Joseph Campanella, 93, character actor whose versatility led to ubiquity
Joseph Campanella, a versatile actor whose television career began in the 1950s on anthology series and continued for decades on shows like “Mannix,” “The Bold Ones” and “One Day at a Time,” died Wednesday at his home in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was 93.
His wife, Jill Campanella, said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease.
For many years, Campanella appeared to work to the point of ubiquity. Tall and lean, with wavy hair, he played doctors, lawyers, criminals, cops and judges, including one named Judge Joseph Camp on the TV show “The Practice” from 1998 to 2001.
He starred in “The Bold Ones: The Lawyers,” with Burl Ives and James Farentino, and “The Doctors and the Nurses,” with Michael Tolan. And he was a regular on the first season of “Mannix,” the long-running detective series starring Mike Connors, but left in 1968 when he was told that his role would be reduced.
Campanella found his stride as a frequent guest star. He was a crafty criminal suspected of planning a prison break in a 1966 episode of “The F.B.I.”; a cattleman on “Gunsmoke” in 1968; and Mary Richards’ hard-to-forget ex-boyfriend on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” five years later. And in eight episodes of the sitcom “One Day at a Time,” from 1976 to 1982, he played the ex-husband of Ann Romano, the character played by Bonnie Franklin, the star.
His television workload was noticed in 1972 by one viewer who, according to an article in TV Guide, wrote to an executive producer asking, “Why must we see him or hear him everywhere else, wherever we turn on our TV set?”
In response, Campanella told the TV Guide interviewer, “An actor, like everyone else, must make bread for his family — and my wife and four sons eat a lot of bread.”
Joseph Anthony Campanella was born in Manhattan on Nov. 21, 1924, to Sicilian immigrant parents. His father, Philip, was a pianist. His mother, Maria (Onofria) Campanella, was a homemaker and dressmaker. Joseph graduated from Manhattan College in the Bronx with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, studied drama at Columbia University and served in the Philippines as second in command of a Landing Craft Infantry ship.
A skillful baseball player, Campanella was offered a contract by a low-level New York Giants minor league team in Georgia, but turned it down, preferring to pursue an acting career.
After nearly a decade of television work, he had roles in three Broadway shows in the early 1960s. For one, “A Gift of Time,” with Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland, he was nominated for a Tony Award as best featured actor in a play. And while appearing in another, the short-lived musical “Hot Spot” (1963), he met Jill Bartholomew, a singer and dancer in the chorus of the show. They married in 1964.