Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Stop Worrying! The 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' Help! (1965)

It was fifty years ago today, on July 29 1965, that The Beatles' film Help! premiered at the Pavilion in London. Since its premiere Help! has largely been in the shadow of The Beatles' first film, A Hard Day's Night. While A Hard Day's Night is widely regarded as a classic that had a lasting influence, Help! is sometimes dismissed or ignored entirely. Despite this in my experience Beatles fans themselves are divided as to which of the two films is their favourite, and there are very many that cannot make up their minds as to which film they prefer. Even if Help! is not a better film than A Hard Day's Night, it is a classic in its own right that also had a lasting influence.

Here it must be noted that Help! emerged as part of a three picture deal that The Beatles manager  Brian Epstein had signed with United Artists. A Hard Day's Night was the first film in the deal, while Help! would be the second. The animated film Yellow Submarine was meant to fulfil the deal, but since it did not actually star The Beatles, it was decided that it did not. As a result The Beatles then made the documentary Let It Be.

Although both starred The Beatles and both share the same off-kilter humour, in many respects A Hard Day's Night and Help! are very different films. A Hard Day's Night portrayed The Beatles as they journeyed to London to shoot a TV programme and their experiences at the TV studio. It was shot in black and white in the style of cinéma vérité. Help! had what was in some respects a more traditional (if very loose) plot, one in which Ringo finds himself in possession of the sacrificial ring of the cult of Kaili who are now pursuing him. It was also shot in colour and its style owed a good deal to the spy thrillers of the era. Of course, in both films The Beatles essentially played, well, The Beatles.

Regardless, early in its pre-production Help! was simply referred to as Beatles 2. Eventually it was given the title Eight Arms to Hold You. That title, like A Hard Day's Night, came from Ringo Starr, who had a knack for coming up with such odd phrases. The title would remain Eight Arms to Hold You very late in the film's production. The initial American release of the single "Ticket to Ride", released on April 19 1965, even stated the song was from the "United Artists release Eight Arms to Hold You." Eventually director Richard Lester and The Beatles changed the title of the film to Help!, taken from a song that John Lennon had written as a reaction to the stress he felt after The Beatles' rapid rise to success. The Beatles did not particularly care for the title Eight Arms to Hold You, and in an interview Paul McCarntey joked,  "I just don't think anybody will want to hear a song called, 'Eight Arms To Hold You.'"

Much like A Hard Day's Night before it, Help! drew upon multiple sources of inspiration. The Beatles themselves said the film was inspired by The Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup (1933). Not only did the comedy in the film owe a good deal to the Marx Brothers, but it also owed a good deal to the classic British radio comedy programme The Goon Show starring Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, and Peter Sellers. This should perhaps come as no surprise, given Richard Lester had directed The Goon Show movie short "The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film" (1959) and The Beatles were huge fans of the show (here it must also be noted that The Beatles producer George Martin produced albums featuring both Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers). Another source of inspiration were the then popular spy thrillers, particularly those featuring superspy James Bond. In many ways Help! can be considered a parody of the James Bond movies and similar spy thrillers.

Due to the success of A Hard Day's Night, director Richard Lester was given a much larger budget for Help!. Not only was Help! then shot in colour, but it was also shot at various locations around the world. In the film The Beatles appeared in such locales as London, the Austrian Alps, Salisbury Plain, and the Bahamas. Help! would also have much more extravagant sets than A Hard Day's Night, including the temple of Kaili.

Although one would not know it from watching the film, The Beatles did not particularly enjoy making Help!.  At the height of their success and with a busy schedule of recording, touring, and appearances on television, The Beatles were suffering from exhaustion as a whole by the time Help!  began shooting. While the band had a good deal of input on A Hard Day's Night, according to John Lennon, "...with Help!, Dick Lester didn't tell us what it was all about." John would later complain that The Beatles felt like extras in their own film. It is because of this that Help! was shot in what has been called "a haze of marijuana". According to Paul McCartney in an interview, "We showed up a bit stoned, smiled a lot and hoped we'd get through it." In the documentary The Beatles Anthology Ringo Starr admitted, "A hell of a lot of pot was being smoked while we were making the film."

