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James Emil Coco (March 21, 1930 – February 25, 1987) was an American character actor and singer. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Only When I Laugh (1981).
Born in New York City, Coco was the son of Felice Coco, a shoemaker, and Ida Detestes Coco. James began acting straight out of high school. 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, for which he won an Obie Award.
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 would reunite for the Manhattan Theatre Club production of It's Only a Play.
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.
In 1971, he was on The Tonight Show which was guest-hosted by Woody Allen. On the show, he discussed his acting career.
Coco's additional film credits include Ensign Pulver (1964), 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). Several of his films were released posthumously: Hunk (1987) and That's Adequate (1989).
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, 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 Love Boat and St. Elsewhere, for which he won an Emmy Award. One of his last television assignments was a recurring role as Nick Milano on the sitcom Who's the Boss?.
Coco died of a heart attack in New York City on February 25, 1987 at age 56. He is buried in St. Gertrude's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Colonia, New Jersey.
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