Actor Joe Santos, Lieutenant Dennis Becker on The Rockford Files, has died at the age of 84. TMZ reports his son Perry said Santos had a heart attack on Wednesday, March 16, at his Los Angeles home. According to the report, he was placed on life support, but passed this morning, March 18, at a Santa Monica hospital.
In addition to NBC‘s The Rockford Files TV series and subsequent TV movies with the late James Garner, Santos recurred on The Sopranos, Magnum, P.I., Hardcastle and McCormick, and had guest roles on a laundry list of shows. He was a series regular on the a.k.a. Pablo TV series, starring Paul Rodriguez, which was cancelled by ABC after only six episodes aired. He was often cast as a cop.
Born Joseph Minieri, on June 9, 1931, in Brooklyn, New York, the actor’s first TV role was an uncredited part as an onlooker, in The Naked City TV series, in 1963. He was credited as “Joe Russell” in early film work, including Warm Nights and Hot Pleasures and Flesh and Lace.
According to is IMDb.com biography, by Gary Brumburgh, Santos played football at Fordham University, and later went semi-pro, before turning to acting. Here is more from IMDb:
Success was long in coming, and he paid his dues for years in a number of blue-collar jobs including railroad worker, tree trimmer, cabbie and barkeep while taking acting classes. A soap opera job and work in his cousin Joseph W. Sarno’s cheap jack film exploitations (Flesh and Lace (1965), Moonlighting Wives (1966) and My Body Hungers (1967)) in the ’60s seemed to lead nowhere. His first real break came with the searing film downer The Panic in Needle Park (1971), getting a part at the urging of his friend and star of the film, the up-and-coming Al Pacino, who had played some softball with Santos. A prime role as a sympathetic sergeant in the acclaimed TV mini-series The Blue Knight (1973) led Santos in the direction of “good cop” parts, with a long-running role as James Garner’s long-suffering friend Lt. Becker on the series The Rockford Files (1974) (1974-80).
Santos other TV work includes roles on the cancelled NBC soap, Santa Barbara, as well as Murder She Wrote, Hunter, and NYPD Blue. His last professional gig was playing Isaac Sr., in Michel Franco’s 2015 film, Chronic, starring Tim Roth, Bitsie Tulloch, and Maribeth Monroe.
Per TV Line, Santos is survived by a daughter and two sons.
*According to TV Guide, Mr. Santos suffered his heart attack on Monday.
We invite you to remember Joe Santos and his career, below.