While The Beatles did not enjoy making Help! and were apparently stoned throughout its production, the film itself was very well received. While most critics at the time did not declare Help! a masterpiece, most of them did regard the movie as being a good deal of fun. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, while somewhat unimpressed by The Beatles themselves, referred to Help! as "...90 minutes of good, clean insanity." Leo Sullivan of The Washington Post admired Richard Lester's utilisation of camera movement. The critic at Time was less impressed with Help!, saying, "Help! is The Beatles‘ all-out try at carving a new career as a screen team before their long love affair with the squealers dies out.” Needless to say, in the years since the critic at Time has been proven wrong both by The Beatles and the movie Help!. Movie goers certainly disagreed with the Time critic regarding Help!.  The film did well at the box office, taking in      $12,066,667 in the United States alone.

While much has been written about the lasting influence of A Hard Day's Night, less has been written about the lasting influence of Help!. This is a shame as Help! had as much influence as A Hard Day's Night. While The Beatles were initially a bit unhappy with the end result of the film, John Lennon himself would later admit, "I realise, looking back, how advanced it was. It was a precursor to the Batman 'Pow! Wow!" on TV—that kind of stuff. But (Lester) never explained it to us." It is hard to argue with John's assessment of the film. Help! relied on a camp, pop art sensibility that drew heavily upon Anglophonic pop culture (everything from the Marx Brothers to James Bond). It would be precisely that sort of sensibility that would come into vogue only a few months later with the TV show Batman and movies such as Smashing Time (1967) and  Barbarella (1967). Indeed, much as the spy thrillers of the early Sixties influenced Help!, Help!  would have an influence on such spy spoofs of the late Sixties as the Matt Helm movies, Our Man Flint (1966), and The President's Analyst (1967). Like Help! they were shot in colour, utilised a number of sight gags, and possessed a nearly camp, pop art sensibility.

Indeed, the influence of Help! can clearly be seen on one particular TV show. It has often been written that the classic TV show The Monkees drew upon The Beatles' movie A Hard Day's Night for inspiration. In truth, The Monkees drew much more from Help!. Like Help! most episodes of The Monkees placed the band in some sort of stock plot (The Monkees spend the night in a haunted house, must save their favourite restaurant from gangsters, et. al.) that drew heavily upon popular culture. Like Help!, The Monkees also relied a good deal upon sight gags, throwaway bits, non-sequiturs, and chases. That The Monkees owed a good deal to A Hard Day's Night there can be no doubt, but it owed much more to Help!.

Of course, Help! would also have a lasting impact on music video. Certainly A Hard Day's Night also had an enormous impact on music video, but with Help! Richard Lester took what he had learned on A Hard Day's Night to a whole other level. Indeed, there are music sequences in Help! (such as the one for the song "Another Girl") that entirely break with the cinematic tradition of portraying a band playing instruments throughout a song.

Help! is hardly a perfect film. Certainly its plot is so loose as to be disjointed. That having been said, Help! is so filled with fun and good humour that it hardly matters. The film moves forward at a right good clip, with enough sight gags, funny lines, throwaway scenes, and great songs to fill any two other movies. Ultimately Help! is a film whose whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. It is an immensely enjoyable film despite any of its weaknesses, and one that had as much influence as its precursor. It deserves every bit as much to be counted as a classic alongside A Hard Day's Night.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Al Checco R.I.P.

Al Checco, a character actor who appeared in dozens of TV shows and served in the U.S. Army with Don Knotts, died July 19 2015 at the age of 93.

Al Checco was born on July 21 1921 in Pittsburgh. During World War II he served in the United States Army. Eventually he was assigned to a unit meant to entertain the troops. Among the other men in the unit was Don Knotts, whose ventriloquism act often followed Al Checco's singing act. The two men would remain friends for their rest of their lives. Following the war Mr. Checco attended Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh where he received a degree in drama. He made his debut on Broadway in 1948 in An Inspector Calls. He also appeared on Broadway in the Forties in Lend an Ear.

In the Fifties Al Checco made his television debut on an episode of Tales from Tomorrow in 1952. He guest starred on such shows as Robert Montgomery Presents, The Phil Silvers Show, and Playwrights '56. He appeared on Broadway in the productions Buttrio Square and Carnival in Flanders.

In the Sixties Al Checco had a recurring role on Mister Ed as newspaper editor Joe King. He guest starred twice on The Andy Griffith Show, playing opposite his old Army buddy Don Knotts. He also guest starred on such shows as Bronco, The Donna Reed Show, Dobie Gillis, The Munsters, Gomer Pyle USMC, Perry Mason, Run for Your Life, Batman, The Flying Nun, The Big Valley, and The New Doctors. He appeared in the films The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), Hotel (1967), The Reluctant Astronaut (1967), The Party (1968), and Bullitt (1968).

