Alex Rocco, who passed away yesterday at the age of 79 according to his daughter’s Facebook page, was a gravelly voiced actor that you’ll most remember as Moe Greene from The Godfather, but he lived 100 other lives on screens big and small over the course of a career that spanned fifty years.
According to an illuminating interview that Rocco gave to The AV Club back in 2012, his early career roles were dotted with fascinating behind the scenes shenanigans like Russ Meyer’s decision to put Rocco up in a motel room with Haji (his leading lady on Motor Psycho), in an effort to familiarize the two and how he stole a small role on the Batman TV series from another actor who was on the can when the studio called looking for him.
According to Vincent Teresa’s book, “My Life In The Mob,” Rocco also had his share of fascinating behind the scenes experiences in the Boston underworld before going to Hollywood in the mid-’60s. An experience that Rocco perhaps drew from to get insight into the mind of his most noted character.
In 1972’s The Godfather, Rocco had a small but vital role as Vegas pioneer and mobster Moe Greene, a man who doesn’t take kindly to Michael Corleone’s attempt to push him out of the casino business and someone who made his “bones” while Corleone was “going out with cheerleaders.” Rocco’s delivery of the line, “Do you know who I am?” likely inspired every dad-bod tough guy’s utterance of the same phrase whilst scuffling over a parking space at the mall.
In the end, Greene took one in the glasses while getting a rub down as the Corleone family settled all business, but Greene’s death didn’t sit well with adorable pint-sized gangster Hyman Roth, who had done his first work with Moe and held a grudge against Michael in The Godfather Part II.
Through the rest of the ’70s, Rocco worked steadily in films like The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Detroit 9000, and the Joan Rivers directed Billy Crystal film, The Rabbit Test. Rocco also had one-offs on numerous ’70s cop shows and starred in the CBS mini-series, Three For The Road.
The ’80s saw steady work in film for Rocco, most notably starring in The Lady In White. On television, Rocco booked a recurring role as Jo’s father on Facts of Life and starred in The Famous Teddy Z, which won him an Emmy for best supporting actor even though the show got cancelled before the end of its first season.
Rocco would go on to co-star with George Carlin in the acclaimed but similarly short-lived George Carlin Show and had a recurring role as Roger Meyers Jr. on The Simpsons in the ’90s. More recently, Rocco had supporting parts in Find Me Guilty beside Vin Diesel and The Wedding Planner. He’s also popped up here and there as a featured guest (Party Down, Maron) and a recurring character (Magic City, Episodes) on TV, while also dabbling in voice work.
According to IMDB, Rocco has small roles in two projects that are in post-production.
Here’s hoping they put “a plaque or a signpost or a statue” of Rocco up somewhere in Hollywood, because the entertainment world lost a true character today.