Date of Birth: 3 January 1930, Staten Island, New York, US
Birth Name: Salvatore Loggia
Nicknames: Robert Loggia
Robert Loggia was an American character actor best known for tough-guy roles in gangster films such as Scarface and in the television series The Sopranos.
Strongly built, balding and with a rasping delivery, Loggia suffered from typecasting during the 1970s, obliged to specialise in sharp-suited “heavies” (usually Italians, but also Greeks or Arabs) in television shows such as The Rockford Files, Columbo and The Six Million Dollar Man. But in 1982 he took on the role of Richard Gere’s feckless father in the hit film An Officer and a Gentleman; the part, though small, revealed Loggia to be a perceptive and subtle actor.
High-profile roles followed as mobsters in Brian De Palma’s Scarface (1983) and John Huston’s Prizzi’s Honor (1985), and as the foul-mouthed private eye Sam Ransom in the courtroom thriller Jagged Edge (1985), for which he won an Oscar nomination.
Loggia was equally comfortable portraying benign figures, notably the avuncular toy company owner in the “age-changing” comedy Big (1988) with Tom Hanks.
The son of a Sicilian shoemaker, he was born Salvatore Loggia in Staten Island, New York, on January 3 1930 and brought up in Little Italy, where the family spoke Italian at home. He attended Dorp High School and Wagner College, then, with an idea of working in newspapers, started a degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri, later switching to study with the drama teacher Alvina Krause at Northwestern University.
After a stint in the US Army, he got a place at the Actors’ Studio, under Stella Adler, making his Broadway debut aged 25 in The Man With the Golden Arm. His entry into film came (uncredited) in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) but his breakthrough was as the New Mexican lawman Elfego Baca in the Disney mini-series The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca (1958).
In 1966, he starred in an unusual television detective show, playing Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat, a circus artiste and burglar turned private eye, in T.H.E. Cat. The audience did not take to its dark mood, however, and when the network, NBC, cancelled it after one series, Loggia made a “Dante-esque descent into the inferno of so-called mid-life crisis”, as he put it later.
Restless and self-doubting, he dropped out for six years and his marriage foundered. But encouraged by Audrey O’Brien, whom he would marry, he returned to full productivity. He took up directing, working on Quincy, M.E., Magnum, P.I. and Hart to Hart. He still carried on acting, and his friend Blake Edwards cast him in his Hollywood satire S.O.B. (1981) and in three dreadful Pink Panther sequels: Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), Trail of the Pink Panther (1982, cobbled together after Peter Sellers’s death from deleted scenes) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983).
After An Officer and A Gentleman, which Loggia credited with transforming his career, he appeared in dozens more films, of varied themes, among them the Holocaust drama Triumph of the Spirit (1989) and David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997).
Hugo Davenport in The Daily Telegraph praised his “splendid” turn as a mobster-vampire in John Landis’s horror caper Innocent Blood (1993), and in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996) he was convincing as a general resisting an alien invasion.
An interesting later role came in 2003 in The Sopranos as “Feech” La Manna, a violent-tempered Mafia capo, just released from a 20-year stretch and struggling to adapt to a changed world.
Robert Loggia enjoyed cooking and playing golf.