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Burt Young, ‘Rocky’ Actor Who Played Complex Tough Guys, Dies at 83


Growing up in a working-class neighborhood in the Corona neighborhood of Queens, Mr. Young had an early taste of the streets. “My father, trying to make me a gentler child, sent me to Bryant High School in Astoria, away from my Corona buddies,” he wrote in the foreword to “Corona: The Early Years » (2015), by Jason D. Antos and Constantin E. Theodosiou.

“Soon, however, I was expelled and was sent to St. Ann’s Academy in Manhattan, where I was expelled after one term,” he continued. “Eventually it was the Marines at 16, my father lying about my age to get me in.”

He took up boxing in the Marine Corps and went on to have a successful, if relatively brief, professional career under Cus D’Amato, the boxing trainer and manager who managed the careers of Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson. He had a win-loss record of around 17-1 – his own accounts varied – when he left the ring.

In his late 20s, he was laying carpet and doing other odd jobs when he fell in love with a woman who ran a bar and who told him she dreamed of studying theater with Mr. Strasberg. “I didn’t know who Lee Strasberg was,” he told Bright Lights. “I thought it was a girl.”

Mr. Young arranged a meeting for the two of them with Mr. Strasberg, the father of method acting, and ended up studying with him for two years. “Acting had everything I was looking for,” he recalls. “In my life up to that point, I had used tension to keep me upright. Lee’s great gift to me was relaxation.

His many other film credits ranged from “Last Exit to Brooklyn” (1989), a poignant adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.’s scandalous 1964 novel about lost souls from the underbelly of mid-century Brooklyn, to the Rodney Dangerfield comedy from 1986’s “Back to School”. .” Mr. Young also wrote and starred in “Uncle Joe Shannon” (1978), the story of a jazz trumpeter whose life implodes before finding redemption.



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