69 (passed away Dec. 28th, 2004)
Oct. 20th, 1935
New York City, New York, USA
Jerry Orbach's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Jerome Bernard "Jerry" Orbach (October 20, 1935 – December 28, 2004) was an American actor and singer.
Born in the Bronx, the only child of Emily (née Olexy), a greeting card manufacturer and radio singer, and Leon Orbach, a restaurant manager and vaudeville performer. His family moved frequently and eventually settled in Waukegan, Illinois where he went to high school. The constant moving made him the new kid on the block and forced him to become "a chameleon" to blend in his new settings. He studied drama at the University of Illinois and at Northwestern. He then went to study acting in New York and got constant work in musicals. He slowly pushed to get acting roles in tv and movies, but was frequently overlooked because of his musical roots.
He is best known on television for his starring role as Detective Lennie Briscoe in Law & Order and his recurring role as Harry McGraw in Murder, She Wrote, as well as for film roles such as Detective Gus Levy in Prince of the City, Dr. Jake Houseman in Dirty Dancing and the voice of Lumière in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Orbach was equally noted as a musical theatre star, creating roles such as El Gallo in The Fantasticks, the longest-running musical play in history; Chuck Baxter in Promises, Promises (for which he won a Tony Award); Julian Marsh in 42nd Street; and Billy Flynn in Chicago.
Orbach was married in 1958 to Marta Curro, with whom he had two sons, Anthony Nicholas and Christopher Benjamin; they divorced in (1975). Elder son Tony is a crossword puzzle constructor for The New York Times and also guest starred on the Law & Order episode "Doubles" as a reporter. Younger son Chris Orbach, who is an actor and singer, played Lennie Briscoe's nephew Ken Briscoe on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Orbach married Broadway dancer Elaine Cancilla, in 1979 whom he met while starring in Chicago.
- Although he and 'Steven Hill (I)' (qv) appeared in 177 episodes of _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) and the _"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999)_ (qv) episode "Entitled" together, the only time that they ever appeared on screen together was during one brief scene in the _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) Season Seven episode "Corruption".
- Along with 'S. Epatha Merkerson' (qv), 'Annie Parisse' (qv),'Milena Govich' (qv), and 'Jeremy Sisto' (qv) one of only 5 _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) cast members to play a different character in an episode before joining the cast in a later season. ('Michael Imperioli' (qv) and 'J.K. Simmons' (qv) also played multiple roles, but were not permanent additions to the cast.).
- Received the Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellence at the 1999 Lucille Lortel Awards.
- Created the roles of El Gallo in "The Fantasticks," Billy Flynn in "Chicago" and Julian Marsh in "42nd Street" on the New York stage.
- Father was German-Jewish whose ancestry was Spanish Sephardic and Mother was Polish Catholic.
- His manager, Robert Malcolm, announced in December 2004 that he has prostate cancer. However, Malcolm said, "We expect he'll be fine. He's been playing golf, shooting his episodes (of _"Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005)_ (qv)) and doing real well".
- Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 405-407. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
- Had read for the roles of Max Greevey and Phil Cerreta on _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) before finally being cast as Det. Lennie Briscoe.