Burt Young, the New York-born actor who is best known for portraying Paulie in the “Rocky” movie franchise, died on Oct. 8 in Los Angeles at the age of 83.
The gritty actor was born Gerald Tommaso DeLouise in the Corona section of Queens, N.Y. on April 30, 1940, and first began appearing in television and films in 1969. Accounts vary about his relationship to competing in boxing, with a Los Angeles Times story from 1985 reporting that he boxed 34 times while in the Marine Corps from 1957 to 1959, and, according to his official website, 14 times under different aliases as a professional, though these claims have not been independently verified.
What is indisputable is Young’s contributions to boxing film history. Young portrayed Paulie Pennino – a Philadelphia butcher who was best friend and brother-in-law to heavyweight underdog Rocky Balboa – in the first five Rocky films, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the first movie in 1976.
Young reprised the role in the 2006 film Rocky Balboa, where he corners Sylvester Stallone’s character for a boxing match against a character portrayed by former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver.
Young also managed a pro boxer named David Sears, a long-shot from Queens who is best known for his 1985 challenge of undisputed light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks, whom he lost to by third round stoppage.
In addition to the Rocky films, Young also acted in films about real life heavyweight boxers, including Carnera: The Walking Mountain, the 2008 bio-pic about former heavyweight champion Primo Carnera which also starred former middleweight champion Nino Benvenuti, and The Brawler, a 2019 biographical film on the career of Chuck Wepner.
Young also portrayed a number of other memorable roles among his 100-plus film and TV credits, including “Curly” in Chinatown (1974), “Vito Graziosi” in Mickey Blue Eyes (1999) and “Bobby Baccalieri Sr.” on The Sopranos (2001).