In the Seventies Mr. Checco appeared on such shows as Medical Centre, Mod Squad, Bonanza, The F.B.I., The Streets of San Francisco, The Rookies, Adam-12, Ironside, Here's Lucy, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Kung Fu, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Rockford Files, and Quincy M.E. He appeared in the TV movie Helter Skelter. He appeared in such movies as Skin Game (1971), The World's Greatest Athlete (1973), The Terminal Man (1974), and How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980).

From the Eighties to the Naughts Al Checco guest starred on such shows as Dallas, Knight Rider, Highway to Heaven, Kate & Allie, Growing Pains, Becker, and Scrubs. In the Nineties he appeared in Crazy For You on Broadway.

Al Checco was a true character actor, playing a wide variety of roles throughout his career. He was the newspaper editor on Mister Ed, a bank robber on The Andy Griffith Show, one of The Penguin's henchmen on Batman, a pool room owner on The Streets of San Francisco, and real life supermarket executive Leno LaBianca in the TV movie Helter Skelter (based on the Charles Manson case). The parts he played in movies and even TV shows were often rather small, but he always gave a fine performance and left an impression.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Bugs Bunny: The 75th Anniversary of "A Wild Hare" (1940)

It was 75 years ago today, on July 27 1940, that the classic Warner Bros. animated short "A Wild Hare" was released. The cartoon is significant as it is considered the first official cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny. It is the first cartoon in which Mel Blanc used the familiar "Bugs Bunny" voice and the first in which Bugs uses his catchphrase, "What's Up, Doc?". In 'A Wild Hare" Bugs is simply an unnamed rabbit. He would not be called by the name "Bugs Bunny"until his following, full-fledged cartoon appearance in "Elmer's Pet Rabbit" (1941).

Here it must be stressed that Bugs Bunny was not the creation of one man, but rather a character that developed over time. In fact, the genesis of Bug Bunny at least goes back to 1938 with the Porky Pig cartoon  "Porky's Hare Hunt", which featured a hare who looked very different from Bugs, but did have some of his personality quirks. Other prototypes for Bugs Bunny would appear in the shorts "Prest-O Change-O" (1939) and  "Hare-um Scare-um" (1939).  "Hare-um Scare-um" (1939) is very significant in that the hare featured in the cartoon looks a lot like Bugs Bunny, although with a personality closer to the early Daffy Duck and a voice that was entirely different (complete with a Woody Woodpecker type laugh). A slight different version of this particular rabbit appeared in the Elmer Fudd short "Elmer's Candid Camera" (1940). In "Elmer's Candid Camera" the rabbit looks even more like Bugs, although he still has a completely different voice.

That brings us up to "A Wild Hare". "A Wild Hare" was directed by the legendary Tex Avery with animation by Virgil Ross, Robert McKimson, and Rod Scribner. "A Wild Hare" proved very successful, even earning a nomination for the Oscar for Best Short Subject (Cartoon).  It lost to the MGM animated short "The Milky Way". By the way, the third nominee for Best Short Subject (Cartoon) was another historic cartoon, 'Puss Gets the Boot"--the very first cartoon featuring Tom and Jerry (although Tom is called "Jasper" throughout the short). Regardless, the success of "A Wild Hare" would guarantee Bugs Bunny a place in Warner Bros.' stable of characters. He would go onto become one of the most popular animated characters of all time, if not the most popular.

For those who would like to see "A Wild Hare", here it is, courtesy of DailyMotion.

Merrie Melodies - A Wild Hare (1940) by Cartoonzof2006

Saturday, 25 July 2015

George Coe Passes On

Actor George Coe died on July 18 2015 at the age of 86. He was an original cast member of Saturday Night Live and provided the voice of Woodhouse on Archer. He also appeared in films from The Stepford Wives (1975) to The Mighty Ducks (1992).

George Coe was born George Cohen on May 10 1929 in New York City. He attended Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York for four years before serving aboard a submarine in the United States Navy during the Korean War. He was involved with radio broadcasting while in the Navy, and after once discharged he studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Starting in 1957 he appeared on stage in various productions. He made his television debut in 1963 in various episodes of the soap opera The Doctors. In the Sixties he also appeared in an episode of For the People. Mr. Coe made his Broadway debut in What Makes Sammy Run? in 1964. He also appeared in the productions Mame and Company. In 1968 he made his film debut in the short "De Düva: The Dove", a parody of Ingmar Bergman films in which he starred and that he also directed and produced.  It was nominated for the Oscar for best live action short.

