Abe Vigoda as Detective Phil Fish on “Barney Miller.”
The writer of “Silver Screen Reflections” and “At The Matinee” remembers actor Abe Vigoda, who died at the age of 94 on Tuesday.
Born Abraham Charles Vigoda in Brooklyn, New York on Feb. 24, 1921, he was interested in acting at an early age according to The New York Times. In 1949, Vigoda got his start by appearing on the CBS television series “Suspense,” which was adapted from the CBS radio network thriller series of the same name.
After appearing in various roles on Broadway, film and television, Vigoda got his big break in 1972, by playing the role of underworld figure Salvatore “Sal” Tessio in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather,” adapted from Mario Puzo’s novel. Coppola’s film would be a smash success, and Vigoda would become a household name.
He would go onto greater success in 1975, when he was cast as veteran detective Phil Fish on the police sitcom, “Barney Miller,” alongside Hal Linden (who played the title role).
At the peak of his career, Vigoda left the hit series in 1977. That same year, he would soon return in the role that he played on “Barney Miller” in a short-lived spin-off series, “Fish.” Vigoda returned to “Barney Miller” in a 1981 cameo appearance (in the episode “Lady and the Bomb”). After Vigoda’s cameo, the series ended its network run the following year.
After an article was published in People Magazine on the end of “Barney Miller” in 1982, he was declared “the late” Abe Vigoda (after not attending a wrap party for the end of the series). The true story was that Vigoda was unavailable to attend, due to performing in a play in Alberta, Canada. He would take this misconception lightly throughout the rest of his life.
Throughout the latter part of his career, he would make various guest appearances on shows, including David Letterman and Conan O’Brien’s late night shows.
In 2010, Vigoda made a surprise appearance in a Super Bowl commercial for Snickers, featuring Betty White.
Silver Screen Reflections remembers Abe Vigoda (1921-2016).
In honor of Abe Vigoda, Tribune’s Antenna TV Network will showcase 12 episodes of “Barney Miller” (centered on his “Fish” character), beginning this Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern. In the Frederick, Maryland/Washington, D.C. area, Antenna TV can be seen on WDCW-TV 50.2/Comcast 201.
Full-length Season 1 and Season 2 episodes of “Barney Miller” (featuring Vigoda) can be seen for free on Sony’s “Crackle” streaming service,
Also available on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (Seasons 1, 2 and 3) and Shout! Factory (Season 4 and the complete box set)
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