Who was Jon Polito?
Jon Polito was an American film, television and theatre actor and a voiceover artist. His film and television credits amount to more than 220 and he is best remembered for his role as ‘Detective Steve Crosetti’ in the television series ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’, as ‘Phil Bartoli’ on ‘Crime Story’ and for his roles in various Coen Brothers movies. He developed a love for acting in school and studied theatre at college. He began his 35-year-long career with Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre and thereafter progressed to noteworthy roles in film and television. Most of the roles of his career portrayed him as an Italian gangster or law enforcement officer. He had notable parts in films like ‘Gangster Squad’, ‘The Rocketeer’, ‘Big Eyes’. He also played memorable characters in television series like ‘Seinfeld’, ‘Modern Family, and gave voice to many animated film, television and video game characters. He died of cancer in 2016.
Jon Polito started his career with theatre in New York, working in productions like ‘American Buffalo’, ‘Curse of an Aching Heart’, etc. and won an ‘Obie Award’ in 1980 for his Off-Broadway performances. In 1981, he made his television debut as one of the main stars in the miniseries ‘The Gangster Chronicles’, which also led to a part in the film ‘Gangster Wars’. From 1982-84, he worked in mainstream and television films like ‘The Clairvoyant’ and ‘A Good Sport’. In 1986, The Coen Brothers approached him after they saw him as ‘Howard Wagner’ in ‘Death of a Salesman’. From 1986 to 1988, he played the role of ‘Phil Bartoli’ in the television drama series ‘Crime Story’. In 1990, he portrayed the role of the gangster ‘Johnny Caspar’ in another Coen Brothers movie, ‘Miller’s Crossing’. In 1991, he played ‘Lou Breeze’ in the Coen Brothers psychological thriller ‘Barton Fink’ and did a Disney film ‘The Rocketeer’.
From 1993 to 1994, he portrayed the character ‘Steve Crosetti’ in the hit American police series ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’, a role that was specially re-written for him by the series creators. In 1994, he did a Coen Brothers comedy film ‘The Hudsucker Proxy’ along with the superhero film ‘The Crow’. From 1995 to 97, he did a string of roles in hit television series like ‘Chicago Hope’, ‘NYPD Blue’, ‘Roseanne’ etc. He also gave voice to a character in the animated film ‘Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco’ and TV series ‘Life with Louie’. In 1998, he did his fourth Coen Brothers film ‘The Big Lebowski’, playing the role of a private detective ‘Da Fino’.
From 1999 to 2000, he was seen in television series like ‘Good vs. Evil’ and ‘Popular’, and in the film ‘Stuart Little’. In 2001, he did his fifth and last Coen Brothers movie ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’. He also won a ‘TELLY’ for the voiceover in ‘The Dancing Pumpkin’ directed by his brother.
From 2002 to 2009, he part of in hit TV shows like ‘Gilmore Girls’, ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘Medium’ and was seen in films like ‘Flags of Our Fathers’, and ‘American Gangster’. He was also presented with the ‘2005 Cinequest Maverick Award’ for his lifetime work in TV and films.
From 2011 to 2016, he gave memorable performances in films and TV series like ‘It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia’, ‘Mike & Molly’, ‘Gangster Squad’, ‘Big Eyes’, ‘Modern Family’; and voiced characters in video games too. In 2018, his last film ‘The Maestro’ was released.
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Controversies & Scandals
Season 2 of ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ was not doing well and the series creators decided to replace Jon Polito’s character with a female character. He was assured that his character would be reprised later, but he began to publicly criticize the creators and as a result, his character was killed off at the beginning of season 3. This led to a long-drawn out public argument between him and the show creators. Polito regretted his media outbursts later. Both parties eventually reconciled, leading to Polito’s appearance in ‘Homicide: The Movie’ later.
Family & Personal Life
Jon Raymond Polito was born on December 29, 1950, in Philadelphia, USA, to John and Delaida. He had an older brother, Jack, and a sister, Rosemary. He attended the ‘West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys’, where he got his first taste of acting. Thereafter, he went to Villanova University to study theatre on a drama scholarship.
He was openly gay and met Darryl Armbruster, an actor, in1999. They got married on October 16, 2015. Towards the end of his career, he had developed multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. He passed away on September 1, 2016, at City of Hope Hospital in California.