In the Seventies George Coe was a semi-regular on Saturday Night Live. He was also a regular on the soap opera Somerset from 1971 to 1972. He appeared in the films The Stepford Wives (1975), French Postcards (1979), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), and The First Deadly Sin (1980). He appeared on Broadway in On the Twentieth Century.

In the Eighties George Coe appeared in such films as Bustin' Loose (1981), The Amateur (1981), The Entity (1982), The House of God (1984), Micki + Maude (1984), Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985), Blind Date (1987), Cousins (1989), and The End of Innocence (1990). He was a regular on Goodnight Beantown and the short lived American version of Max Headroom. He guest starred on such shows as Hill Street Blues, Moonlighting, Family Ties, Simon & Simon, The Paper Chase, Dallas, The Scarecrow & Mrs. King, The Golden Girls, The Tracy Ullman Show, Columbo, Matlock, and Murphy Brown.

In the Nineties George Coe was a regular on the TV shows Equal Justice and Working, and had a recurring role on L.A. Law. He guest starred on such shows as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Night Court, Nurses, Murder She Wrote, Law & Order, Home Improvement, The Pretender, The Practice, The Nanny, and Two Guys and a Girl. He appeared in such films as The Mighty Ducks (1992), Nick and Jane (1997), and Diamond Men (2000). He appeared on Broadway in a revival of Company.

 In the Naughts Mr. Coe had a recurring role on The West Wing. He guest starred on such shows as The Lone Gunmen, Becker, Smallville, Crossing Jordan, Gilmore Girls, The King of Queens, Supernatural, Nip/Tuck, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He appeared in such films as Corporate Affairs (2008), Slice of Water (2009), and Funny People (2009).  In the Teens George Coe provided the voice of Woodhouse on Archer. He guest starred on Two and a Half Men and Wilfred.

George Coe was a remarkable actor with a good range. He could play a wide variety of roles, from the advertising agency head in Kramer vs. Kramer to Uncle Phil in Cousins. He also had a remarkable voice. He was much more than the voice of Woodhouse on Archer. He provided voices for several video games in the Star Wars franchise and was the voice on Toyota commercials for years. If George Coe was particularly prolific, it was because he had the sort of talent that made him very much in demand.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Late Great Theodore Bikel

Legendary actor and folk singer Theodore Bikel died on July 20 at the age of 91.

Theodore Bikel was born Theodor Meir Bikel in Vienna on May 2 1924. The family fled to Mandatory Palestine following Nazi Germany's forced annexation of Austria in 1938. In 1943 he began studying acting at  the Habimah theatre in Tel Aviv. In 1946 he left Palestine to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He made his television debut in a production of The Cherry Orchard in 1947. After graduating from RADA in 1948 Lord Laurence Olivier cast him in a small role in the London production of A Streetcar Named Desire. He was eventually cast in the role of the secondary male lead, Mitch.

Theodore Bikel made his film debut in Appointment with Venus in 1951. He appeared in such films as The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), Never Let Me Go (1953), Melba (1953), and The Kidnappers (1953). He migrated to the United States in 1954 and would become a naturalised citizen in 1961. For the remainder of the Fifties he appeared in such films as The Love Lottery (1954), The Young Lovers (1954), The Colditz Story (1955), Above Us the Waves (1955), Flight from Vienna (1956), The Pride and the Passion (1957), The Enemy Below (1957), The Defiant Ones (1958), and A Dog of Flanders (1959). For his role in The Defiant Ones he was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He appeared on Broadway in Tonight in Samarkand, The Lark, The Rope Dancers, and The Sound of Music.

Theodore Bikel had a regular role on the show Johnny, You're Wanted.  He appeared frequently on television in the Fifties, making guest appearances on such shows as The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Producers' Showcase, Armstrong Circle Theatre, The Alcoa Hour, Goodyear Playhouse, The United States Steel Hour, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Climax, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Studio One, and Playhouse 90. In 1955 Theodore Bikel began a career as a folk singer, releasing the album Folk Songs of Israel. For the remainder of the Fifties Mr. Bikel would release several more albums. In 1959 Theodore Bikel co-founded the Newport Folk Festival with Oscar Brand,  Harold Leventhal,  Pete Seeger, and George Wein.

