The Chicago Syndicate: "Godfather" Actor Killed
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Godfather" Actor Killed

A debonair 68-year-old actor - whose half-century career included a memorable role in all three "Godfather" movies - was last night dragged to his death in a horrific tour-bus accident on the Upper West Side, police sources said.

Richard Bright, whose piercing blue eyes and dark hair saw him often cast as a cop or criminal, crumpled to the ground as he was hit by the rear wheel of an Academy bus at about 6:30 p.m. as it turned left on Columbus Avenue at 86th Street, according to witnesses. The driver was unaware of the accident until he reached the Port Authority terminal and was questioned by police. There was no indication of a crime and no charges were filed, police sources said.

Bright, whose winter coat and dentures were left behind on the street, was pronounced dead at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital. "His face was beat up. His leg was mangled," said Teri Robinson, who saw the accident from the back of a taxi. "It was very startling."

Movie fans would best know Bright from his performance as Al Neri, the bodyguard to Al Pacino's Michael Corleone character in "The Godfather" trilogy. He played a key part in one of the most haunting scenes in "The Godfather II," when he shot Corleone's older brother Fredo (John Cazale) during a fishing trip.

The veteran actor also had guest roles in cop shows, such as "Law & Order," "Third Watch" and "The Sopranos."

"He had beautiful blue eyes and a beautiful smile," said neighbor Graham Gilbert. Gilbert and other shocked residents of Bright's brownstone on 85th Street called the veteran actor was a kind man, who would help with the upkeep of the building. "He was always looking out for the neighbors," Gilbert said.

Garrett Ewald, who learned of the accident as he was sitting down to watch Bright's 1976 movie, "Marathon Man," said the elderly actor often used a cane to walk. He said Bright, in recent years, had found he had a lot of time on his hands after his wife and teenage son moved to California, allowing him to help young actors with coaching. "You would see him on the stoop talking to [a young actor], coaching him on how to handle an audition," Ewald said.

A manager at the 3 Star Coffee Shop, near the site of the fatal accident, said Bright ate at the diner every night, and was probably on his way to the eatery when he was struck.

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