Los Angeles: Wally Cassell, a film-noir favourite who played Cotton Valletti, one of Jimmy Cagney's gang, in the electric 1949 crime thriller "White Heat", has died. He was 103.
Cassell died peacefully on April 2 at his home in Palm Desert, California, his wife, actress, singer and songwriter Marcy McGuire, told The Hollywood Reporter.
He was in good health until recently, she noted. Born in Sicily, Cassell, real name Oswaldo Castellano, began his movie career in 1942, when he signed a contract with studio bosses at MGM, and made his debut in "Fingers at the Window", starring Basil Rathbone.
He went on to have small roles throughout the 1940s in such films as "Anchors Aweigh", "The Thin Man Goes Home", "The Postman Always Rings Twice", "Homecoming" and "National Velvet", alongside Mickey Rooney, who became one of Cassell's closest friends and advised him to adopt the stage name Wally Cassell.
Rooney went on to serve as his friend's best man when he wed McGuire in 1947, and Cassell returned the favour two years later when Rooney married his third wife, actress Martha Vickers.
Cassell and Rooney went on to star in a number of other films together, including "Thousands Cheer" and "Killer McCoy".
Cassell also made his mark in many film noir projects, such as "The Guilty", "Breakdown", "Quicksand" and the crime thriller classic "White Heat", in which he played a gang associate of James Cagney's character, and in war movies like "Sands of Iwo Jima" and "The Flying Leathernecks".
In addition, Cassell made appearances on the small screen, with guest roles on hit programmes like "Gunsmoke", "The Untouchables", "Rawhide" and "The Beverly Hillbillies".