In a regrettable turn of events, celebrated actor, best known for his portrayal of the alcoholic Paulie in Rocky and a formidable gangster in Once Upon a Time in America, passed away on October 8 in Los Angeles. The revelation of his demise came to public light only recently.
The late actor’s death was confirmed by his daughter, Anne Morea Steingieser, who fondly recalled her father’s affinity for Sam Peckinpah, the audacious Hollywood director. She remembered them as two outlaws fascinated by art, two mavericks who resonated with each other over Peckinpah’s intolerance for insincerity and appreciation for detailed and honest storytelling.
Boasting more than 160 film and television credits, the deceased actor was a prominent figure often seen in roles as mobsters, detectives, and rugged blue-collar workers. His successful acting background was complemented with his former experience as a Marine and professional boxer. Critics often admired him for his adept skills in adding layers of sensitivity to his characters, bringing them to life on screen.
The renowned actor was once under the tutelage of iconic acting coach, Lee Strasberg, who profoundly described him as a “library of emotions”. His notable performances spanned through the 1970s hit TV show MAS*H and films like Cinderella Liberty and Chinatown. Yet, his most memorable role was arguably that of Paulie, the butcher, Rocky’s future brother-in-law alongside Sylvester Stallone with which he grabbed an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
Recalling his casting process, he wryly noted, “I was the only actor that didn’t audition in the first Rocky. And I got the most money for it,” emphasizing the film’s overarching theme of resilience over victory. His portrayal of Paulie, he added, was as a hardened man with an insidious layer of sensitivity.
The late actor was born Gerald Tommaso DeLouise on April 30, 1940, in Queens, New York to a sheet-metal worker who later became a high school shop teacher and dean. At the tender age of 16, he joined the Marines and forayed into boxing under the guidance of Cus D’Amato.
Besides his daughter, his immediate surviving family includes a brother, Robert, and a grandson. His wife, Gloria, predeceased him in 1974. In addition to his illustrious acting career, he demonstrated a keen passion for painting, drawing inspiration from Picasso and Matisse.