Prolific Actor and Star of ‘The French Connection’ Dead at 87

( – The film and television industry mourns the loss of Tony Lo Bianco, the acclaimed actor who played the unforgettable mobster Salvatore Boca in “The French Connection.” Lo Bianco, best known for his role in the Academy-Award-winning film, passed away at the age of 87 after a battle with prostate cancer. His death, which occurred in the night at his horse farm in Maryland on June 11, marks the end of a career that spanned six decades and left an indelible mark on the industry.

A New York native, Lo Bianco was born and raised in Brooklyn in 1936. The actor was a Golden Gloves boxer before he went on to act in theater and television roles. Lo Bianco’s screen career began with guest roles in TV series in the 1960s, including “Get Smart!,” “The Doctors” and “N.Y.P.D.” His film debut came in 1965 in “The Sex Perils of Paulette.”

In 1970, Tony Lo Bianco’s career took a significant turn when he portrayed a suave con man in “The Honeymoon Killers,” a film that even French new wave auteur Francois Truffaut considered his favorite American film. This breakthrough role paved the way for his iconic portrayal of “Sal” Buco in William Friedkin’s 1971 crime drama, The French Connection. In this movie, Gene Hackman’s character, Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, an NYPD detective, follows a drug deal in which Sal Buco plays a central part. The film was awarded five Oscars, solidifying Lo Bianco’s place in film history.

Acting in roles on both sides of the law, Lo Bianco also starred in “The Seven-Ups,” “Nixon,” “The Juror,” and “Kill the Irishman.” The actor returned to boxing in 1979 to play the heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano in an ABC telefilm and played a cop in both the TV dramas “Police Story” and “Jessie.”

Lo Bianco was married three times: to Dora Landey from 1964 to 1984, to Elizabeth Fitzpatrick from 2002 to 2008, and to Alyse Best Muldoon in 2015. He had three daughters with Landey. One daughter, Ana, died in 2006. Lo Bianco made his final TV appearance in a “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” episode in 2007 and starred in his final movie, Ray Romano’s comedy-drama “Somewhere in Queens,” in 2022.

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