Vito Giusto Scozzari (January 26, 1918 – June 5, 1996), known professionally as Vito Scotti, was an American character actor who played both dramatic and comedy roles many on Broadway, in films, and later on television, primarily from the late 1930s to the mid 1990s. He was known as a man of a thousand faces for his ability to assume so many divergent roles in more than 200 screen appearances in a career spanning 50 years and for his resourceful portrayals of various ethnic types. Born of Italian heritage, he was seen playing everything from a Mexican bandit, to a Russian doctor, to a Japanese sailor, to an Indian travel agent.

Vito Scotti
Vito Scotti in Life with Luigi.jpg
Scotti in 1953
Vito Giusto Scozzari[1]

(1918-01-26)January 26, 1918
DiedJune 5, 1996(1996-06-05) (aged 78)
Resting placeHollywood Forever Cemetery
Years active1937–1995
  • Irene Aida Lopez Scozzari
    (m. 1949; died 1979)
  • Beverly Scotti ( –1996)

Early life and careerEdit

Vito Giusto Scozzari was born in 1918 in San Francisco, California. His family spent the early 1920s in Naples.

In 1925, after the Scozzari family had returned to the United States, his mother became a diva in New York City theatre circles. Scotti worked the night club circuit as a stand-up magician and mime. He made his debut on Broadway in Pinocchio, where he played a small role.


Scotti entered movies and television by the late 1940s. He made his film debut, playing an uncredited role as a Mexican youth in Illegal Entry (1949), with Howard Duff and George Brent.

By 1953, Scotti replaced J. Carrol Naish as Luigi Basco, an Italian immigrant who ran a Chicago antique store, on the television version of the radio show Life with Luigi. Five years later, he portrayed another "ethnic" character, Rama from India (among other characters) in the live-action segment "Gunga Ram" on the Andy Devine children's show, Andy's Gang,[2] where he also played a foil to the trickster Froggy the Gremlin. He was cast as French Duclos in the 1959 episode "Deadly Tintype" of the NBC Western series, The Californians.

In 1963, Scotti was cast as the Italian farmer Vincenzo Peruggia in the episode "The Tenth Mona Lisa" of the CBS anthology series, General Electric True, hosted by Jack Webb. In the episode set in the year 1911, Peruggia steals the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris but is apprehended by a French detective when he attempts to unload the painting on an art dealer.[3]

He also appeared in television series, such as How to Marry a Millionaire (as Jules in the 1958 episode "Loco and the Gambler"), in four episodes of The Rifleman, Rescue 8 (1959), State Trooper (1959), Sugarfoot (1959), The Texan (1959), Johnny Staccato (1960), The Twilight Zone (Mr. Bevis), (1960), The Investigators (1961), Target: The Corruptors! (1962), Lassie, Stoney Burke (1963), The Wide Country (1963), Dr. Kildare (1963), Going My Way (1963), Breaking Point (1963), The Dick Van Dyke Show (1963), and The Addams Family (1964–1965).

Scotti appeared in two episodes of Bonanza, in Gunsmoke (1965–1970), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1965 and 1967), The Wild Wild West, Ironside, The Monkees, The Flying Nun,[2] Get Smart, Hogan's Heroes, as one of The Penguin's henchmen in two episodes of Batman, two episodes of The Bionic Woman (1976), and two episodes of The Golden Girls (1988-1989). He played Geppetto in "Geppetto's Workshop" in the 1980s.

He appeared four times on Gilligan's Island in the 1960s: in season one, episode 15 (1964–65) as a Japanese sailor who did not know World War II was over, later in season one, episode 31, as the same sailor in scenes where Ginger, the skipper, and Mister Howell reflect in diaries on their versions of how a rescue transpired in the above-mentioned episode 15, and twice as Dr. Boris Balinkoff, a mad scientist, in seasons two and three. He appeared in 5 episodes (1973-1975) of the original Columbo, as a befuddled maître d’, a snobbish clothing store salesman, a soliciting undertaker, an erudite street bum, and a soybean wholesaler, and in one episode (1989) as Vito when the series was revived.

Scotti was cast as a Mexican bandit in two one-hour episodes of Zorro titled "El Bandido" and "Adios El Cuchillo" alongside Gilbert Roland, and an Italian restaurant owner in episode 35 of season one of Bewitched.

The actor appeared in hundreds of film and television roles, including a prominent role as the "Italian Train Engineer" in Von Ryan's Express who leads the escaped prisoners to Switzerland, as Nazorine in The Godfather (1972), as Vittorio in Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (1981), and most notably[citation needed] as the scene-stealing cook in How Sweet It Is! (1968). In the pivotal[citation needed] scene, Scotti grabs a flustered Debbie Reynolds and plants a kiss on her midriff.

He portrayed Colonel Enrico Ferrucci in The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968) and later appeared in the Academy Award-winning comedy Cactus Flower (1969), as Señor Arturo Sánchez, who unsuccessfully tries to seduce Ingrid Bergman's character.

He voiced the Italian Cat in the Walt Disney animated film The Aristocats (1970), and appeared with Lindsay Wagner on her television special, Another Side of Me (1977). His last screen performance was as the manager at Vesuvio's in the criminal comedy Get Shorty (1995).


Scotti died of lung cancer at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, on June 5, 1996. He was interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, with his first wife Irene, in the Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum.

Personal lifeEdit

In addition to his accomplishments as an actor, Scotti was highly regarded as a cook. He loved cooking, especially the recipes of his beloved mother and grandmother. Two generations of Hollywood's top names always left his dinner parties raving about the food and wine.

He was married for many years to Irene A. Scozzari until her death at age 54, on April 15, 1979. Vito then married Beverly and they were married until his death. He was a dedicated fundraiser for the "Carmen Fund", set up by the Joaquin Miller High School Parents Guild, to assist the school's special-needs students in obtaining medical treatment. The fund was named after the Scottis' daughter, one of the first patients to undergo pioneering spinal implant surgery.[2]




  1. ^ "Vito Scotti". NNDB.
  2. ^ a b c Oliver, Myrna (June 12, 1996). "Vito Scotti; Veteran Character Actor in Films and on TV". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ "GE True". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved March 1, 2013.

External linksEdit