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Jerry Orbach

Jerry Orbach

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Also Known As: Died: December 28, 2004
Born: October 20, 1935 Cause of Death: prostate cancer
Birth Place: Bronx, New York, USA Profession: actor, singer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This tall, sleepy-eyed character actor and leading man from the Broadway musical stage who, whether sinister or sympathetic, often was cast in roles that connoted a slightly seedy "New Yorkness," eventually finding widespread recognition on television as a cynical police detective on the long-running crime series "Law & Order." Although Jerry Orbach made his first film in 1958 (a B flick called "Cop Hater"), film roles were sporadic during the 1960s and 70s while he appeared onstage in such efforts as "6 Rms Riv Vu", "Scuba Duba" and the original cast of the long-running Off-Broadway sensation "The Fantasticks". In the latter, Orbach, in the role of El Gallo, introduced "Try to Remember", a song perennial with which he was long associated. A breakthrough on the Great White Way came several years later with his Tony-nominated turn as Sky Masterson in the 1965 revival of "Guys and Dolls". He later won the Tony for "Promises, Promises" in 1969 .Boosted by his stage success, Orbach played his first lead in features in the gangster spoof, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" (1971), but the modest success of the film and his subsequent ventures kept Orbach primarily onstage for some time thereafter....

This tall, sleepy-eyed character actor and leading man from the Broadway musical stage who, whether sinister or sympathetic, often was cast in roles that connoted a slightly seedy "New Yorkness," eventually finding widespread recognition on television as a cynical police detective on the long-running crime series "Law & Order."

Although Jerry Orbach made his first film in 1958 (a B flick called "Cop Hater"), film roles were sporadic during the 1960s and 70s while he appeared onstage in such efforts as "6 Rms Riv Vu", "Scuba Duba" and the original cast of the long-running Off-Broadway sensation "The Fantasticks". In the latter, Orbach, in the role of El Gallo, introduced "Try to Remember", a song perennial with which he was long associated. A breakthrough on the Great White Way came several years later with his Tony-nominated turn as Sky Masterson in the 1965 revival of "Guys and Dolls". He later won the Tony for "Promises, Promises" in 1969 .

Boosted by his stage success, Orbach played his first lead in features in the gangster spoof, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" (1971), but the modest success of the film and his subsequent ventures kept Orbach primarily onstage for some time thereafter. His long face, saturnine expression and intriguingly glum magnetism didn't quite make him movie star material, but onstage he toured with Neil Simon's "Chapter Two" for nine months, and starred on Broadway in a musicalized version of the 20s black comedy "Chicago" (1975-76). Orbach also brought real edge to the role of obsessed theater director Julian Marsh in the smash Broadway remake of the classic Warner Bros. musical film "42nd Street" in 1980.

One of Orbach's rare film roles in the early 80s, as a crooked cop in Sidney Lumet's crime saga "Prince of the City" (1980), though, suggested the direction his career would soon take. 1985 saw increased feature film work, but it was really his memorable performance as the gentle, concerned father in the surprise hit "Dirty Dancing" (1987) which insured a prolific career in features. Orbach was also excellent as the shady, mob-connected brother of Martin Landau (whom he somewhat resembles in build and manner) in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989) and his likably world-weary ways also suited his detectives in "Someone to Watch Over Me" (1987) and "Out for Justice" (1991). He has, however, enjoyed a good variety of roles in films ranging from "Last Exit to Brooklyn" (1989) to "Delirious" (1991) to "Mr. Saturday Night" (1992). He perhaps reached his widest audience and engaged views from toddlers to their grandparents providing the French-accented voice of the candelabra Lumiere in Disney's Oscar-nominated animated feature "Beauty and the Beast". Among the highlights of that classic was Orbach's delivery of the showstopping number "Be Our Guest". He again reprised Lumiere for the direct-to-video sequels "Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas" (1997) and "Belle's Magical World" (1998), as well as the Disney TV series "House of Mouse" (2001-2002) .

Beginning with an HBO adaptation of Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite" (1982), Orbach also found increased activity in TV, with miniseries work including a performance as gold-seeking John Sutter in the historical epic "Dream West" (CBS, 1986). TV-movies included "Invasion of Privacy" (CBS, 1983) and "Quiet Killer" (CBS, 1992), and a recurring role as slightly shabby but egotistical detective Harry McGraw on "Murder, She Wrote" led to his own short-lived spin-off series, "The Law and Harry McGraw" (CBS, 1987-88).

