August 16, 2006

Bruno Kirby, 1949 - 2006.

Bruno Kirby
Bruno Kirby, a veteran character actor known for playing the best friend in two of Billy Crystal's biggest comedies When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers, has died. He was 57.

Jeremiah Marquez for the AP.

[M]y favorite Kirby performance, I must admit, is one of his more obscure credits, a 1993 episode of the noirish Showtime cable series Fallen Angels. In "I'll Be Waiting," adapted by scripter C Gaby Mitchell from a short story by Raymond Chandler, he was shrewdly cast against type (by director Tom Hanks) as a seemingly stolid hotel detective who is underestimated by just about everybody... "When I was casting this role," Hanks told me years later, "I wanted someone who looked like he was a shoe salesman - but who could break your thumbs if he had to."

Joe Leydon.

Updated through 8/19.

[I]t's his film work that most people, including myself will recall. From his appearance as one of the students in the supremely goofy and dated The Harrad Experiment in 1973 to his role as the young Clemenza opposite Robert DeNiro's young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II.


For me, my favorite film role of Kirby's is as Marlon Brando's nephew in the great comedy The Freshman, so in a way you can say Kirby played opposite both Vito Corleones.

Edward Copeland.

Update, 8/17: An appreciation from Barbara Serrano in the Los Angeles Times, where Dennis McLellan writes the paper's obit.

Update, 8/19: A 1990 interview on Fresh Air.

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Posted by dwhudson at August 16, 2006 3:19 AM


How about his occasional appearances on the old Letterman show as the "Cop on the Edge?" I laughed my head off each time, even though it was a cheap on-off joke repeated ad nauseum.

Posted by: J. Greg Clark at August 16, 2006 7:27 AM

Or as the Sinatra-loving cab driver in Spinal Tap.

Posted by: David Austin at August 16, 2006 3:40 PM

Wow -- I didn't know he was ill. He was a fine underrated character actor, and he'll be missed.

One of my favorite Kirby performances was his ex-con on "Homicide", improvising his vengeance on Andre Braugher's Pembleton. His scenes with Richard Edson were hilarious.

Posted by: Kza at August 16, 2006 8:37 PM

I met Bruno in NYC in 1966 when I visited from Pittsburgh and he and his friend Tony were ushers in Radio City Music Hall. We were in high school. We exchanged phone numbers and addresses and after several months of correspondence, a friend and I went back to NYC one weekend and spent a most innocent and most memorable weekend in NYC with Bruce and friend. The met us at the airport in pouring rain, we road the bus to the City, we spent Friday evening in the fascinating East Village, Saturday seeing the rest of town, went to dinner at the Plaza 9 Room where Bruce Kirby Sr. worked at that time. Bruce told stories, we laughed alot, and talked and talked. We stayed out in the city all night and capped off the weekend by watching the sun rise while riding the Ferry. One of my most poiniant memories is Bruce playing his guitar and singing Yesterday before we left to go back to Pittsburgh early Sunday morning. I never saw Bruce again. We wrote for some months, but I lost track of him until I began to see him on screen and TV. I'll never forget Bruce, his infectious charisma, his big smile, and my weekend in NYC

Posted by: Joelle at August 19, 2006 8:54 AM