BY Benjamin ClarkJune 17, 2024
1 month ago
BY 
 | June 17, 2024
1 month ago

Former 'West Side Story' Star Tony Mordente Passes Away At 88

Tony Mordente's passing has left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry.

According to Daily Caller, Tony Mordente, a celebrated dancer, choreographer, and television director, has died at the age of 88.

Mordente, known for his extensive contributions to Broadway and television, passed away on June 11 in Henderson, Nevada, after a brief illness.

Born Anthony Mordente Jr., he was a pioneering figure in the arts, leaving behind a legacy that spans decades. His role as Action in the 1961 film "West Side Story" and his directorial work on TV series such as "Family Ties" and "7th Heaven" are just highlights of his illustrious career.

Early Life And Broadway Beginnings

Mordente was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 3, 1935. He began his dancing career at the age of 13, showing an early aptitude for performance.

He trained at New York City’s High School of Performing Arts and further honed his skills at the American Ballet Theater School.

His entry into Broadway came with the 1956 "Lil' Abner" production, where he played Lonesome Polecat. This role marked the beginning of a fruitful stage career.

His breakthrough arrived in 1957 when he was cast as A-Rab in the original Broadway production of "West Side Story," a role he reprised in the West End the following year.

The 1961 film adaptation of "West Side Story" saw him portray the fiery Jet named Action, a role that cemented his place in entertainment history.

Transition To Television And Directorial Success

Following his success on Broadway, Mordente transitioned to television, where he continued to make his mark. His directorial career took off in the 1970s and 1980s, during which he directed episodes of several iconic TV series.

His work included "Rhoda," "MASH," "Benson," "The A-Team," "The Greatest American Hero," "Matlock," and "Walker, Texas Ranger."

Mordente's talent for choreography also found a home on television, contributing to shows like "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour." His ability to blend the worlds of dance and direction made him a sought-after talent in the industry.

Mordente's association with "7th Heaven" as a director and producer further showcased his versatility and commitment to quality television production. His career trajectory is a testament to his adaptability and passion for the arts.

Personal Life And Legacy

While on Broadway, Mordente met Chita Rivera, who played Anita in "West Side Story." The couple married in 1957 and had a daughter, Lisa Mordente, in 1958. Although they divorced in 1966, their relationship was a significant chapter in Mordente's life and career.

Throughout the 1960s, Mordente continued working as a Broadway and assistant choreographer. His contributions to the stage were as impactful as his work on screen. Despite his diverse roles, his dedication to the arts remained unwavering.

His daughter, Lisa, survives him, carrying forward the legacy of a man who dedicated his life to performance and storytelling. Mordente's passing marks the end of an era, but his influence will continue to inspire future generations of performers and directors.

Reflecting On A Storied Career

Greg Evans, the NY & Broadway Editor for Deadline, honored Mordente's memory by highlighting his multifaceted career and his profound impact on the entertainment industry.

Tony Mordente's journey from a young dancer in Brooklyn to a celebrated figure in Broadway and television is a story of passion, dedication, and remarkable talent. His death is a significant loss to the arts community, but his contributions will be remembered and celebrated for years to come.

In conclusion, Tony Mordente's life was a testament to the power of art and the lasting impact one individual can have on multiple facets of the entertainment industry. His roles on stage and screen and his directorial achievements have left an enduring legacy. As we remember his illustrious career, we celebrate a man who lived for the love of performance and storytelling.

Written by: Benjamin Clark

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