Nehemiah Persoff, ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘Gunsmoke’ Star, Dead at 102

by Leanne Stahulak
nehemiah-persoff-the-twilight-zone-and-gunsmoke-star-dead-at-102
(Photo by Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Renowned TV and film actor Nehemiah Persoff, known for “The Twilight Zone,” “Gunsmoke,” and more, is dead at 102 years old. He died on Tuesday in a rehabilitation center in San Luis Obispo, California. A family friend shared Persoff’s passing with Deadline.

Nehemiah Persoff retired from acting years ago after suffering from a stroke as well as other health issues. His last known appearance was in an HBO miniseries called “Angels in America” in 2003. But he has a long and celebrated acting career with over 200 titles to his name.

Nehemia Persoff Over the Years

According to The New York Post, Nehemiah Persoff was born in Jerusalem on August 2, 1919. He and his family moved to the United States in 1929. Persoff served in the US Army during World War II before returning to the States and settling in New York City.

From there, Persoff pursued a career in acting. Deadline reports that he joined the famous Actors Studio after the war, where he studied with Elia Kazan. The director would end up casting him years later as a silent cab driver in the 1954 film “On the Waterfront.”

Nehemia Persoff then starred in a slew of TV shows and movies throughout the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Some of his early TV works included roles in “The Twilight Zone,” “Gunsmoke,” “Goodyear Playhouse,” “Playhouse 90,” “The Untouchables,” and “Naked City.” Later, Persoff also appeared in “Burke’s Law,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Wild Wild West,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Hawaii Five-0” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a popular show from the 20th century that Nehemiah Persoff didn’t star in for at least one episode. Of course, he also had a huge impact on the film industry.

His more recognizable roles include Humphrey Bogart’s final movie, “The Harder They Fall” from 1956. He also appeared in “Some Like It Hot,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “The Wrong Man,” “Twins,” and “Yentl.” On the animated side of things, Persoff voiced Papa Mousekewitz in the 1986 film “An American Tail,” as well as the sequel.

Nehemiah Persoff Fans Mourn Dead Actor

When news of his passing broke, Nehemiah PErsoff fans quickly took to social media to mourn for the acclaimed actor. One of the first people to do so was Barbara Streisand, who played Persoff’s daughter in “Yentl.”

“Nicky lived a long loving life. I’ll miss you Papa!!” Streisand wrote in her caption.

One fan on Twitter wrote, “We have lost a real piece of living history, the great #NehemiahPersoff had passed on at the age of 102. He was the last surviving member of the cast of SOME LIKE IT HOT, playing Little Bonaparte. ‘There was something in that cake that didn’t agree with them.’ Well done, sir.”

“I know he had a good long life, but it’s still sad to see #NehemiahPersoff go. He always played some of the most endearing characters, especially on #TheInvisibleMan Still haven’t forgiven #MurderSheWrote for killing his character off,” someone else said.

Nehemiah Persoff is survived by his children Daniel, Jeff, Perry, and Dahlia, as well as several grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. His wife Thia died last year of cancer. 

Outsider.com