James Coco

James Emil Coco (March 21, 1930 – February 25, 1987) was an American character actor and singer. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Only When I Laugh (1981).[1]

James Coco
James Coco in 1973.
Born(1930-03-21)March 21, 1930
New York City, U.S.
DiedFebruary 25, 1987(1987-02-25) (aged 56)
New York City
Resting placeSaint Gertrude Cemetery & Mausoleum, Colonia, New Jersey, U.S.
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1940s–1987

Early life and career

Born in the Little Italy section of Manhattan,[2] Coco was the son of Felice Coco, a shoemaker, and Ida Detestes Coco.

The family moved to the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx when he was an infant, where he lived until his late teens.[2]

James began acting straight out of high school.[1] He received his acting training at HB Studio[3] in New York City. As an overweight and prematurely balding adult, he found himself relegated to character roles. He made his Broadway debut in Hotel Paradiso in 1957, but his first major recognition was for Off-Broadway's The Moon in Yellow River by Denis Johnston, for which he won an Obie Award.[4]

Coco's first modern collaboration with playwright Terrence McNally was a 1968 off Broadway double-bill of the one-act plays Sweet Eros and Witness, followed by Here's Where I Belong, a disastrous Broadway musical adaptation of East of Eden that closed on opening night. They had far greater success with their next project, Next, a two-character play with Elaine Shore, which ran for more than 700 performances and won Coco the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. Sixteen years later, the two would reunite for the Manhattan Theatre Club production of It's Only a Play.[4]

Coco also achieved success with Neil Simon, who wrote The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1969) specifically for him. It earned him a Tony Award nomination as Best Actor in a Play. The two later joined forces for a Broadway revival of the musical Little Me and the films Murder by Death (1976), The Cheap Detective (1978) and Only When I Laugh (1981), for which he was both Oscar-nominated and Razzie-nominated.[5]

Film and television roles

Coco's additional film credits include Ensign Pulver (1964), End of the Road (1970), The Strawberry Statement (1970), Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970), A New Leaf (1971), Such Good Friends (1971), Man of La Mancha (1972), Scavenger Hunt (1979), Wholly Moses! (1980) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) as well as a starring role in The Wild Party (1975). Charleston (1977) Several of his films were released posthumously: Hunk (1987) and That's Adequate (1989).[5][6]

On television, Coco starred on two unsuccessful 1970s series, Calucci's Department and The Dumplings, and made guest appearances on many series, including ABC Stage 67, The Edge of Night, Marcus Welby, M.D., Trapper John, M.D., Medical Center, Maude, Fantasy Island, Alice, The Eddie Capra Mysteries, Murder, She Wrote, The Muppet Show, The Carol Burnett Show,The Love Boat and St. Elsewhere, for which he won an Emmy Award. One of his last television assignments was a recurring role as Nick Milano on the sitcom Who's the Boss?.[6]


Year Award Category Work Result
1972 Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actor Man of La Mancha Nominated
1982 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Only When I Laugh Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Golden Raspberry Award Worst Supporting Actor Nominated
1983 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actor St. Elsewhere Won


Coco died at St. Vincent's Hospital, Manhattan, on February 25, 1987, at age 56. He had suffered a heart attack at his Greenwich Village home.[1] He is buried in St. Gertrude's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Colonia, New Jersey.[7]



  1. Bennetts, Leslie (February 26, 1987). "James Coco, Character Actor On Stage and TV and in Films". The New York Times. p. 19.
  2. McQuiston, John T. (February 26, 1987). "JAMES COCO, MOVIE, TV AND STAGE ACTOR, DIES". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  3. HB Studio Alumni
  4. James Coco at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
  5. "Emmy Award-Winning Actor James Coco, 56, Dies of Heart Attack". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. February 26, 1987. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  6. James Coco on IMDb
  7. Wilson, Scott (September 16, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (Third ed.). McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 144. ISBN 978-1476625997. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
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