In the Sixties Mr. Bikel continued to appear frequently on television. He guest starred on such shows as Naked City, Wagon Train, The Twilight Zone, The Dick Powell Theatre, General Electric Theatre, Dr. Kildare, Route 66, East Side/West Side, Combat!, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Burke's Law, Mission: Impossible, and Hawaii Five-O. He appeared in the movies My Fair Lady (1964), Sands of the Kalahari (1965), The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966), The Desperate Ones (1967), Sweet November (1968), My Side of the Mountain (1969), and Darker Than Amber (1970).  Mr. Bikel appeared on Broadway in Cafe Crown and Pousse-Café. He toured as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, a role for which he would become well known. He continued to be active as a folk singer, recording several more albums. He continued to appear at the Newport Folk Festival and was the first person besides Bob Dylan to perform Mr.Dylans's song "Blowin' in the Wind" in public. His 1964 album A Folksinger's Choice included Roger McGuinn (then known as "Jim McGuinn" and soon to be famous as one of The Byrds) on banjo.

In the Seventies Theodore Bikel appeared on the TV shows Ironside, Cannon, Mod Squad, Medical Centre, Ellery Queen, Little House on the Prairie, Charlie's Angels, Columbo, Fantasy Island, and All in the Family. He appeared in the films 200 Motels (1971) and The Little Ark (1972). He provided the voice of Aragorn in the animated adaptation of The Return of the King (1980). He released three record albums throughout the decade.

In the Eighties Mr. Bikel appeared on the TV shows Trapper John M.D., Knight Rider, Hotel, Cover Up, The Fall Guy, Hell Town, Dynasty, The Paper Chase, Mike Hammer, Falcon Crest, Beauty and the Beast, The Equaliser, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He appeared in the films Prince Jack (1985), Very Close Quarters (1986), Dark Tower (1989), and See You in the Morning (1989).

From the Nineties into the Naughts Mr. Bikel appeared in the films Shattered (1991),  Benefit of the Doubt (1993), My Family Treasure (1993), Crisis in the Kremlin (1992), Shadow Conspiracy (1997), Second Chances (1998), Trickle (1998), Crime and Punishment (2002), and The Little Traitor (2007). He appeared on such TV shows as L.A. Law; Law & Order; Babylon 5; Murder, She Wrote; Brooklyn South; The Pretender; and JAG. He released over ten more record albums.

Theodore Bikel was a co-founder of the Actors Federal Credit Union. From 1977 to 1982 he served as president of Actors' Equity. He was president of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America since 1988.

If one word could be used to describe Theodore Bikel, it would perhaps be "chameleon". He was capable of playing an enormous variety of roles. Indeed, he played a number of characters of different nationalities throughout his film, TV, and stage careers. He was a German First Officer in The African Queen and the original Captain Von Trapp on Broadway in The Sound of Music. He played a temperamental Hungarian phoneticist in My Fair Lady. He was a Russian captain in The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming. Not only did he play a number of different nationalities over the years, but a number of different professions as well. He played medical doctors, university professors, military officers, rabbis, politicians, and much more. While many characters have a specific type to which they stick for years, Theodore Bikel had no specific type. He played everything. What is more, he could play everything and do it well.

What is all the more remarkable is that Theodore Bikel was not just a movie actor or television actor. He appeared on stage as well as in films and on television, and was a folk singer on top of all that. He released over thirty albums in his career as a folk singer. In an extraordinarily long career Theodore Bikel seemed to do a bit of everything and do it well. He was one of those few men with enormous talent in multiple media.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Nova Pilbeam R.I.P.

Nova Pilbeam, who appeared in such films as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Tudor Rose (1936), and Young and Innocent (1937), died on July 17 2015 at the age of 95.

Nova Pilbeam was born in Wimbledon, London on November 15 1919. Her father,  Arnold Pilbeam, was a theatre manager and actor. It was quite natural, then, that Miss Pilbeam should begin acting while very young. She made her professional debut on stage when she was only twelve years old. It was not long before she made her film debut in Little Friend in 1934. That same year she appeared in her most famous role, that of young kidnap victim  Betty Lawrence in The Man Who Knew Too Much. In 1936 she starred as Lady Jane Grey in Tudor Rose. For the remainder of the Thirties she appeared in the films Young and Innocent (1936), Cheer Boys Cheer (1939), and Pastor Hall (1940).  She had been considered for the role of the Second Mrs. de Winter in Rebecca (1940), but the part ultimately went to Joan Fontaine.  She made her television debut in the production Prison Without Bars in 1939. Nova Pilbeam also appeared on stage. When she was sixteen years old she played Peter Pan at the London Palladium.

