Life and Death of Actor Joe Santos, the Beloved Star on 'The Rockford Files'
Joe Santos appeared in a slew of movies throughout his lifetime career. Having never known his father, he created his own path and left behind a legacy never to be forgotten.
Joe Santos was born in Brooklyn as Joseph John Minieri Jr. on June 9, 1931. On the day of his birth, his father passed away. Joe, who was of Italian blood, would later take on his stepfather's surname.
Joe was raised in Red Hook, Brooklyn, by mom Rose and stepfather, Daniel Santos. At one point, his mom worked as a singer and nightclub owner. Joe's early path, however, was not in entertainment.
EARLY JOBS AND ACTING DEBUT
As a young man, Joe played football for Fordham University. He was also a student of military school before serving in the US Army during the Korean War.
Joe's capabilities as a jock led him to semi-pro status, but his heart lay elsewhere. He diverted towards an acting career, taking classes while working blue-collar jobs.
After stints in railroad work, tree trimming, cab driving, and barkeeping, Joe landed his first role on the tv show, "Naked City." His early credits also included "Cross-Country Romance," "Flesh and Lace," and "Moonlighting Wives."
It was not until 1971 that Joe found his big break in the drama, "The Panic in Needle Park." Rising star Al Pacino, a friend from playing softball together, helped him get the part.
"THE ROCKFORD FILES"
Joe quickly followed it up with 1972's "Shaft's Big Score!" and a role in the 1973 series, "The Blue Knight." The latter cemented Joe's signature character as the good cop for future roles.
He continued to move up with crime shows such as "Baretta," "Police Story," and "Barnaby Jones." In 1974, he snatched up his most notable role as Lieutenant Dennis Becker in "The Rockford Files."
RIP Joe Santos, best known as Sgt. Dennis Becker on The Rockford Files pic.twitter.com/tkq8HU235q— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 18, 2016
The series ended in 1980 and earned Joe an Emmy nomination and enough status to act alongside big names like Burt Reynolds, Robert Mitchum, John Marley, and Anthony Quinn.
FINAL CAREER YEARS
By then, Joe was slowing hos roll and settled into more mature parts like the sitcom, "Me and Maxx." He still guest-starred on many series and in future "Rockford" made-for-tv films.
Joe continued to work in the '90s, stopping in the early 2000s. Over a decade passed before he appeared in his last movie, 2015's "Chronic." In terms of writing, his most notable work was "Sunset Normandie."
Joe Santos, made famous for playing Sgt. Dennis Becker on "The Rockford Files", was born on this day in 1931! pic.twitter.com/NgYakPejRK— COZI TV (@COZITV) June 9, 2018
PERSONAL LIFE AND DEATH
In his personal life, Joe remained married to wife Maria Montero from 1958 until she passed in 1988. The pair shared three children: Perry, Joe Jr., and Lili.
NOAH BEERY JR.'S FINAL YEARS
The "Rockford Files" also saw actor Noah Beery Jr. propelled to stardom for his role in the series. As the father of detective Jim Rockford, Beery Jr. was older than most of the cast.
Noah Beery Jr. (1913–1994) was a familiar face for 50 years + a 3-time Emmy nominee for THE ROCKFORD FILES!— getTV (@gettv) September 8, 2019
See him on LAREDO — 6:30a ET on @getTV
What do you remember him from? pic.twitter.com/1SdSzLOoQ3
By the mid-80s, Beery Jr. suffered a stroke, which left him in poor health toward the end of his life. He died at his Los Angeles ranch, where he lived with his wife of twenty-six years, Lisa. He left behind three children.