Born: June 2, 1924; Died: November 12, 2013.

Al Ruscio, who has died aged 89, was an American character actor who appeared in hundreds of television shows, films and plays in a career that stretched from the 1940s until just a few years ago. Often he played Italian-American gangsters and he was one of the mafia family bosses in The Godfather Part III (1990).

He was also a highly respected acting teacher. He began teaching while still a student himself and took a class in the art of movement and gesture, where one of his pupils was a young John F Kennedy.

Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Ruscio served in the US Army Air Corps during the Second World War and studied at the Staley School of the Spoken Word in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he taught the young JFK how to inject a little extra drama into his speechifying.

In the evenings and during summer holidays, he appeared in plays and worked with the legendary Lucille Ball. He made his film debut in the 1947 spy drama 13 Rue Madeleine with Jimmy Cagney, he studied and taught at the famous Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York and he toured with Steve McQueen in a production of the play A Hatful of Rain.

He also began getting work in the developing medium of television, appearing in several one-off live television plays. California seemed to offer greater opportunities and towards the end of the 1950s he headed west, where he continued working in theatre, films and television. Early television credits include Gunsmoke (1958) and Bonanza (1960-61). Westerns were a TV staple at the time, but for Ruscio gangster and crime dramas proved an even more productive source of employment, beginning with a supporting role in the film Al Capone (1959).

He was still playing Italian- American gangsters three decades later, in his mid-sixties, when he landed the role of Leo Cuneo in The Godfather Part III.

His predecessor had been killed by the Corleone family. Leo however became a Corleone ally and business partner.

He helped Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) track down the man who put a bomb in Michael's car and killed his wife in Sicily in The Godfather Part II. Cuneo was killed at a mafia convention by Joey Zasa's men.

Other roles include the restaurant manager in the pilot for Seinfeld (1993), a casino owner in the notorious Paul Verhoeven movie Showgirls (1995) and a member of the mysterious Syndicate in The X-Files (1999).

He also continued to appear in theatre and teach. He wrote a book called So Therefore … A Practical Guide for Actors, which was published last year. He is survived by his wife Kate Williamson, whom he met when they were both young actors in New York, and by four children.