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.
- 'Jesse L. Martin' (qv) performed the song "Razzle Dazzle" from the musical "Chicago" at the 2005 Tony Awards just as the "In Memoriam" section of the show was finishing. The last photo shown during the memorial was that of Orbach, who was both Martin's costar on _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) and the first person to perform "Razzle Dazzle" in the original Broadway production of "Chicago".
- 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.).
- W 53rd St. in Manhattan has been named Jerry Orbach Way!.
- In 1969, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor (Musical) for his 1968 role of Chuck Baxter in the 'Burt Bacharach' (qv)/'Hal David (II)' (qv) musical "Promises, Promises", a stage adaptation of 'Billy Wilder' (qv)'s _The Apartment (1960)_ (qv). This was preceded by a 1965 Tony nomination as Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Musical) for a revival of "Guys and Dolls," and followed by a 1976 Best Actor (Musical) nomination for the original production of "Chicago."
- Along with 'Chris Noth' (qv), 'Dann Florek' (qv) and 'Fred Dalton Thompson' (qv), he is one of four _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) cast members who later joined the regular cast of one of the spin-off series. He played Detective Lennie Briscoe in _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) from 1992 to 2004 and was a member of the original cast of _"Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005)_ (qv).
- On _"Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005)_ (qv), when he was so ill that he couldn't speak above a whisper, they rewrote the scene so that he and the other characters around him all had reason to whisper (outside of a courtroom door).
- Received the Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellence at the 1999 Lucille Lortel Awards.
- Worked as a chauffeur for 'Mae West' (qv).