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'Godfather' Actor Richard Bright Killed


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'Godfather' Actor Richard Bright Killed

by Ben Sisario


Richard Bright

Richard Bright, a veteran character actor who appeared in all three "Godfather" films and "The Sopranos," died on Saturday, February 18, in New York. He was 68. Bright was hit by a private bus as it rounded the corner of Columbus Avenue and 86th Street at about 6:30 p.m. and was pronounced dead at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center shortly thereafter.

A Manhattan native, Bright was hit as he crossed the street in his Manhattan neighborhood early Saturday evening, said New York Detective Bernard Gifford. There were no arrests as of Sunday, but police said the investigation was continuing. The bus driver told police he was not aware that he had hit anyone.

In the "Godfather" trilogy, made from 1972 to 1990, Bright portrayed mob enforcer Al Neri, one of Michael Corleone's toughs and a bodyguard to the Corleone family patriarchs played by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. He counted the part among his favorite roles.


Richard Bright and John Cazale in 'The Godfather: Part II'

Bright's character often appeared at crucial plot points in all three "Godfather" films. In one of the most memorable scenes in "The Godfather: Part II," he took a fateful ride in a fishing boat with Michael's untrustworthy brother Fredo, played by John Cazale.

A versatile actor with a characteristic rasp in his voice, Bright had a busy career in movies and theater as a character actor that stretched back to the late 1950's, when he made his film debut in a small part in Robert Wise's "Odds Against Tomorrow." During the 1970's, Bright acted in dozens of films in a wide variety of pivotal roles.

Bright played a con artist hustling Ali McGraw in 1972's "The Getaway." He's shared screen time with many film greats including Al Pacino in "The Panic in Needle Park" and Dustin Hoffman in "Marathon Man." Brett Smiley, a friend and fellow actor, recalled, "He always said it was the work that was the reward."


Richard Bright with Al Pacino in 'The Godfather: Part III'

Bright's filmography included Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid" in 1973 portraying Holly, one of Billy's more colorful henchmen and 1977's "Looking for Mr. Goodbar." Among his other films are "Vigilante," Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America," "Red Heat," "Beautiful Girls," "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "The Ref."

Bright also appeared on the smaller screen in television shows such as NBC's "Hill Street Blues" and "Third Watch." More recently, Bright was featured on episodes of NBC's "Law & Order," HBO's "The Sopranos." and "Oz." However, his career reached beyond film and television.

Bright spent many hours on the stage as well. His theater credits included "Short Eyes" by Miguel Pinero, and a number of productions with Al Pacino, including "Richard III" at the Cort Theater in 1979 and "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel." Bright also made an impact off the stage.


Richard Bright

Bright was arrested in 1965 on an obscenity charge for language he used in a San Francisco production of poet Michael McClure's two-person play "The Beard," which was shut down. The American Civil Liberties Union took up the case, and the charges against Bright were later dismissed in what was considered a precedent for artistic expression rights.

Born June 28, 1937, in Brooklyn, New York, he was the son of a shipbuilder, Ernest, and his wife, Matilda. He began his career doing live television in Manhattan, at the age of 18, and worked on several movies early in his career with his friend, Sam Peckinpah.

Bright is survived by his wife, the actress Rutanya Alda; son, Jeremy Bright, of Manhattan; daughter, Dianne and a brother, Charles, of Rowland, Pennsylvania.

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