Abe Vigoda, the actor who played gangster Sal Tessio in the Godfather movies, has died at the age of 94. His daughter, Carol Vigoda Fuchs, confirmed her father’s death to the Associated Press on Tuesday (January 26th).

Vigoda received praise in 1972 for his portrayal of Vito Corleone’s friend and business associate Sal Tessio, who tries to mount a takeover of the family crime organisation from Michael Corleone (Al Pacino’s character). His character is executed at the end of the first Godfather movie, but Vigoda returned to reprise the role in a flashback sequence in the 1974 sequel.

Vigoda also found success playing Detective Phil Fish in sitcom ‘Barney Miller’ from 1975 to 1977, with his character so well-received that he later began his own spin-off series, entitled 'Fish', alongside a handful of appearances on the original show. He also worked in theatre for more than 30 years, performing many roles in Shakespeare plays.

Abe VigodaAbe Vigoda has passed away at the age of 94

Tuesday night’s episode of ‘Conan’ saw its host Conan O’Brien pay tribute to the late actor, who was a regular on the chat show and frequently participated in some of the funniest sketches.

“I couldn't believe how many times Abe would come on the show and do hilarious things for us,” O'Brien remembered. “We used to call him up and sometimes have the idea like three hours beforehand. It would usually be the silliest thing. Abe would always come right over, do it, such a lovely guy.”

Indeed, in the eighties he was reportedly mistaken, on more than one occasion, as having died, and this status became a long-standing joke, with a website set up in 2001 with the sole purpose of telling visitors whether he was alive or dead, and in 2004 an L.A. punk rock band named themselves after him. It was a legend that was frequently referred to in sketches for chat shows that Vigoda himself was gracious enough to play along with.

Vigoda had a long career in stage acting before finding fame relatively late in life. He once said “When I was a young man, I was told success had to come in my youth. I found this to be a myth. My experiences have taught me that if you deeply believe in what you are doing, success can come at any age.”

He is survived by his daughter, Carol, three grandchildren and one great grandson.