Nehemiah Persoff, actor in ‘Some Like It Hot,’ ‘Yentl,’ dead at 102

Nehemiah Persoff, a character actor who appeared in dozens of films and television shows including “Some Like It Hot” and “Yentl,” died Tuesday. He was 102.

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Persoff died at a rehabilitation facility in San Luis Obispo, California, his son, Dan Persoff, told The Hollywood Reporter.

The actor was a charter member of the Actors Studio and played an uncredited role as a cab driver in “On The Waterfront,” the entertainment site reported.

Persoff was born in Jerusalem on Aug. 2, 1919. He moved with his family to the United States in 1929 and served in the U.S. Army during World War II, Deadline reported.

His film resume included roles in “The Wrong Man” (1956), “The Harder They Fall” (1957), “The Comancheros” (1961), “The Power” (1968) and “Voyage of the Damned” (1976), according to

Barbra Streisand cast Persoff as her father in the 1983 film “Yentl.” He secretly tutors Streisand’s character in the Talmud, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“One day before filming, Barbra invited me for tea in her house in London … she told me about losing her father at the tender age of two, of her early years in Brooklyn, and so on. She said, ‘Let’s read,’” Persoff said in a 2008 interview for “Films of the Golden Age.” “As we read, I looked at her and thought, ‘What courage you have to take on this film, to write, direct, act and sing.’ I read, ‘Yentl, I’m so proud of you,’ and at that moment, the emotion welled up in me.”

In the 1959 film “Some Like It Hot,” Persoff played the gangster Little Bonaparte, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

On television, Persoff had roles in “The Untouchables,” “Rawhide,” “Burke’s Law,” “The Big Valley,” “I Spy,” “The Wild Wild West,” “Land of the Giants,” “Gunsmoke,” “Barney Miller,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “Hawaii Five-O,” according to

Persoff also was the voice of the violin-playing Papa Mousekewitz in the 1986 film, “An American Tail,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Persoff retired from acting in 1999 to paint, according to The Hollywood Reporter.