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Postscript to G.D. Spradlin, 1920-2011

Posted by Mark Feeney  July 26, 2011 09:00 PM

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ola3.jpgIn the previous post, I argued that G.D. Spradlin -- well, just a moment. I neglected to point out the sheer coolness of the man's name. Those four syllables are like a bit of Gerard Manley Hopkins' sprung rhythm  turning up in a credits sequence.

Anyway, I argued that Spradlin had a small but very secure place in movie history, thanks largely to his supporting roles in "The Godfather: Part II" and "Apocalypse Now." All right, fine, you might say. But doesn't the fact that those are both great, great movies (yes, the repetition is justified) contribute more to Spradlin's status than anything about his performance, per se? Well, sure, it never hurts to be in a masterpiece. It's like real estate: location, location, location. But that will take an actor only so far.

Consider, for example, the gentleman pictured above, also in the second "Godfather" picture. He's playing a character named Johnny Ola, an associate of Hyman Roth's, and a not-insignificant figure in the movie. The actor in the role gave a fine performance, right down to having one of the more memorable deaths in a film (and film series) full of them. See below. Yet being in "The Godfather: Part II" hasn't earned him a place in movie history -- any more than did his (admittedly much less prominent) presence, as one of the Watergate burglars, in another fine, if lesser film, "All the President's Men."

Happily, the actor (whose identity is revealed after the jump) now has a place in television history.


That's right,Dominic Chianese -- better known as Uncle Junior, on "The Sopranos" -- played Johnny Ola. He's the missing link between the series and the "Godfather" pictures.Now if only Chianese had been in "Goodfellas," he'd have hit the trifecta.


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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

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