Despite an up-and-down career that was mired by excess and irrational behavior, actor James Caan was a gifted performer who was as capable of pulling heart strings as he was of breaking someone's kneecaps. Caan emerged from the cauldron of New York City's thriving acting scene in the 1950s to become a noted player on the stage and on television. Though he graduated to films soon after his salad days in New York after swearing off television for the next several years, he had his first big breakthrough on the small screen, playing dying football player Brian Piccolo in "Brian's Song" (ABC, 1971). His performance in what was considered to be one of the best television movies ever made earned Caan considerable acclaim, as well as an Emmy Award nomination. But the following year put Caan on the map permanently, with his energetic portrayal of the hot-headed Sonny Corleone in "The Godfather" (1972), a role with which he was forever identified - most notably in the numerous mobster roles he played in the ensuing decades. While he had several bright spots as a leading man throughout the years, including as a television regular on "Las Vegas" (NBC, 2003-08) and as the victim of an obsessive fan in the disturbing film, "Misery" (1990), Caan settled into a niche as character actor more often than not, performing some variation of the mobster role that made him famous.