The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Stars of the '80s
Danny DeVito
Born 17 November 1949 in Neptune, New Jersey, Danny Michael DeVito was born to Daniel and Julia DeVito, the former a small business owner who, at various times, owned a dry cleaners, a dairy outlet, a luncheonette, and a pool hall. The product of a Catholic school upbringing, Danny attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York where, in 1970, he met Rhea Perlman. The couple lived together throughout the '70s, and married in 1982; they produced three children: Lucy (1983), Grace (1985), and Jake (1987).
DeVito made his screen debut in 1968's Dreams of Glass, but soon decided to focus on stage work. His credits include Down the Morning Line and The Shrinking Bride. But in 1975 he was back on the big screen, reprising his stage role of Martini in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. That same year he and Rhea wrote and produced Minestrone, which has been shown twice at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1978, he landed the role of Louie De Palma, the unscrupulous and tyrannical dispatcher for a cab company in the award-winning sitcom Taxi, which ran for five seasons. He won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for best supporting actor. (In a 1999 TV Guide readers' poll, DePalma was voted # 1 in "TV's Fifty Greatest Characters Ever.")
In the 1980s, DeVito graduated to the big screen, and soon earned a reputation as one of Hollywood's best character actors, specializing in repugnant but endearing scoundrels. He directed several episodes of the series Amazing Stories in the mid-80s, and also helmed the dark comedies Throw Momma From the Train and The War of the Roses. In the Nineties, DeVito became a producer, co-founding Jersey Films, a company which has produced over 20 films, including hits like Pulp Fiction (1994) and Get Shorty (1995) to his credit.
1980s Filmography
The Gong Show Movie (1980)
Going Ape! (1981)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Romancing the Stone (1984)
Johnny Dangerously (1984)
The Jewel of the Nile (1985)
Head Office (1985)
Wise Guys (1986)
My Little Pony: The Movie (1986)
Ruthless People (1986)
Tin Men (1987)
Throw Momma From the Train (1987)
Twins (1988)
The War of the Roses (1989)

Critics' Comments

Tin Men (1987)
"Both Dreyfuss and DeVito give striking performances -- natural, wry, and convincing. DeVito, in particular, provided with a role that doesn't force him to mug constantly, creates a realistically rounded character." -- People

Throw Momma From the Train (1987)
"Danny DeVito, the Rumpelstiltskin of American comedy, takes a tumble in his directorial debut with an embarrassing remake of Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train." The teeny auteur turns the murder-swapping thriller into a dispirited black comedy, "Throw Momma From the Train." Better yet, just throw the whole thing in front of a subway and hope it gets dragged a couple of miles."
-- Rita Kempley, The Washington Post

The War of the Roses (1989)
"Under the astute direction of Danny DeVito, who does a sly turn as Oliver's attorney, this acid-dipped epic of revenge is killingly funny and dramatically daring....In his second film as a director, following the uneven Throw Momma From the Train, DeVito sharpens every barb in the wily script Michael Leeson has adapted from Warren Adler's novel. Some may recoil at the shocking extremes to which DeVito takes this modern cautionary fable of greed. An epilogue simplistically spells out the moral. It's unnecessary. DeVito triumphs by instilling this caustic satire with truth and consequence."
-- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

A chain smoker, DeVito quit prior to making The War of the Roses; during the film, he smoked cigarettes filled with dried lettuce.
When he was starting out in Hollywood, DeVito roomed with Michael Douglas.
DeVito was a qualified hair stylist before becoming an actor.

1980 -- Golden Globe, Best TV Actor in Supporting Role (Taxi)
1981 -- Emmy, Outstanding Supporting Actor (Taxi)
1985 -- NATO (National Assoc. of Theater Owners) Special Award of Merit
1989 -- NATO Star of the Year