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Paul Picerni

I'm a fan of classic TV shows and films. My articles focus on the character actors and actress who usually played supporting roles.

Paul Picerni as Jonesy in "Operation Pacific" (1951)

Paul Picerni as Jonesy in "Operation Pacific" (1951)

Paul Picerni: Quick Facts

Born: 1 December 1922 (Corona, New York, USA)

Died: 12 January 2011 (Llano/Palmdale, California, USA)

Cause of Death: Heart attack

Film and TV Appearances: 200+

Years Active: 1946-1987; 1998; 2000; 2007

Early Life

Horace Paul Picerni was born on 1 December 1922 to Fabrizio and Nicoletta Picerni. As a child, he became an Eagle Scout and represented Queens at the World Jamboree in Washington, D.C. He attended Newton High School where he was president of his senior class and received a proficiency medal for scholastic excellence.

After graduating from high school he joined the Army Air Corps and trained as a bombardier. From 1943 to 1945 he served in the Asia Pacific theatre and eventually flew 25 combat missions, including one which destroyed the actual bridge on the River Kwai. For his service, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters.

When his military service was over, Picerni attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and graduated with a Bachelor's degree majoring in drama in 1950. During his time in university, he appeared in several campus productions including one that was noticed by a Warner Brothers representative.

Give stars their due. Don’t challenge them. Learn from them. If they’re generous to you, you be loyal to them. Don’t step on their toes.

— Paul Picerni


Picerni made his film debut in 1946 in an uncredited role in the film In Fast Company. He appeared in another five movies before getting his first screen credit in Saddle Tramp in 1950 and shortly afterward he signed a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers.

He is known for films like Drive a Crooked Road (1954), Airport (1970), and Operation Pacific (1951).

He also appeared in films like Breakthrough (1950); Fort Worth (1951); Cattle Town (1952); House of Wax (1953); To Hell and Back (1955); Bobby Ware is Missing (1956); The Big Caper (1957); Marjorie Morningstar (1958); The Young Philadelphians (1959); Strangers When We Meet (1960); The Age of Violence (1964); The Scalphunters (1968); Che! (1969); Kotch (1971); Capricorn One (1978); Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979); and Three Days to Las Vegas (2007).

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Picerni made his television debut in 1953 in an episode of Dragnet entitled "The Big Kill."

TV movies and mini-series he appeared in were The Old Man Who Cried Wolf (1970); Big Rose: Double Trouble (1974); Something for Joey (1977); The Last Hurrah (1977); Women in White (1979); The French Atlantic Affair (1979); Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story (1980); and Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987).

He guest-starred on a large of amount of TV shows and in some cases, he appeared in them two or more times.

TV shows he guest-starred in included Waterfront; Four Star Theatre; Cavalcade of America; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers; Broken Arrow; 26 Men; The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna; Boots and Saddles; Zorro; The Silent Service; The Loretta Young Show; Colt. 45; The Rebel; Perry Mason; Batman; Felony Squad; Here's Lucy; O'Hara, U.S. Treasury; The F.B.I.; Adam-12; Insight; Gunsmoke; Mannix; Barnaby Jones; Starsky and Hutch; Kojak; T.J. Hooker; Matt Houston; and Diagnosis Murder.

In 1960, Picerni joined the cast of the TV series The Untouchables (1959-1963). For three years he co-starred as Agent Lee Hobson. Despite his numerous TV appearances, this was the only show he appeared in as a regular cast member.

Paul Picerni as Lee Hobson in "The Untouchables" (1959-1963)

Paul Picerni as Lee Hobson in "The Untouchables" (1959-1963)

Other Achievements

For 30 years until 1979, Picerni was the half-time master of ceremonies at all of the home games of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team. He also earned the title "The Benefit King" as he was the emcee for hundreds of charity events and benefits such as the Hollywood Actors Communication Breakfast, Columbus Day Banquets, Chamber of Commerce banquets and many others including Italian and Catholic organisations.

In 2007, he co-wrote his autobiography with Tom Weaver called Steps to Stardom: My Story, which chronicled his life before, during and after his acting career.

Picerni as Judge Kenyon in the season 5 episode "First Do No Harm" in "Diagnosis Murder" (1993-2002)

Picerni as Judge Kenyon in the season 5 episode "First Do No Harm" in "Diagnosis Murder" (1993-2002)

Later Years

Even though he retired from acting in the late 1980s, he did make two appearances on his friend Dick Van Dyke's show Diagnosis Murder (where his son Paul Jr. was a property master) and in his brother Charlie's film Three Days to Vegas in 2007.

He was married for 64 years to Marie Mason and they had eight children: four sons and four daughters. Many of his relatives (including his brother and sister) and extended family have been and now are involved with stunt work in Hollywood.

Paul Picerni died from a heart attack on 12 January 2011 and was proclaimed dead at the Palmdale Regional Medical Center. He is buried at San Fernando Mission Cemetry in Mission Hills, California.


CJ Kelly from the PNW on April 07, 2016:

Great hub. I remember seeing many, many times on television. Never knew anything about him. Thx. Shared.

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