Danny Aiello, ‘Do the Right Thing’ Actor, Dies at 86

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Danny Aiello and Madonna in the 1986 video “Papa Don’t Preach”

Danny Aiello, the actor whose performances in more than 80 films included his Academy Award-nominated role for Best Supporting Actor in Spike Lee’s 1989 film, Do the Right Thing, died yesterday (Dec. 12). His death, at 86 after a sudden illness, was first revealed by TMZ on Dec. 13; the site indicated Aiello’s family had shared the news.

Aiello began his movie career in 1973’s Bang the Drum Slowly, and continued with regular work in such well known films as The Godfather Part II (as Tony Rosato), Fort Apache the BronxOnce Upon a Time in America, and the Woody Allen films The FrontBroadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Radio Days.

But it was his role as a pizzeria shop owner, Salvatore “Sal” Fragione, in Lee’s Do the Right Thing, that truly put Aiello on the map.

Upon hearing the news of Aiello’s passing, Lee posted several photos of the two of them. On one, he wrote, “I’m 💜 Broken.”

View this post on Instagram

I’m 💜 Broken. Just Found Out My Brother DANNY AIELLO Made His Transition Last Night. Danny,We Made Cinema History Together With DO THE RIGHT THING. May You Rest In PARADISE.🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿

A post shared by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on

Watch Aiello and the principal cast of Do the Right Thing discuss the film at a 25th anniversary event in 2014

Several years before appearing in Do the Right Thing, Aiello was cast as Madonna’s father for the video of her single, “Papa Don’t Preach.” Aiello had no speaking role in the clip but is shown lovingly raising his young daughter as a single parent. As the years go by, the song’s teenage narrator tells her father she’s pregnant and that “I’m keeping my baby.” She implores him to give them his blessing.

Aiello also appeared in MoonstruckHudson Hawk, and dozens of other films.

Aiello was born June 20, 1933, in New York City. Throughout his acting career, he was a frequent sight on the city’s streets as well as in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he owned a comedy club. He published an autobiography, My Life on the Street, On the Stage, and In the Movies in 2014.

Related: A farewell to the musicians who left us in 2019

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