Nehemiah Persoff

Nehemiah Persoff (born August 2, 1919) is an American painter and actor. He appeared in more than 200 television series, films and plays in his career spanning 52 years.

Nehemiah Persoff
Nehemiah Persoff in 1960
Born (1919-08-02) August 2, 1919
ResidenceCambria, California, U.S.
Years active1947–1999
Spouse(s)Thia Persoff (1951–present)

Early life

Born in Jerusalem, Persoff emigrated with his family to the United States in 1929 and graduated from the Hebrew Technical Institute in 1937.[1] 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.[2][3]

Acting career

One of his first notable roles was as the gangster boss "Little Bonaparte", a parody of Benito Mussolini[4] 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), which was 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, 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, The Wild Wild West, The High Chaparral ("Fiesta" episode, 1970), Hawaii Five-O (7 episodes), Cannon, Ellery Queen ("The Adventure of the Pharaoh's Curse" episode), Mission: Impossible (3 episodes), Adam-12 ("Vendetta" episode), The Mod Squad and Barney Miller (2 different characters in a total of 3 episodes).

In the mid-1980s, when health problems decreased his acting workload, Persoff pursued painting, specializing in watercolor.

Personal life

He retired from acting in 1999 and devoted full-time to his painting. He currently lives with his wife, Thia, in Cambria, California.[5] They have four children.

TV and film roles


  1. "Hebrew Technical Institute Graduation Program". December 6, 2011 via Flickr.
  2. Shadrak, Herbert (March 26, 2010). "Nehemiah Persoff: From Jerusalem to Hollywood – and Beyond". Cinema Retro. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. "Nehemiah Persoff retired from screen to canvas". Senior Voice. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  6. DVD Collection
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