Colasanto on the set of Cheers
January 19, 1924|
Providence, Rhode Island,
|Died||February 12, 1985
Studio City, California,
|Occupation||Actor / Director|
Colasanto attended Bryant University (now located in Smithfield, Rhode Island) and was a decorated veteran of World War II, when he served as a coxswain in the United States Navy. Around 1954 he was supposed to be an accountant for a company in Saudi Arabia, but he instead attended American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Colasanto was best known for his role as Coach Ernie Pantusso on the sitcom Cheers. He directed two Columbo episodes, "Étude in Black" (1972) and "Swan Song" (1974). He directed two episodes of the short-lived 1974 ABC police drama Nakia: "No Place to Hide" and "A Matter of Choice". He also appeared in feature films, including Fat City and Family Plot.
An in-demand director, he had been diagnosed in the mid-1970s with heart disease, which was exacerbated by his alcoholism. He began having trouble securing directing jobs by the end of the 1970s due to his declining health. His last major film role was that of mob boss Tommy Como in Raging Bull.
Suffering from heart disease, his health worsened by the third season of Cheers. Castmates noticed his weight loss, though the actor chose to keep the severity of his illness a secret. Shortly after the Christmas holiday in 1984, he was admitted to a local hospital due to water in his lungs. Co-star Ted Danson later commented that the veteran actor had difficulty remembering his lines during production of the season.
After being released from the hospital, Colasanto's doctor recommended he not return to work. Although he appeared in the cold opening of the third season finale episode, "Rescue Me" (1985), his last full episode was "Cheerio Cheers" (1985), filmed in late November 1984.
Colasanto's character was written out of the show as also having died. The fourth season premiere episode, "Birth, Death, Love and Rice" (1985), dealt with Coach's death as well as introducing Colasanto's successor, Woody Harrelson.
Illness and death
On February 16, 1985, more than 300 people attended his funeral, including his longtime friends, actor George Garro and John Ratzenberger. He is buried in Saint Ann's Cemetery in Cranston, Rhode Island.
Colasanto hung a picture of Geronimo in his dressing room. After his death, it was placed on the wall in the bar (part of the Cheers production set) in memory of him. Near the end of the final episode of Cheers, bar owner Sam Malone (Ted Danson) walks over to the picture and straightens it.
On April 19, 1985, Colasanto was awarded posthumously the Best Supporting Actor by Viewers for Quality Television, a (now defunct) non-profit organization that determined what was considered high-quality on television.
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- "Birth, Death, Love, and Rice." 1985. Cheers: Season 4: The Complete Fourth Season. Paramount, 2009. DVD.
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- Keets, Heather (February 11, 1994). "Coach's Last Call". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
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- Snauffer 2008, p. 57.
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- Snauffer, Douglas (2008). The Show Must Go On: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television Series. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3295-0.
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- Evory, Ann. Contemporary Newsmakers: 1985 Cumulation. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986. Print. ISBN 978-0-8103-2201-1.
- Nicholas Colasanto at the Internet Movie Database
- Nicholas Colasanto at the University of Wisconsin's Actors Studio audio collection