Joseph Sirola, Actor and Tony-Winning Producer, Dies at 89

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Joseph Sirola, the genial actor and Tony Award-winning producer who was known as “The King of the Voice-Overs,” has died. He was 89.

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Sirola died of complications from respiratory failure Sunday at a rehabilitation hospital in New York City, his longtime companion, Claire Gozzo, said.

 

On the big screen, Sirola appeared in Strange Bedfellows (1965) opposite Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida; in George Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965); with Clint Eastwood in Hang ‘Em High (1968); and in The Super Cops (1974), directed by Gordon Parks.

 

Sirola portrayed bandleader Freddy Fleet on a season-three episode of CBS’ The Andy Griffith Show and was U.S. spy Jonathan Kaye on a few installments of the original Hawaii Five-O.

He played the patriarch of an Italian-American family on NBC’s The Montefuscos, a sitcom from That Girl creators Bill Persky and Sam Denoff that lasted just a handful of episodes in 1975. He also was a regular on another short-lived NBC series, 1974’s The Magician, starring Bill Bixby.

 

Sirola also appeared opposite James Cagney in a 1984 CBS telefilm, Terrible Joe Moran — it would be Cagney’s final onscreen role. And as Founding Father Thomas Paine, he was interviewed by Steve Allen for PBS’ Meeting of the Minds.

 

Sirola won his Tony in 2014 for producing the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. He was nominated a year earlier for producing a revival of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, starring Cicely Tyson.

 

A recipient of more than two dozen Clio Awards, Sirola served as a spokesman for such products as Vicks Formula 44, Boar’s Head meats and NyQuil and for such companies as Wendy’s, Mobil, General Electric, Ford, Hertz and Club Med. His deep, distinctive voice was heard on the iconic “I Love New York” campaign and during the Empire State Building tour.

 

 

Following graduation in 1951 and a 15-month stint in the Korean War, Sirola was working as a sales promotion manager at Kimberly-Clark when, at age 28, he decided to take an acting class at Hunter College.

Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times saw the redhead performing off-Broadway in his professional acting debut and seemed impressed: “Joe Sirola played the part of the gassed-up landlord vigorously, alternating between tender remorse and brutishness,” he wrote.

 

That eventually led to a co-starring role on Broadway with Tammy Grimes in 1960 in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, in which he created the role of Christmas Morgan. When he wasn’t performing at night, he was playing Peter Nino in the afternoons on the CBS soap opera The Brighter Day.

 

In addition to Gozzo, survivors include his daughter, Dawn; granddaughters Eva, Isabel and Sofia; goddaughter Curran; nephew Stewart; and nieces Susan and Andre.

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:   AP
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