Orbach had better luck on series TV when, in 1992, he joined the cast of NBC's acclaimed bipartite police and courtroom drama, "Law & Order" in its thrid season as the cynical but professional Detective Lenny Briscoe, who had a sardonic one-liner ready for any crime scene (he'd previously guest-starred as defense attorney Frank Lehrman in a second season episode). The actor became the rock of the long-running series as it endured through a regular revolving door of cast changes--Orbach's character was partnered with Chris Noth, Benjamin Bratt and Jesse Martin over the years, and it was to Orbach's credit that he developed strong chemistry and camraderie with each new cast mate. Many New York police officers claimed Orbach's portrayal was as close as TV could come to the real thing--Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called Orbach "a friend to all New Yorkers" and "a devoted ambassador of the city." He also carried the Briscoe character over to guest on the many "Law & Order" spin-off series and TV-movies, as well as several crossovers with the NBC series "Homicide: Life On the Streets" and even lent his voice to a series of spin-off video games. Orbach left the original series in 2004 after a dozen years to star in the latest venture from creatorn Dick Wolf, "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005 - ), with Briscoe now as an investigator for the district attorney's office. The actor had filmed a handful of episodes when he lost a lengthy battle with prostate cancer.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Chinese Coffee (2000) Jake Manheim
2.
 Prince Of Central Park (1999) Businessman
3.
 Exiled: A Law and Order Movie (1998) Detective Lennie Briscoe
4.
6.
 Up World (1993)
7.
 Straight Talk (1992) Milo Jacoby
8.
 Neil Simon's Broadway Bound (1992) Jack Jerome
9.
 Universal Soldier (1992) Dr Gregor
10.
 Quiet Killer (1992) Vincent Callafato
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Moved from the Bronx, New York to Mount Vernon, New York as a child; later moved to Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Pennsylvania, Springfield, Massachusetts and Waukegan, Illinois
1952:
Began acting in summer stock at age 16; made stage debut in a production of the farce, "Room Service"
1956:
Made NYC stage debut at age 21 in a revival of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's "The Threepenny Opera"; played Mack the Knife
1958:
Played first notable film role in "Cop Hater"
1960:
Created the role of El Gallo in the long-running Off-Broadway musical, "The Fantasticks"
1961:
Earliest TV appearances included a supporting role in the CBS drama special, "Twenty-Four Hours in a Woman's Life", starring Ingrid Bergman and Rip Torn
1961:
Made Broadway debut in the musical, "Carnival", produced by David Merrick, directed by Gower Champion and based on the MGM musical "Lili" (1953), which starred Leslie Caron
1964:
Last film for seven years, "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home", a zany comedy starring Shirley MacLaine
1965:
Received first Tony nomination (in supporting category) for playing Sky Masterson in a revival at New York's City Center of the Frank Loesser musical, "Guys and Dolls"
1967:
Appeared on TV in the prominent supporting role of Charles Davenport in a performance of the classic Irving Berlin Broadway musical, "Annie, Get Your Gun", with Ethel Merman recreating her original stage role
1969:
Starred on Broadway in "Promises, Promises", a musical with a score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and a book by Neil Simon based on the screenplay for the Billy Wilder film, "The Apartment"; received Tony Award as Actor in a Musical
1971:
Returned to films after a seven-year absence to play his first leading role in a feature, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight"
1975:
Starred on Broadway opposite Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera in the Bob Fosse musical, "Chicago", based on the 1920s play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and the film adaptation "Roxie Hart" (1942), which starred Ginger Rogers; received Tony nomination as Actor in a Musical
1980:
Originated the role of Julian Marsh in the smash Broadway musical, "42nd Street", based on the classic Warner Bros. musical film of 1933; played role originated by Warner Baxter
1982:
Starred in HBO adapatation of Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite"
1983:
First network TV-movie, "An Invasion of Privacy" (CBS)
1986:
Began making recurring guest appearances on the long-running CBS detective series, "Murder, She Wrote", in the role of detective Harry McGraw; would appear occasionally on the series over the next five years
1986:
First TV miniseries, "Dream West" (CBS)
1986:
Supplied a voice for the animated children's series, "Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers"
:
Played title role in short-lived CBS detective series, "The Law and Harry McGraw", a spin-off from "Murder, She Wrote"
1989:
Had featured role in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors"
1990:
Received Emmy nomination for one-time guest appearance on an episode of the NBC sitcom "The Golden Girls" entitled "The Cheaters"
1991:
Provided the voice of Lumiere, the candelabra, for Disney's animated blockbuster "Beauty and the Beast"
1992:
Joined the cast of NBC's police drama, "Law & Order", which had already been on the air since 1990, as Detective Lenny Briscoe; earned a 2000 Emmy nomination
:
Made cross-over appearances as Briscoe on the NBC drama series "Homicide: Life on the Street"
1997:
Reprised character of Lumiere in the direct-to-video sequel "Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas"
1997:
Filmed co-starring role in "Chinese Coffee" opposite director-star Al Pacino; movie premiered at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival
1999:
Portrayed Detective Briscoe in cross-over appearances on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC)
2004:
Was set to reprised his role of Detective Briscoe in the spin-off "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (NBC), before his death in December 2004
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Illinois: Urbana , Illinois - 1952 - 1953
Northwestern University: Evanston , Illinois - 1953 - 1955

Notes

Inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2000

December 2, 2004, Jerry Orbach was diagnosed with prostate cancer

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Marta Orbach. Married on June 21, 1958; divorced in 1975; mother of Orbach's two sons.
wife:
Elaine Orbach. Dancer. Married on October 7, 1979.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Leon Orbach. Restaurant manager, former vaudevillian.
mother:
Emily Orbach. Radio singer; greeting card manufacturer.
son:
Anthony Nicholas Orbach. Mother, Marta Orbach.
son:
Christopher Ben Orbach. Actor. Mother, Marta Orbach; had recurring role on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" as a nephew of Orbach's character.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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