‘The Godfather’ Legend James Caan Died From Combination of Heart Problems

The cause of death of James Caan, an American Golden Globe-nominated and Emmy Award-winning actor, has been determined by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.

According to Caan’s death certificate (pdf), issued by the department on July 21 and obtained by TMZ, the legendary actor died on July 6 at age 82 as a result of a heart attack and coronary artery disease—the most common form of heart disease in the United States.

The certificate also disclosed that Caan suffered from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also called “COPD,” a chronic inflammatory lung disease that blocks airflow from the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

Caan, who starred as gangster Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather,” was married four times and leaves behind five children.

The actor’s family confirmed his death in a statement on July 7, but no further details were provided at the time.

NTD Photo
Scott Caan, writer/producer/star of the film “Mercy,” poses with his father, fellow cast member James Caan (L), at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles on May 3, 2010. (Chris Pizzello/AP Photo)

“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy,” the statement read. “The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

According to the certificate, Caan died at 9:02 p.m. at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. He was buried at Eden Memorial Park, the resting place for many A-list celebrities.

Caan first shot to fame playing Chicago Bears football player Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer at age 26, in the 1971 TV movie, “Brian’s Song,” which earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

He starred in a string of TV shows and movies, including household hits like “Elf” and “Misery,” in a career spanning decades.

However, it was his role as Sonny Corleone in 1972’s “The Godfather” that catapulted him to fame and saw him nominated for an Oscar award.

Tributes

Al Pacino, who played Sonny Corleone’s brother Michael in the hit film, called Caan “a great actor, a brilliant director, and my dear friend.”

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Al Pacino attends the premiere of Netflix’s “The Irishman” at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., on Oct. 24, 2019. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

“Jimmy was my fictional brother and my lifelong friend,” Pacino said in a statement to The Associated Press. “It’s hard to believe that he won’t be in the world anymore because he was so alive and daring. A great actor, a brilliant director, and my dear friend. I’m gonna miss him.”

“I’m very very sad to hear about Jimmy’s passing,” Robert De Niro, who starred in 1974’s “The Godfather: Part II,” said in a statement.

Barbra Streisand, who starred with Caan in the 1975 movie “Funny Lady,” said in a statement on Twitter that she was “so sorry to hear about Jimmy” adding that “he was so talented.”

Dozens more tributes poured in for the actor, who was born in 1940 in the Bronx borough of New York City to Jewish immigrants from Germany.

Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.