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.
- His character _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) and _"Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005)_ (qv) character, Detective Lennie Briscoe, was the longest running character on American prime time live action television from May 2004, when _"Frasier" (1993)_ (qv) ended, to March 2005. 'Kelsey Grammer' (qv) had played Dr. Frasier Crane in _"Cheers" (1982)_ (qv) and _"Frasier" (1993)_ (qv) since November 1984. 'Richard Belzer' (qv), who has played Detective John Munch in _"Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993)_ (qv) and _"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999)_ (qv) since January 1993, is the current holder of the title.
- The New York Landmark Conservancy declared him a Living Landmark.
- Created the roles of El Gallo in "The Fantasticks," Billy Flynn in "Chicago" and Julian Marsh in "42nd Street" on the New York stage.
- 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.).
- The _"Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005)_ (qv) episode "Baby Boom" was dedicated to his memory. At the end, a message was shown that said "For Jerry".
- Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 405-407. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
- W 53rd St. in Manhattan has been named Jerry Orbach Way!.
- Appeared in episodes of three different series with 'Richard Belzer' (qv): _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv), _"Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993)_ (qv) and _"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999)_ (qv).