Nehemiah Persoff

Nehemiah Persoff (born August 2, 1919) is an American retired actor and painter. He appeared in more than 200 television series, films, and plays in a career spanning over 50 years, beginning after World War II.

Nehemiah Persoff
Nehemiah Persoff 1960.JPG
Persoff in 1960
Born (1919-08-02) August 2, 1919 (age 102)[1][2]
Years active1948–1999
Thia Persoff
(m. 1951; died 2021)

Early lifeEdit

Born in Jerusalem, Persoff emigrated with his family to the United States in 1929 and graduated from the Hebrew Technical Institute in 1937.[3] After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he worked as a subway electrician, maintaining signals while he began to pursue his acting career in the New York theater. In 1947, he was accepted into the Actors Studio, and was one of the 26 members of the beginners' class taught by Elia Kazan, along with James Whitmore and Julie Harris. He began his acting career in 1948.[4][5]

Acting careerEdit

One of his early roles was as the gangster boss Little Bonaparte, a parody of Little Caesar[6] in Billy Wilder's film classic Some Like It Hot (1959). He also appeared in supporting roles in films such as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and The Comancheros (1961). In the film Yentl (1983), Persoff portrayed the father of Barbra Streisand's character. He appeared in the comedy film Twins (1988) and in the American Tail animated-film series as Papa Mousekewitz. His last movie was 4 Faces (1999), the last film to be directed by Ted Post.

His many television credits include Five Fingers ("The Moment of Truth"), The Big Valley ("Legend of a General", Parts I & II, episode), Alfred Hitchcock Presents ("Heart of Gold" episode), The Twilight Zone ("Judgment Night"), The Untouchables (six episodes, including three episodes as Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik, regarded by many as his signature role[7]), Naked City, Route 66 (two episodes), Seaway ("Last Voyage" episode, 1965), The Legend of Jesse James, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Gunsmoke, Gilligan's Island (as the title character in the episode "The Little Dictator", the favorite episode of the show's creator Sherwood Schwartz[8]), The Wild Wild West, The High Chaparral ("Fiesta" episode, 1970), Hawaii Five-O (seven episodes), Cannon, Ellery Queen ("The Adventure of the Pharaoh's Curse" episode), Mission: Impossible (three episodes), Adam-12 ("Vendetta" episode), The Mod Squad, Barney Miller (three episodes) and Star Trek: The Next Generation, ("The Most Toys" 1990). He appeared as the Eastern Alliance Leader in the Battlestar Galactica episode, "Experiment in Terra" (1979).

Personal lifeEdit

Persoff retired from acting in 1999 and pursued painting, specializing in watercolors. He currently lives in Cambria, California.[9] His wife, Thia, died in 2021 due to cancer.[10] They had four children.



Year Title Role Director(s)
1948 The Naked City Smiling Man Departing Subway Jules Dassin
1954 On the Waterfront Cab Driver Elia Kazan
1956 The Harder They Fall Leo Mark Robson
The Wrong Man Gene Conforti Alfred Hitchcock
The Wild Party Kicks Johnson Harry Horner
1957 Men in War SFC Nate Lewis Anthony Mann
Street of Sinners Leon William Berke
This Angry Age Albert René Clément
1958 The Badlanders Vincente Delmer Daves
1959 Never Steal Anything Small Pinelli Charles Lederer
Green Mansions Don Panta Mel Ferrer
Some Like It Hot Little Bonaparte Billy Wilder
Al Capone Johnny Torrio Richard Wilson
Day of the Outlaw Dan Andre DeToth
1961 The Big Show Bruno Everard James B. Clark
The Comancheros Graile Michael Curtiz
John Wayne
1963 The Hook Capt. Van Ryn George Seaton
1964 A Global Affair Under Secretary Segura Jack Arnold
Fate Is the Hunter Ben Sawyer Ralph Nelson
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Shemiah George Stevens
1967 Too Many Thieves Georgi Abner Biberman
1968 The Money Jungle Lt. Dow Reeves Francis D. Lyon
The Day of the Owl Pizzuco Damiano Damiani
The Power Prof. Carl Melnicker Byron Haskin
Panic in the City August Best Eddie Davis
1969 The Girl Who Knew Too Much Lt. Miles Crawford Francis D. Lyon
1970 The People Next Door Dr. Salazar David Greene
1971 Mrs. Pollifax-Spy Berisha Leslie H. Martinson
Red Sky at Morning Amadeo Montoya James Goldstone
1972 Lapin 360 Unknown Robert Michael Lewis
1975 Psychic Killer Dr. Gubner Ray Danton
1976 Voyage of the Damned Mr. Hauser Stuart Rosenberg
1977 Deadly Harvest Mort Logan Timothy Bond
1979 In Search of Historic Jesus Herod Antipas Henning Schellerup
1981 St. Helens Mr. Ellison Ernest Pintoff
1982 O'Hara's Wife Dr. Fischer William Bartman
1983 Yentl Rebbe Mendel (Papa) Barbra Streisand
1986 An American Tail Papa Mousekewitz Don Bluth
1988 The Last Temptation of Christ Rabbi Martin Scorsese
Twins Mitchell Traven Ivan Reitman
1991 An American Tail: Fievel Goes West Papa Mousekewitz Phil Nibbelink
Simon Wells
1998 An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island Larry Latham
1999 An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster
4 Faces Unknown Ted Post

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ International Television & Video Almanac (2007), pg. 366
  2. ^ This former Hollywood movie star living in Cambria just celebrated his 100th birthday
  3. ^ "Hebrew Technical Institute Graduation Program". December 6, 2011 – via Flickr.
  4. ^ Shadrak, Herbert (March 26, 2010). "Nehemiah Persoff: From Jerusalem to Hollywood – and Beyond". Cinema Retro. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
  5. ^ Staggs, Sam (2005). When Blanche Met Brando: The Scandalous Story of "A Streetcar Named Desire". St. Martin's Press. p. 43. ISBN 9780312321642. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  6. ^ Jeffrey Meyers: The Genius and the Goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. University of Illinois Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-252-03544-9, p. 193.
  7. ^ "Exclusive! Interview with acclaimed actor nehemiah persoff - Cinema Retro".
  8. ^ Cantor, Paul A. (July 15, 2011). "What 'Gilligan's Island' creator Sherwood Schwartz was saying about democracy". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ "Nehemiah Persoff retired from screen to canvas". Senior Voice. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  10. ^ "At 102, SLO County actor and painter Nehemiah Persoff adds a new title — author". San Luis Obispo Tribune. Retrieved September 4, 2021.

External linksEdit