Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Columbo" Character Actor Vito Scotti 1996 Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Vito Scotti (January 26, 1918 – June 5, 1996) was a veteran character actor who played many roles, primarily from the late 1940s to the mid-1990s. He was known as a man of a thousand faces, for his ability to assume so many divergent roles in more than 200 screen roles, in a nearly 50 year career. He was known for his resourceful portrayals of various ethnic types. Born of Italian heritage, he was seen playing everything from a Mexican bandit, and Russian doctor, to a Japanese sailor.
Though born in San Francisco in 1918, the Scotti family spent Vito's early years in Naples, Italy. By 1925 the Scotti family returned to the U.S., his mother was a diva in the stage theatre in New York. It was in the Italian theatre, that Scotti developed his gift for farce, which was modeled after the Commedia dell'arte style of the Italian theatre. He worked the night club circuit as a stand-up magician and performed pantomime, finally breaking into movies and television by the early 1950s. His screen debut came in an uncredited role, playing a 'Mexican youth' in "Illegal Entry" (1949), with Howard Duff and George Brent.

In the next few years, after a dozen screen roles, by 1953, Scotti replaced J. Carroll Naish as 'Luigi Basco', an Italian Immigrant who ran a Chicago antique store, on the television version of the radio show Life with Luigi. Five years later he portrayed another ethnic character, 'Rama from India' (among other characters) in the live-action segment in "Gunga Ram" on the Andy Devine children's show, "Andy's Gang". In the mid-1950s, Scotti played the antagonist against Froggy the Gremlin on Andy's Gang[1].

Best remembered by audiences in hundreds of film/TV roles, notably as baker 'Nazorine' in 1972's The Godfather, and as the frustrated San Francisco landlord 'Vittorio' in 1979's Chu Chu and the Philly Flash, and most notably as the scene stealing cook, who surprised an agitated Debbie Reynolds in her 1967 How Sweet It Is! In the pivotal classic comedy scene, Scotti grabs a flustered Reynolds, and plants a kiss on her midriff. Gifted in comedy and drama, Scotti had minor roles in movies such as Von Ryan's Express and Cactus Flower, and also appeared in television series such as State Trooper, How to Marry a Millionaire (as Jules in the 1958 episode "Loco and the Gambler"), Johnny Staccato, The Addams Family, Gunsmoke, Breaking Point, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Columbo, The Monkees, The Flying Nun, Get Smart and Hogan's Heroes. He also played a mad scientist Dr. Boris Balinkoff (twice) and a stereotypical Japanese sailor on Gilligan's Island. As well as an Italian Restaurant owner in episode 35 of season one of Bewitched. His last screen performance was as the 'Manager at Vesuvios,' in 1995's John Travolta comedy, Get Shorty.

Personal life and death

In addition to his accomplishments as an actor, he was highly regarded as a chef. Vito loved cooking, especially the recipes of his beloved mother and grandmother. Two generations of Hollywood's top names always left his dinner parties raving about the food and wine. He was married for many years, to Irene A. Scozzari, until her death at 54, in April 15, 1979. Scotti remarried a woman named Beverly, and they were married until his death. Scotti was a dedicated fundraiser for the 'Carmen Fund,' set up by the Joaquin Miller High School Parents Guild, to assist the school's special-needs students, in obtaining medical treatment. The fund was named for the Scottis' daughter, one of the first patients to undergo pioneering spinal implant surgery.

Vito Giusto Scotti died of lung cancer at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA on June 5, 1996, at age 78.[2] Mr. Scotti was interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, along with his wife Irene, in the Abbey of Psalms Mausoleum, Corridor of light, G-4, crypt 1253. Vito Scotti was survived by his daughter Carmen Scozzari (who today works for LAUSD as a Special Education Assistant in the West San Fernando Valley), his son Ricardo, a brother Jerry, and his widow Beverly.


1.^ Scotti's biography on the Froggy the Gremlin website.
2.^ Vito Scotti at the Internet Movie database


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