In 1947, he was accepted into the Actors Studio, and was one of the 26 members of the beginners’ class taught by Elia Kazan, along with James Whitmore and Julie Harris.
He enjoyed a longstanding career in film and his acting career began in 1948 with some of his early film roles being the driver in On the Waterfront (1954), Leo the accountant in The Harder They Fall with Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger (1956), and the gangster boss Little Bonaparte, a parody of Little Caesar in Billy Wilder’s film classic Some Like It Hot (1959).
The actor also appeared again with Steiger in Al Capone (1959) and enjoyed supporting roles in films such as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and The Comancheros (1961).
He appeared in the comedy film Twins (1988) and in the American Tail animated-film series as Papa Mousekewitz.
Persoff’s last movie was 4 Faces (1999), the last film to be directed by Ted Post.