Wednesday July 27, 2022
Paul Sorvino (1939-2022)
Question: Why, before I ever saw “Goodfellas,” did I think Paul Sorvino was not right for mob boss Paul Cicero? I mean, I guess I know why. I thought he was too nice. I didn't think he was scary enough. But where did this idea come from? How did I know him? I'm looking over his credits on IMDb and wondering what I ever saw him in as a kid. “Day of the Dolphin”? Just that?
I wouldn't be surprised if it was through commercials. Not like ads for dishwashing detergent or whatever, but commercials for the shows he was on: the Alan Alda-created “We'll Get By,” in which he played a suburban dad and a husband, and which lasted 13 episodes in the summer of '75; and “Bert D'Angelo, Superstar,” in which he played the titular maverick cop, and which lasted 11 episodes in '76. I never watched either but maybe some of it seeped in. Maybe some part of me thought “Bert D'Angelo, superstar, as a mob boss? Whatever, Marty.”
Of course he was great in “Goodfellas”: calm, understated, handy with a razor blade and a piece of garlic. I assume he's closer to the real thing than, say, Brando in “The Godfather.” Don Corleone is what mob guys imagine themselves to be; Paul Cicero is closer to what they are. And even then...
When news broke of his death on Monday at age 83, one thing that was passed around on social media, which I loved seeing, was video from when his daughter Mira won the Oscar for “Mighty Aphrodite:” how she thanked her family, and her parents, and her father “who has taught me everything I know about acting”; and how he, in the audience, already tearing up, just crumpled. Reminds of a series of photographs from, I believe, Life magazine from like the 1940s or '50s: another burly Italian father, walking down the aisle at his daughter's wedding, about to give her away, and breaking down with each step.
We're losing all of our cinematic mob guys all of a sudden: Liotta, Caan, Sorvino. It's like last fall when we kept losing 60-something standup comedians. It's like we're in the middle of a mob war.