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Thursday, September 14, 2017
Frank Vincent, the actor who developed an insult comedy nightclub act while playing in a band with Joe Pesci before the pair was cast by Martin Scorsese in Raging Bull, died Wednesday from complications during open heart surgery. He was 80.

Vincent played a gangster in Brian De Palma's Wise Guys in 1986. He also had memorable roles in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino (all of which saw him acting opposite Pesci), as well as in two Spike Lee movies, Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever. He reteamed with several of the actors in the above films for James Mangold's Cop Land in 1997.

"You usually had a good idea of a Frank Vincent character just from his name," Stephen Whitty states in an obit at nj.com. "Billy Batts. Joey Big Ears. Dino the Rat. Tommy the Bull. Or, when he was really starting out, simply, 'Mafia Thug.' But you didn't know the real Frank Vincent -- a Jersey City boy who idolized Dean Martin, once had a night-club act with buddy Joe Pesci, enjoyed a good hand-rolled cigar, and even wrote a book 'A Guy's Guide to Being a Man's Man.'"

Here's more from a profile piece Whitty re-posts in the article, from 2003:

"THERE was an article about me once, and the first line was "It's good to be a gangster'," Vincent says, finishing his frittata. "Well, I'm not a gangster. I'm an actor."

It's not that Vincent is squeamish about the subject, or in some state of denial about the Mafia. He saw plenty of mobsters in the bars he used to play. Plenty more became fans after he started playing them on screen. A few even became critics.

"They didn't like it when Joe beat me up in "Raging Bull,'" he says. ""Why'd you let that little guy beat you up?' And this one guy, Blackie something, I don't remember his name, but I remember him saying "What is it with the f------ language in that picture?' And, I thought, this guy's killed nine guys and he's concerned about the language?'"

It's not that Vincent minds playing gangsters, either. He had great parts in "Raging Bull" and "GoodFellas" (and got viciously attacked by Pesci in both of them); he had another good part in "Casino" (and finally got his old partner back, with a baseball bat). He realizes the mob roles are the ones he's remembered for and, as a character actor, believes "it's better to be typed than not typed."

Still, the shallowness of the assumptions annoys him. Vincent's a good uptempo drummer, with a genuine love of jazz; he's a natural comic, when he's gotten the chance to show it in films like "She's the One." He's worked with Scorsese, Spike Lee, Brian De Palma and John Sayles. But because he's a big, dark Italian-American, some people assume the gangster parts he's played are the only ones he can, or even the person he really is.

It's a hurdle a lot of actors have faced, and a situation that Vincent's friends protest.

"People typecast you because they're not very imaginative," says Pesci. "They need a certain kind of actor and they know you did that part before and so they come to you. And Frank can do a lot of things. He's very natural, and he's got a good sense of humor and a quick wit."

Posted by Geoff at 2:53 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 14, 2017 2:56 AM CDT
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Friday, October 14, 2011

We've seen anniversary tributes this year to Carrie and Obsession, but one film in the De Palma canon that doesn't usually get much respect is celebrating its anniversary in style this weekend. That's right: Brian De Palma's Wise Guys turns 25 this year, and will play this Sunday night at the Screening Room on the 13th floor of Resorts Atlantic City Casino Hotel, where much of the film was shot. Joe Piscopo, who this past July opened Club Piscopo in the Starlight Room on the second floor at Resorts, will be on hand to introduce Wise Guys, and will also conduct a Q&A after the screening, which begins at 4:45pm (the event is scheduled to go until 7pm). Admission is free. The screening is the closing event (just prior to the Awards ceremony) at this weekend's Atlantic City Cinefest, an annual series of events presented by the Downbeach Film Festival.

Posted by Geoff at 10:35 PM CDT
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Monday, March 28, 2011

New York Examiner blogger Danny Gonzalez started up a new series last week called "The Forgotten Soundtrack Spotlight," kicking it off by examining Brian De Palma's Wise Guys, and especially its whimsical score by Ira Newborn. This film always grabbed me from the start, with its animated opening credits sequence and Newman's playful theme. Even so, I never took a close look at Newborn, so I did not know until I read Gonzalez' post that he also composed the Naked Gun theme, as well as the scores for some of John Hughes' most popular movies. Gonzalez' column hopes to get some of the "forgotten soundtracks" such as the one for Wise Guys released, if the original session tapes can still be located. Here is an excerpt from Gonzalez' post:

Newborn's score not only emphisizes the comedy of the film, but it gives it flavor. The film opens and ends with a goofy Italian godfather like theme with a fun solo violin playing throughout and adding to it later on is a solo saxphone. There are other more "tense moments" like the Church killing scene and for the twist at the end of the film which add a little more dramatic weight, but still keeps the score light, yet frantic.

The reasons the score is very good is because Newborn had some very solid help in the orchestration stage with David Newman and Alf Clausen. Newman who is the brother of Thomas (who I recently revivewed The Adjustment Bureau) and cousin of Randy, (who won recently for Toy Story 3) and Clausen, who has scored virtually every season of The Simpsons since 1990, do a solid job giving the film what it needed, a strong, bouncy main theme. The work they both did with this score does transcend later on in Clausen's Simpsons' music for the mobster character Fat Tony (voiced by Joe Mantegna) and Newman would later revisit the mobster comedy film genre with the hit The Freshman starring Matthew Broderick and the late Godfather himself, Marlon Brando four years after this film came out. His score for that film is quite similar to this one and it's no surprise because the scores are sorta of interchangeable and have the same bouncy main melody and most of the instrumentation (saxophone, accordion, violin, and mandolin) are also similar. You have to give De Palma credit for going in a different direction with Newborn and to me, he does succeed in going in a more lighter, fun direction with the film and the score. He could've easily just have gone for the material straightforward and turned it into a dark, gangster film like he would with David Mamet for The Untouchables, a year later.

Posted by Geoff at 11:20 PM CDT
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Captain Lou Albano

Posted by Geoff at 7:03 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 7:03 PM CDT
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