Alex Rocco, the gravelly voiced actor who died last Saturday, had something that set him apart from other tough guy actors. Alex Rocco had life experience.
As a young man living in Boston, Rocco was associated with members of the infamous Winter Hill Gang. In 1961, a member of the Charleston Mob named George McLaughlin allegedly made a pass at Rocco’s girlfriend. Two other members of the Winter Hill Gang retaliated by beating up McLaughlin, setting off the Irish Mob War of the 1960s. By the time the war ended, the Charleston Mob had been eradicated and Alex Rocco had relocated to California, where he worked as a bartender and took acting lessons from Leonard Nimoy.
Alex Rocco was best known for appeared in The Godfather as Moe Greene, the Las Vegas “businessman” who made his bones while Michael Corleone was still going out with cheerleaders. However, Alex Rocco’s career began long before The Godfather, when he played a gangster in the Batman TV series and made his feature debut in Russ Meyer’s Motropsycho!
In 1973, Alex Rocco returned to Boston, playing a bank robber in The Friends of Eddie Coyle. This sadly underrated crime film was based on the real life history of the Winter Hill Gang. When stars Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle wanted to research their roles, it was reportedly Alex Rocco who arranged for them to spend time with their real-life counterparts.
Rocco did not just play gangsters. He also appeared as cops in films like The Boston Strangler, Detroit 9000, and The Stunt Man. However, for many, Alex Rocco’s best non-gangster role will always be providing the voice of studio head Roger Meyers, Jr. on The Simpsons. Meyers was just as determined to make cartoons and protect his father’s legacy as Moe Greene was to keep the Corleones out of Las Vegas.
So, for one last time, let us put on our glasses and tell Bart and Lisa to “mail it to me next week when I might have cared.” Rest in peace, good gentleman. Thank you for the memories.