Very few people remember Tito Vuolo's name, but in more than 40 movies and dozens of television shows -- ranging from comedy to film noir -- the Italian-born actor graced audiences with his presence. With his thick accent, short stature, and open, honest features, Vuolo was for many years the epitome of the ethnically identifiable, usually genial Italian, at a time when such portrayals were routine and encouraged in cinema. He could play excitable or nervous in a way that stole a scene, or move through a scene so smoothly that you scarcely noticed him.
Vuolo's movie career began in 1946 with an uncredited appearance as a waiter in Shadow of the Thin Man, and he quickly chalked up roles in two further crime movies, the film noir classics Michael Gordon's The Web and Henry Hathaway's Kiss of Death. He was also part of the cast of Dudley Nichols' Mourning Becomes Electra, RKO's disastrous attempt to bring serious theater to the screen, but much of Vuolo's work turned up in films of a grittier nature, such as Anthony Mann's T-Men and The Enforcer, directed by Bretaigne Windust and Raoul Walsh -- the latter film afforded Vuolo one of his most prominent roles in a plot, as the hapless cab driver whose witnessing (with his little girl) of a murder sets in motion a series of events that brings about a dozen murders and ultimately destroys an entire criminal organization. Vuolo's short, squat appearance could also be used to comical effect in a specifically non-ethnic context, as in King Vidor's The Fountainhead, when he turns up at the home of Dominique Francon (Patricia Neal), in place of the expected arrival of tall, lean Howard Roarke (Gary Cooper), in response to her calculated request for repairs to the stone-work in her home. And sometimes he just stole a scene with his finely nuanced use of his accent and an agitated manner, as in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House -- his character goes into an excruciatingly funny explanation to Cary Grant about why he has to blast part of the proposed building site ("Thas-a no rock -- thas-a ledge"). Baby boomers may also remember Vuolo from his role in the 1953 Adventures of Superman episode "My Friend Superman," in which he portrayed a well-meaning luncheonette owner whose claim that Superman is a personal friend of his sets in motion a plot to kidnap Lois Lane. Vuolo's final film appearance was in the Ray Harryhausen science fiction thriller 20 Million Miles to Earth, playing the police commissioner.
The beloved character actor died of cancer in 1962. Published dates of birth on Vuolo vary by as much as 19 years (1873 or 1892), so he was either 70 years old or 89 years old at the time of his death.