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'7th Heaven' director and 'West Side Story' actor were 88

'7th Heaven' director and 'West Side Story' actor were 88
'7th Heaven' director and 'West Side Story' actor were 88


Tony Mordente, who made his mark on Broadway as a dancer and choreographer, played the role of the brash Jet named Action in the 1961 film. West Side Story and later embarked on a long and busy career as director of television series such as Family Ties, Walker Texas Ranger And 7th Sky, died June 12 in Henderson, Nevada, following a brief illness. He was 88 years old.

His death was announced by his family, including his daughter Lisa, whom he shared with his first wife, the late Chita Rivera.

Born December 3, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, Mordente began dancing at age 13 and trained at the High School of Performing Arts in New York and the American Ballet Theater School, which led to the launch of his Broadway career as Lonesome Polecat. in Lil' Abner in 1956.

RELATED: Michael Callan Dies: 'Cat Ballou' Star, Riff in Original 'West Side Story' on Broadway Was 86

His next casting would have a major impact on his career and personal life: playing (and dancing) the role of A-Rab in the original 1957 Broadway and 1958 West End productions of West Side Story. Mordente would next be cast in the 1961 Jerome Robbins-Robert Wise film version as Action, the most unstable member of the Jets gang. Ready for a rumble, Mordente's character is asked to calm down in the musical number “Cool,” the song that chastises the vengeful Jet with “Boy, boy, crazy boy/Get cool, boy!/I've got a rocket, in your pocket/ Stay cool, boy.

The song also includes the phrase most associated with Mordente's character: “Easy, Action!” » Alice Cooper would take note, titling her band's second album with this phrase.

During the Broadway production, Mordente caught someone else's eye: West Side StoryOriginal Anita, Chita Rivera. The two began dating, married in 1957 and had a daughter Lisa Mordente in 1958. The couple divorced in 1966.

During the remainder of the 1960s, Mordente worked primarily as a choreographer and assistant choreographer on Broadway, before moving into television choreography on shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.

By the 1970s and 1980s he had also become a prolific television director, including Rhoda, MASH, Benson, Family Ties, The A-Team, America's Greatest Hero, Matlock, and, more broadly, Walker, Texas Ranger And 7th Sky. He became producer on this last series.

In addition to his daughter Lisa, Mordente is survived by his daughter Adriana, from his marriage to his ex-wife Jean G. Fraser, his extended family in New York and his lifelong friend Tony Bolletino.





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