Fans and celebrities are remembering the late Burt Young, who played the iconic Paulie in the Rocky franchise. The role earned him an Oscar nomination in 1977. However, Young’s projects far exceeded the cult classics. The actor starred in 166 projects during his career, which spanned over 50 years. We dive into his best roles below.
Rocky was far from Burt Young’s breakout movie. The star was already established before landing his defining role. In fact, one of his most memorable parts came three years before Sylvester Stallone first brought his story to the screen.
In 1974, Young starred in Chinatown. The Oscar-winning period piece was a nod to film noir with legendary Roman Polanski reimagining 1930s LA. The story follows P.I. Jake Gittes, who agrees to track a husband suspected of infidelity. But he slowly finds himself caught in a deadly and mysterious web of corruption.
Burt Young stars as Curly, a man we meet at the beginning of the film. Curly hires Gittes to prove infidelity as well, and Gittes delivers photograph proof of the transgression. Curly proves to be unhinged—and also fails to pay Gittes for his services. The character comes back into the story when Curly trades the unpaid dues for a life-saving favor.
Chinatown also stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in the leads. You can watch it on Amazon Prime.
Once Upon a Time in America
In 1984, Burt Young starred in another throwback film that won two BAFTA Awards, Once Upon a Time in America.
The movie goes back to 1933 Manhattan where a Prohibition-era gangster called “Noodles” gets out of prison and returns to the city to confront his past. Young plays Joe, a Detroit mobster who gets Noodles back into organized crime when he hires him and some of his past cronies to steal a shipment of diamonds. But he’s double-crossed by Noodles, who hires henchmen to kill Joe to get rid of his competition.
Once Upon a Time in America also stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and James Woods. The film is available on Hulu.
Back to School
Burt Young took on a comedic role in 1986 when he played opposite Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School.
Dangerfield stars as Thornton Melon, a wealthy businessman who enrolls in Grand Lakes University to help his son, Jason, feel more comfortable at school. Melon, sees it as an opportunity to show solidarity with Jason and earn an education he didn’t get as a young man. Melon proceeds to “fit right in” with the social crowd with his bruiser buddy Lou—played by Burt Young—loyally by his side.
Back to School also stars Robert Downey Jr. and Keith Gordon. You can catch the movie on HBO Max or Amazon Prime.
Burt Young Dead at 83
“Burt was an actor of tremendous emotional range,” his manager Lynda Bensky told Fox News Digital. “He could make you cry, and he could scare you to death.”
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