During the Forties Miss Pilbeam appeared in the films Spring Meeting (1941), Banana Ridge (1942), The Next of Kin (1942), Yellow Canary (1943), This Man Is Mine (1946), Green Fingers (1947), and Counterblast (1948).  In the Forties she continued to appear on stage, appearing at the Old Vic in such plays as The Seagull and Ah, Wilderness!.  Her final appearance on screen was in the 1951 television production The Shining Hour

In 1950 Miss Pilbeam married radio journalist Alexander Whyte. She retired from acting to concentrate on her family.

Although her career was brief, there can be no doubt that Nova Pilbeam was a talented actress. This was in evidence even when she was very young. She gave an fine performance as Jane Grey in Tudor Rose. She was also impressive in Young and Innocent. playing Erica Burgoyne, the daughter of a police officer who falls in love with a man falsely accused of murder. Even playing the kidnapped daughter in The Man Who Knew Too Much, Miss Pilbeam showed a great deal of talent. I rather suspect that if her career had been longer, Nova Pilbeam would be very well known today.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Alex Rocco Passes On

Alex Rocco, who played Moe Greene in The Godfather (1972), died on July 18 2015 at the age of 79. The cause was cancer.

Alex Rocco was born Alessandro Petricone, Jr. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but spent most of his childhood in the town of  Somerville, Massachusetts. He dropped out of high school and moved to Boston for a time before moving to California where he took acting classes. He made his film debut in Motorpsycho! in 1965. He made his television debut in an episode of Run for Your Life in 1927. In the late Sixties Mr. Rocco appeared on the shows Batman, Get Smart, and That Girl. He appeared in the films The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), The Boston Strangler (1968), and Blood Mania (1970).

In the Seventies Alex Rocco was a regular on the short-lived series Three for the Road. He appeared on such TV shows as The F.B.I., Mission: Impossible, The Rookies, Get Christie Love!, Barnaby Jones, Kojak, Cannon, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Rockford Files, Baretta, Starsky & Hutch, and CHiPs. He appeared in such films as Wild Riders (1971), The Godfather (1972), Stanley (1972), Slither (1973), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), Detroit 9000 (1973), Three the Hard Way (1974), Freebie and the Bean (1974). Hearts of the West (1975), Rabbit Test (1978), and Herbie Goes Bananas (1980).

In the Eighties Alex Rocco had a regular role on the TV show The Famous Teddy Z and a recurring role on The Facts of Life. He appeared on such TV shows as Matt Houston, Hardcastle and McCormick, St. Elsewhere, The Love Boat, The A-Team The Golden Girls, T.J. Hooker, Hunter, Murphy Brown, and Carol & Company. He appeared in the films Nobody's Perfekt (1981), The Entity (1982), Scenes from the Goldmine (1987), Dream a Little Dream (1989), and Wired (1989).

In the Nineties Alex Rocco was a regular on the TV shows Sibs and The George Carlin Show. He appeared on such TV shows as Midnight Caller, Daddy Dearest, Hope & Gloria, The Simpsons, Home Improvement, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, The Practice, and Walker, Texas Ranger. He appeared in such films as The Pope Must Diet (1991), The Flight of the Dove (1994), Get Shorty (1995), Dead of Night (1996), That Thing You Do! (1996), A Bug's Life (1998), Dudley Do-Right (1999), and The Last Producer (2000).

In the Naughts and the Teens Alex Rocco was a regular on the shows The Division and Magic City. He appeared in such shows as Touched by an Angel, ER, Private Practice, and Maron. He appeared in such films as The Wedding Planner (2001), The Country Bears (2002), The Job (2003), Crazylove (2005), Smokin' Aces (2006), Blackbird (2011), and The House Across the Street (2013).

Alex Rocco was a very talented actor. He is perhaps best known for playing various gangsters, convicts, and other tough guys over the years. That having been said, that wasn't the limit of his ability and he did play other sorts of parts. In fact, he did play parts on the other side of law, appearing as police officers and F.B.I. agents. Mr. Rocco occasionally played other roles as well, including lawyers and doctors. Alex Rocco may have played many gangsters over the years, but his talent allowed him to play much more.