Vito Scotti

Active - 1948 - 1995  |   Born - Jan 26, 1918 in San Francisco, California  |   Died - Jun 5, 1996   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American character actor Vito Scotti may not be the living legend as described by his publicity packet, but he has certainly been one of the most familiar faces to bob up on small and large screens in the last five decades. Scotti's father was a vaudeville impresario, and his mother an opera singer; in fact, he was born while his mother was making a personal appearance in San Francisco. Launching his own career at seven with an Italian-language commedia del arte troupe in New York, Scotti picked up enough improvisational knowhow to develop a nightclub act. When the once-flourishing Italian theatre circuit began to fade after World War II, Scotti began auditioning for every job that came up -- whether he could do the job or not. Without his trademarked mustache, the diminuitive actor looked like a juvenile well into his thirties, and as such was cast in a supporting role as a timorous East Indian on the "Gunga Ram" segment of the '50s TV kiddie series Andy's Gang. Once the producers discovered that Scotti had mastered several foreign dialects, he was allowed to appear as a comic foil to Andy's Gang's resident puppet Froggy the Gremlin. In nighttime television, Scotti played everything from a murderous bank robber (on Steve Canyon) to a misplaced Japanese sub commander (on Gilligan's Island). He was indispensable to TV sitcoms: Scotti starred during the 1954 season of Life with Luigi (replacing J. Carroll Naish), then appeared as gesticulating Latin types in a score of comedy programs, notably The Dick Van Dyke Show (as eccentric Italian housepainter Vito Giotto) and The Flying Nun (as ever-suspicious Puerto Rican police captain Gaspar Fomento). In theatrical films, Scotti's appearances were brief but memorable. he is always greeted with appreciative audience laughter for his tiny bit as a restauranteur in The Godfather (1972); while in How Sweet it Is (1968) he is hilarious as a moonstruck chef, so overcome by the sight of bikini-clad Debbie Reynolds that he begins kissing her navel! Vito Scotti was still essaying dialect parts into the '90s.

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