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James Caan, Hollywood Icon Who Was Raised in Sunnyside, Dies Aged 82

James Caan in 1976 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

July 7, 2022 By Christian Murray

James Caan, a Hollywood icon who was raised in Sunnyside, died Wednesday at the age of 82.

Caan was born in the Bronx on March 26, 1940 and grew up in Sunnyside. He was the son of Jewish immigrants from Germany whose father was in the kosher meat business.

In 2006, Caan told the publication Cigar Aficionado that Sunnyside shaped who he was in adult life.

He said he and his two siblings—brother, Ronnie, and sister Barbara—learned life skills in what was a working-class neighborhood. The neighborhood at the time consisted of Italian, Irish and Jewish families.

“There were great lessons to be learned, you know, when I was a kid. You develop a sixth sense [because] you meet so many kids that you learn how to win, and you learn how to lose very quickly.

“You get this sixth sense [where] after a while I’d shake someone’s hand and say hello and I could tell you if this person was, you know, someone I was going to like or be a friend of or whatever. It becomes just like the jungle,” Caan said, “and you can smell it.”

His Sunnyside roots were acknowledged by Councilmember Julie Won, who represents the district and lives in the neighborhood.

Caan, whose rugged look and tough-guy disposition, saw him appear in many masculine roles over the course of his career including films such as “Rollerball,” Gardens of Stone” and the “Godfather.”

He started his career acting in off-Broadway plays before making a transition to TV and then film.

He appeared in over 80 movies in a career spanning six decades, including “Elf,” “Brian’s Song,” “El Dorado” and “Misery”.

James Caan, Cannes 2000 (Photo: Courtesy of H Caulfield CC BY-SA 3.0)

Caan is best known for playing Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather.”

His children announced that he had died, making an official statement on Twitter.

“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6. The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

The family did not disclose the cause of death.

Caan leaves behind five children, including actor Scott Caan, 45; James Arthur Caan, 26; Tara A. Caan, 57; Jacob Nicholas Caan, 23; and Alexander James Caan, 31.

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50 Comments

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old as dirt

someone told me a long time ago he did go to PS 150 but im not sure cause someone else said he lived on the other side of the blvd not sure & cant find anything online to confirm

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Does it have anything to do with

This death. Meanwhile, if you are the other Tamas around here, the 9ne who wants the city to pay for everything (food, clothing, medicine, Healthcare and electronic devices) then you should know that the freeloaders days are numbered. Pay your own way and stop being a bum!

Oh, but here you are taking about the “tragic” death/murder/put out of his misery rapper so being a bum fits.

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Goldberg

Caan was born on March 26, 1940, in The Bronx, New York City, to Sophie (née Falkenstein; 1915–2016) and Arthur Caan (1909–1986), Jewish immigrants from Germany.

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Marker Needed

A LOCAL MARKER is needed!
Perhaps we could attach a few plaques remembering the best?
Screw them to our lonesome arch “on the other side of the boulevard.”
There is a marker for Bix on 46th Street.
And don’t forget to save the terra cotter facades on QBb

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Srsly Warren.

Get help. You are obsessed with this guy’s former address. You’ll be happier being his number 1 fan.

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Mary

Tony Sirico, ‘Sopranos’ star, also died at 79 this week. Very sad week for seniors across NJ and NY.

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Rita

Caan had five children across four marriages. And he was single at the end of his life.

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Giving Trump a run for his money

Trump’s not gonna like hearing that he didn’t have the most tremendous divorces ever

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Mac

He lived at 41st Street and Skillman . Ground floor corner apartment and corner building.

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Gee Gee

42nd st and 43ave corner building. He lived in same building as my Aunt and Uncle

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COCED

RIP James Caan.
He played in, probably, 80+ movies and made a visible (no pun intended) contribution to cinematography.

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must see

his best lesser known films are “the gambler”…”thief”….and also stphen king’s “misery”…you might even get a kick out of “rollerball”…..you will be sorely missed sonny…too bad the sunnyside culture you grew up in was erased by transplants…now its just another generic hipster popup nieghborhood….can’t wait until the market crash/recession for these clowns to move to the burbs…then we can go back to old school…”this is business…not personal…RIP”

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Warren

Hoping that someone would post an address for the house or apartment building in Sunnyside where the family resided.

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Frank P.

Knew him pretty well. Played stickball/punchball, etc. in PS150 schoolyard. Was a grade or two behind me. Use to throw some BS around about his growing up years when he was interviewed on TV Johnny Carson, etc. Last time I saw him was when I was playing softball in my 20’s at Torsney park on Skillman Ave. We BS’d for awhile….told me he was going to be an actor….I said sure you are.

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John J Lynch

…an honorary member of the “Black Knights of Skillman”, along with Tony Bennett!

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John J. Lynch

..he sang at Sunnyside school dances and church gatherings when he first started…he’s in.

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Madd Donna

Another legend has left our planet. Very sad news. Not only did James Caan grow up in Sunnyside, but years later wound up marrying another Sunnysider (who was my best friend in grade school) and they have one son. Interesting how we were huge fans while kids and saw many of his movies togeher at The Center and then one of us actually met him later in life, fell in love and got married!!

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Marcy

At least he outlived my grandparents from Sunnyside. They both died in a nursing home from catching covid under Cuomo’s nursing home mandates. RIP.

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Save the robots

Marcy – It’s your fault for voting for a failed businessman turned reality star into the office of the US President.

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Jim

Thanks for making everything political. Are u going to politicize the weather also? Idiot.

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Larry Penner

We will always remember James Cann as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather.” But many of us including myself, also remember his role in the 1996 movie “Eraser”. We laughed when he said “Get me a wet nap.” Wash’n Dri didn’t want to ante up and pay for product placement. “The Godfather” would have made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

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Joe

Larry: Can you tell us about James Caan’s opinion on the LaGuardia light rail?

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Spoiler alert

A scene from the Godfather was filmed right here in the neighborhood at First Calvary Cemetery, Don Corleone’s burial scene. Ironically, Caan wasn’t in it as his character didn’t make it that far into the film.

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Emily

Never heard of him. Maybe i will watch one of the classic movies on Netflix this weekend.

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Jim

Emily: you need to get your head out of your ass. Have you heard of anybody but a hip hop star from the last 10 years.

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Joe

That totally figures. You need a life. Read a book that doesn’t have anything to do with people of color.

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Of course you haven't heard of him!!

He’s white!!! Go back to watching whatever is on ALLBLK.

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The fact that you have not heard of him is one thing

The fact that you brag your ignorance on here is much worse. No need to tell the world you know nothing about the true arts.

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Pat D

I didnt know that either .It was never mentioned before til now but where did he go to school Great actor luv him in Godfather

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