Actor Joseph Bologna Loses Battle With Pancreatic Cancer

A star of the big and small screen has passed away. Joseph Bologna, an actor known for his performance in the movie “My Favorite Year” and other roles, died early Sunday at a hospital in Duarte, Calif., at the age of 82.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film star’s survivors include actress/screenwriter Renee Taylor, his wife of 52 years who often worked with him professionally. She said her husband had been fighting pancreatic cancer since 2014.

Bologna wrote plays and scripts for movies, as well as appearing in many motion pictures. He earned wide acclaim with his portrayal of the character King Kaiser in 1982’s “My Favorite Year.” He won an Academy Award for the screenplay that he co-wrote with Taylor and David Zelag Goodman for the 1970 film “Lovers and Other Strangers.”

Bologna and his wife previously developed the screenplay for a 1968 Broadway show that actor Charles Grodin directed. It was one of 22 plays on which the couple collaborated.

They also wrote “It Had to Be You,” “Bermuda Avenue Triangle” and “If You Ever Leave Me I’m Going With You!” Bologna and Taylor were the writers and on-screen stars of “Made For Each Other,” a 1971 movie that closely resembled their own lives. Newsweek praised the production as “the best love story & comedy of the year.”

The couple wrote and directed “Love Is All There Is,” a 1996 film featuring the big-screen debut of actress Angelina Jolie. Bologna and Taylor got an Emmy Award for the script they created in 1973 for “Acts of Love and Other Comedies,” a television special Marlo Thomas produced.

But it was the King Kaiser role, inspired by the late comedian Sid Caesar, that made Bologna famous. Mel Brooks, who co-wrote Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” in the 1950s, advised “My Favorite Year” director Richard Benjamin to cast Bologna. It was a decision that reportedly pleased Caesar.

“I love Sid,” Bologna declared in a People magazine interview in 1982. “He was a pro, and he did his thing. But he was, like, nuts.”

One of Bologna’s last public appearances, on July 27, was an event commemorating the 35th anniversary of “My Favorite Year.” Among the Brooklyn-born actor’s other film credits were “Chapter Two,” a 1979 Neil Simon production; “Blame It on Rio,” the 1984 comedy that also starred Michael Caine and Demi Moore; “The Woman in Red” in 1984, featuring Gene Wilder; and 1999’s “Big Daddy,” with Adam Sandler.

In the 1990s, television viewers saw Bologna in a “Married With Children” spinoff called “Top of the Heap.” The actor portrayed the character Charlie Verducci, a friend of Al Bundy (played by Ed O'Neill).

Bologna also appeared on TV with Tisha Campbell in “Rags to Riches.” His final project, for which he was a writer and star, was “Tango Shalom.” Taylor and one of the couple’s friends, Lainie Kazan, had roles in the movie. Bologna’s son, Gabriel, was the director; and his daughter, Zizi, was the music supervisor.

Bologna received an art-history degree from Brown University before becoming a U.S. Marine. He later directed television commercials for Right Guard, Gillette and other products. Taylor started her career in show business as a stand-up comic, frequently appearing on “The Merv Griffin Show.”

Source: Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times
Photos: Syracuse Online, Cineplex, Movies.com, Silverscreen

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