Danny Aiello

Danny Aiello
Danny Aiello
Born Daniel Louis Aiello, Jr.
June 20, 1933 (1933-06-20) (age 78)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1973–present
Spouse Sandy Cohen (1955–present)

Daniel Louis "Danny" Aiello, Jr. (pronounced /aɪˈɛloʊ/; born June 20, 1933)[1] is an American actor who has appeared in numerous motion pictures, including Once Upon a Time in America, Ruby, The Godfather: Part II, Hudson Hawk, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Moonstruck, Léon, Two Days in the Valley, and Dinner Rush. He had a pivotal role in the 1989 Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing as Salvatore 'Sal' Frangione, the pizzeria owner, which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Aiello is also known for his role as Don Domenico Clericuzio in the miniseries Mario Puzo's The Last Don.


Early life

Aiello, the second youngest of six children, was born in Manhattan,[2] the son of Italian American parents Frances (née Pietrocova), a seamstress who was a native of Naples, Italy, and Daniel Louis Aiello, Sr., a laborer. Aiello's father deserted the family even though his wife had gone blind. For many years, Aiello had publicly condemned his father's desertion of his children and his blind wife. Aiello reconciled with his father in 1993, but to this day harbors a resentment of his father's conduct.[1][3][4] He moved to the South Bronx when he was age 7 and later attended James Monroe High School.[4] At 16-years-old, Aiello lied about his age in order to enlist in the U.S. Army. After serving for three years, he returned to New York City and did various jobs in order to support himself and later his family. Aiello also once served as a union representative for Greyhound bus workers and was a night club bouncer.


Aiello broke into films in the early 1970s. One of his earliest roles came as a ballplayer in the 1973 baseball drama, Bang the Drum Slowly, with Robert DeNiro. Aiello had a walk-on role as small-time hood Tony Rosato in The Godfather Part II (1974), ad-libbing the famous line "Michael Corleone says hello!" during a hit on a rival gangster Frank Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo).

In 1980, Aiello had a co-lead role with Jan Michael Vincent in Defiance, about some Manhattan residents who fight back against the thugs terrorizing the neighborhood. He received considerable acclaim for playing a racist New York City cop in Fort Apache the Bronx (1981) with Paul Newman.

He was paired with DeNiro again for the 1984 Sergio Leone gangster epic, Once Upon a Time in America, as a police chief whose name was also "Aiello." His many film appearances included three for director Woody Allen, who cast him in The Purple Rose of Cairo, Broadway Danny Rose and Radio Days.

Although his characters have often been vulgar and violent, Aiello has also portrayed sensitive, kindly men with an earthy sense of humor. He gained recognition as the befuddled fiance of Cher opposite her Oscar-winning performance in the romantic comedy Moonstruck (1987), and the actor made a comic appearance in drag for the Robert Altman fashion-industry film Prêt-à-Porter. He also had sympathetic roles in the 1990 horror thriller Jacob's Ladder and the 1991 comedy-drama 29th Street. In the early 1990s film The Professional, Aiello had a small cameo role as a nefarious cafe owner who assigns jobs to a hitman, played by Jean Reno.

He played nightclub owner and Lee Harvey Oswald assassin Jack Ruby in the 1992 biopic Ruby and a political bigshot with mob ties in City Hall, starring Al Pacino.

Aiello's singing has been on display in films such as Hudson Hawk, Once Around; and Remedy that starred his son Ricky Aiello and Jonathan Doscher. He has released several albums featuring a big-band sound including "I Just Wanted To Hear The Words" from 2004 and "Live From Atlantic City" from 2008. Aiello and EMI songwriter Hasan Johnson are releasing an album in 2009 of standards fused with rap entitled "Bridges."

In 1981 Danny Aiello won a Daytime Emmy award for his appearance in an ABC Afterschool Special called A Family of Strangers.

He played the title character for the video of Madonna's song, "Papa Don't Preach."

Aiello's Broadway theatre credits include Gemini, The Floating Light Bulb, Hurlyburly, and The House of Blue Leaves. He also was in the 1976 Broadway play Wheelbarrow Closers, which was directed by Paul Sorvino.

In July, 2011, opened Off Broadway in the two-act drama "The Shoemaker," written by Susan Charlotte and directed by Antony Marsellis. The play is a stage version of his 2006 movie A Broken Sole, which began life in 2001 as a one-act play. [5]

Personal life

Aiello lived in Ramsey, New Jersey, for many years.[6] He later moved to Saddle River, New Jersey.[7] He is the father of stuntman/actor Danny Aiello III, who died May 1, 2010 of pancreatic cancer, and Rick Aiello.

His nephew is Michael Kay, announcer for the New York Yankees.



  1. ^ a b Danny Aiello Biography (1933?-)
  2. ^ AIELLO, Danny International Who's Who. accessed September 1, 2006.
  3. ^ His bus came in. New York Times. 21 January 1990
  4. ^ a b Danny Aiello Biography – Yahoo! Movies
  5. ^ Lee, Felicia R. "A Word With: Danny Aiello. Emotional Guy, Speaking for Others". The New York Times. 23 July 2011
  6. ^ Golden, Tim. "FILM; Danny Aiello Journeys Along The Blue-Collar Road to Stardom", The New York Times, February 10, 1991. Accessed January 23, 2008. "Though friends say he is cashing paychecks of close to $1 million, Mr. Aiello and his wife, Sandy, live in the same split-level house in Ramsey, N.J., that they bought a decade ago for $125,000."
  7. ^ Saddle River, The Star-Ledger by Andrea Adams, April 28, 2005. "Last year, instead of amusements during the day, Saddle River Night featured a band concert by a 40-piece orchestra, as well as the family-style picnic and a special treat: Saddle River resident Danny Aiello sang a few songs after the band concert."

External links

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  • Do the Right Thing — This article is about the film. For the song, see Do the Right Thing (song). For the TV series, see Do the Right Thing (TV series). Do the Right Thing Theatrical release poster …   Wikipedia

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