Actor Frank Campanella's physical form almost single-handedly defined his Hollywood typecasting. A 6' 5" barrel-chested Italian with a great, hulking presence and memorably stark facial features, Campanella excelled as a character player, almost invariably appearing as toughs and heavies. Born to a piano builder father who played in the orchestras of Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, and Al Jolson, Campanella studied music exhaustively as a young man, and trained as a concert pianist, but discovered a rivaling passion for drama and entered Manhattan College as an acting major.
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Campanella's career as an actor began somewhat uncharacteristically, on a light and jovial note, by playing Mook the Moon Man during the first season of the Dumont network's infamous and much-loved kiddie show Captain Video and his Video Rangers (1949-1954). One- and two-episode stints on many American television programs followed for Campanella, most on themes of crime and law enforcement, including Inside Detective (1952), The Man Behind the Badge (1954), Danger (1954), and episodes of the anthology series Playwrights '56 (1956), Studio One (1956), and Suspicion (1957) that called for gritty, thuggish, urban types.
During the 1960s, Campanella sought out the same kinds roles in feature films -- a path he pursued for several decades. Turns included John Frankenheimer's 1966 Seconds (as the Man in the Station); Mel Brooks' 1968 The Producers (as a bartender); 1970's The Movie Murderer (as an arson lieutenant); the Steve Carver-directed, Roger Corman-produced gangster film Capone (1975, as Big Jim Colosimo); Ed Forsyth's 1976 Chesty Anderson -- U.S. Navy (as the Baron); Conway in Warren Beatty's 1978 Heaven Can Wait; and Judge Neal A. Lake in Michael Winner's 1982 Death Wish 2. Campanella teamed with director Garry Marshall seven times: as Col. Cal Eastland in The Flamingo Kid (1984), Remo in Nothing in Common (1986), Captain Karl in Overboard (1987), Frank the Doorman in Beaches (1988), Pops in Pretty Woman (1990), a retired customer in Frankie and Johnny (1991), and a Wheelchair Walker in Exit to Eden (1994). Campanella re-teamed with Warren Beatty for the first time since 1978 as Judge Harper in Dick Tracy (1990) and again as the Elevator Operator in Love Affair (1994).
Additional series in which Campanella appeared during the 1970s and '80s included Maude, Hardcastle & McCormick, Quincy, M.E., The Love Boat, Barnaby Jones, The Rockford Files, The Fall Guy, St. Elsewhere, and many others.
In middle age, Campanella parlayed his early musical training into two career choices that blended music and drama: a part on a commercial that required him to play the piano and a job as co-host of a musical program on KCSN Radio called "Offbeat Notes on Music." He also appeared on Broadway in such musicals as Guys and Dolls and Nobody Loves an Albatross. After many years of inactivity, Frank Campanella ultimately died at his home in the San Fernando Valley, of unspecified causes. He was 87. Survivors included his brother, actor Joseph Campanella, his sister-in-law, and 13 nephews and nieces. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi