Uncle Pat in the hit TV crime drama series "The Sopranos" — a role he played in four episodes from 2004-2007.

Of note, Frank was a boxer in his youth but had to give up the sport after suffering a brain injury, which led to his pursuit of acting. Frank died on October 5, 2015, at age 84, at a Staten Island hospice facility in New York. His last noted credits were the short films "A Dance with Andrea" and "Divided," which were released in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

John 'Cha Cha' Ciarcia

John "Cha Cha" Ciarcia appears as an extra in "Goodfellas," where he plays a member of Billy Batts' crew. The actor doesn't do anything of note during his brief screen time but is still a part of cinema history since he gets a front-row seat to the famous "shinebox" sequence that ultimately sets in the motion the demise of Henry, Jimmy, and Tommy.

Ciarcia appeared in 21 other films and TV shows, most notably "Hoffa," starring Jack Nicholson; "Death to Smoochy," a dark comedy starring Robin Williams and Edward Norton; and, memorably, HBO's "The Sopranos," where he played Albie Cianflone in 13 episodes from 2006-2007.

Off-camera, New Yorkers dubbed Ciarcia the "unofficial mayor of Little Italy" (per Variety) due to his popular restaurant in the area, Cha Cha's In Bocca Al Lupo, a locale frequented by the likes of his close friend Danny DeVito. He also appeared often on the radio program "The Wiseguy Show" with fellow "Sopranos" star Vincent Pastore and served as the boxing manager for Tony Danza before the actor rose to stardom.

Ciarcia died on November 21, 2015, at the age of 75, following a short illness.