Lelia Goldoni, who was cast in the lead role for John Cassavette’s race-centered film “Shadows,” died over the weekend at the age of 86.
The actress died on Saturday at the Actors Fund Home in Engelwood, New Jersey, Goldoni’s friend, JD Sobol, told TheWrap on Thursday.
The New York City native was born on Oct. 1, 1936, and got her start in the entertainment business during the 1940s, with one of her first roles being a cameo in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “House of Strangers” in 1949. That same year she also had a role in John Huston’s “We Were Strangers.”
Martin Scorsese later brought Goldoni on to star as a friend of Ellen Burnstyn’s character in his 1974 film “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” Her resume also included performing in the original “The Italian Job” (1969), John Schlesinger’s “The Day of the Locust” (1975) and Robert Mulligan’s “Bloodbrothers.”
Goldoni, who is the second cousin of Yankees player Phil Ruzzuto, was raised in Los Angles where she took up a spot next to Alvin Ailey and Carmen de Lavallade on Lester Horton’s team of dancers. At 19, she picked up and moved back to New York where she began studying acting, eventually becoming one of the students in theater director Burt Lane and Cassavetes’ drama workshop.
Though she is Italian descent, Cassavetes cast her as a Black and/or mixed-raced women in his independent debut film “Shadows” (1959). She received a BAFTA nomination for the role.
Aside from her life as an actress, she also sat in the director and producer’s chairs for her 1993 documentary “Genius on the Wrong Coast,” which was centered on Horton. Later on in her life, she took up teaching, instrument students on acting technique and script analysis at The Lee Strasberg Theater Institute, UCLA and Hampshire College.
Goldoni married her “Shadows” costar Ben Carruthers, and later married writer Robert Rudelson. She is survived by her son Aaron and her grandchildren, Lily and James.