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James Coco
Coco in 1973
James Emil Coco

(1930-03-21)March 21, 1930
DiedFebruary 25, 1987(1987-02-25) (aged 56)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Resting placeSaint Gertrude Cemetery
Colonia, New Jersey, U.S.
Years active1947–1987

James Emil Coco (March 21, 1930 – February 25, 1987) was an American stage and screen actor. He was the recipient of a Primetime Emmy Award, a Drama Desk Award, a Cable ACE Award and three Obie Awards, as well as nominations for a Tony Award, an Academy Award and two Golden Globe Awards. Coco is remembered for his supporting roles in the films Man of La Mancha (1972), Murder by Death (1976) and Only When I Laugh (1981).

Early life and career

Born in the Little Italy section of Manhattan,[1] Coco was the son of Felice Lescoco, a shoemaker, and Ida Detestes Lescoco (Coco being a shortened version of his birth name).

The family moved to the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx when he was an infant, where he lived until his late teens.[1]

James began acting straight out of high school.[2] He received his acting training at HB Studio[3] in New York City. As an overweight and prematurely balding adult, he found himself relegated to character roles. He made his Broadway debut in Hotel Paradiso in 1957, but his first major recognition was for Off-Broadway's The Moon in Yellow River by Denis Johnston, for which he won an Obie Award.[4]

Coco's first modern collaboration with playwright Terrence McNally was a 1968 Off-Broadway double-bill of the one-act plays Sweet Eros and Witness, followed by Here's Where I Belong, a disastrous Broadway musical adaptation of East of Eden that closed on opening night. They had far greater success with their next project, Next, a two-character play with Elaine Shore, which ran for more than 700 performances and won Coco the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. Sixteen years later, the two reunited for the Manhattan Theatre Club production of It's Only a Play.[4]

Coco also achieved success with Neil Simon, who wrote The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1969) specifically for him. It earned him a Tony Award nomination as Best Actor in a Play. The two later joined forces for a Broadway revival of the musical Little Me and the films Murder by Death (1976), The Cheap Detective (1978) and Only When I Laugh (1981), for which he was both Oscar-nominated and Razzie-nominated.[5]

Coco, a veteran of many failed diets, was the author of the bestselling book The James Coco Diet, released on February 1, 1983, which documented his successful experience of the Structure House Weight Loss Plan, developed by Gerard Musante. However, he only lived four years after the release of his book.[6]

Film and television roles

Coco with Doris Roberts at the premiere of Seems Like Old Times in 1980, taken by Alan Light

Coco's additional film credits include Ensign Pulver (1964), The Patty Duke Show (1965). End of the Road (1970), The Strawberry Statement (1970), Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970), A New Leaf (1971), Such Good Friends (1971), Man of La Mancha (1972), Scavenger Hunt (1979), Wholly Moses! (1980) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) as well as a starring role in The Wild Party (1975). Charleston (1977) Several of his films were released posthumously: Hunk (1987) and That's Adequate (1989).[5][7]

On television, Coco starred on two unsuccessful 1970s series, Calucci's Department and The Dumplings, and made guest appearances on many series, including ABC Stage 67, NBC Children’s Theater, The Edge of Night, Marcus Welby, M.D., Trapper John, M.D., Medical Center, Maude, Fantasy Island, Alice, The Eddie Capra Mysteries, Murder, She Wrote, The Muppet Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Love Boat, $weepstake$, and St. Elsewhere, for which he won an Emmy Award. One of his later television assignments was a recurring role as Nick Milano on the sitcom Who's the Boss?.[7] Coco died[8][1] exactly one day after[9] what was his final appearance on Who's the Boss? was broadcast.[5]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1961 6th Obie Awards Distinguished Performance by an Actor
The Moon in the Yellow River
1968 13th Obie Awards Distinguished Performance
1969 14th Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Performance
1970 24th Tony Awards Best Actor in a Play Nominated
1973 30th Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
1977 22nd Obie Awards Distinguished Performance
The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie
1982 39th Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
54th Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
2nd Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Supporting Actor Nominated
1983 35th Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
St. Elsewhere, (Episode: "Cora and Arnie")
1985 7th CableACE Awards Best Actor in a Dramatic Series
The Ray Bradbury Theater, (Episode: "Marionettes, Inc.")


Coco died at St. Vincent's Hospital, Manhattan, on February 25, 1987, at age 56 after suffering a heart attack at his Greenwich Village home.[2] He is buried in St. Gertrude's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Colonia, New Jersey.[10]




  1. ^ a b c McQuiston, John T. (February 26, 1987). "James Coco, Movie, TV And Stage Actor, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Bennetts, Leslie (February 26, 1987). "James Coco, Character Actor On Stage and TV and in Films". The New York Times. p. 19.
  3. ^ "Alumni". HB Studio. Retrieved September 7, 2022.
  4. ^ a b James Coco at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
  5. ^ a b c "Emmy Award-Winning Actor James Coco, 56, Dies of Heart Attack". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. February 26, 1987. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "The James Coco Diet". Kirkus Reviews. February 1, 1983. Retrieved September 6, 2022.
  7. ^ a b James Coco at IMDb
  8. ^ Zibart, Eve (February 26, 1987). "Character Actor James Coco Dies At Age 56". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ "James Coco dead at 56". United Press International. February 26, 1987. Retrieved September 7, 2022.
  10. ^ Wilson, Scott (September 16, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (Third ed.). McFarland. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7. Retrieved June 27, 2018.