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Jerry Orbach

Jerry Orbach
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Jerry Orbach Biography

Orbach was born in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, to Emily Olexy (a Polish American) and Leon Orbach (a German of the Jewish faith). He was raised Roman Catholic. While he was still a child, his family moved to Mount Vernon, New York, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Pennsylvania, Springfield, Massachusetts, and Waukegan, Illinois. He studied drama at Northwestern University, then went to New York, where he studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Orbach was an accomplished Broadway and off-Broadway actor. His first major role was that of El Gallo in the original cast of the decades-running hit The Fantasticks. He also starred in Carnival! the musical version of the movie "Lili." He also starred in a revival of Guys and Dolls (Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Musical nominee), Promises, Promises (Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical), the original productions of Chicago (Tony Award Best Actor in a Musical nominee) and 42nd Street, and a revival of The Cradle Will Rock. In the 1980s, he shifted to film work, including prominent roles as Jennifer Grey's father in Dirty Dancing, a cold-blooded killer in the Woody Allen drama Crimes and Misdemeanors, and the voice of the candle Lumiere in Disney's animated musical Beauty and the Beast. He starred in the short-lived 1987 crime drama The Law and Harry McGraw (playing a role that he originated and later reprised as a regular guest star on Murder, She Wrote for several years), which foresaw his best-known role of all - Detective Lennie Briscoe in the series Law & Order (1992 - 2004). Orbach also voice acted the character for the video game spin-offs of the series. Orbach was signed to continue in the role on Law & Order: Trial by Jury. He appeared in only the first two episodes of the series, which aired in March of 2005, after his death. The fifth episode of the series, "Baby Boom", was dedicated to his memory. Jerry Orbach in the opening credits on NBC's Law & Order. In early December 2004, it was announced that Orbach had been receiving treatment for prostate cancer since Spring 2004; he died at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York on December 28. His agent, Robert Malcolm, announced at the time of his death that Orbach had been diagnosed with prostate cancer more than ten years before. Orbach was married in 1958 to Marta Curro, by whom he had two sons, Anthony Nicholas and Christopher Benjamin; they divorced in 1975. In 1979, he married Broadway dancer Elaine Cancilla, whom he met while starring in Chicago. In addition to his sons and both wives, Orbach was survived by his mother. He was named a "Living Landmark," along with fellow castmate Sam Waterston, by the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2002. He quipped that the honor meant "that they can't tear me down." Orbach lived in a high-rise off Eighth Avenue in Clinton and was a fixture in that Manhattan neighborhood's restaurants and shops. His glossy publicity photo hangs in Ms. Buffy's French Cleaners, and he was a regular at some of the unpretentious Italian restaurants nearby. On February 5, 2005, he was posthumously awarded a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series. Read Full Bio >>

Jerry Orbach Awards

YearAwardCategoryForResult
2006 TV Land Awards Coolest Crime Fighting Team "Law & Order" (1990). Nominated
2005 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series "Law & Order" (1990). Won
2005 TV Land Awards Favorite "Casual Friday" Cop "Law & Order" (1990). Nominated
2004 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series "Law & Order" (1990). Nominated
2002 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series "Law & Order" (1990). Nominated

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Jerry Orbach Trivia

  • On Monday, 20th March 2000 he sued on-line auctioneer eBay Inc. in Manhattan (New York) federal court for displaying his Social Security number on the Internet. The suit alleges that eBay began broadcasting the confidential information on its Web site on Wednesday 15th March 2000 when it advertised the sale of two of Orbach's contracts from 1958.
  • Spent part of his childhood in Nanticoke Pa.
  • 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 of Chris Orbach and Tony Orbach.
  • Was partying at the Copacabana with famed New York mobster Joey Gallo hours before Gallo was shot dead at Umberto's Clam House in New York City
  • He was an only child.
  • Worked as a chauffeur for Mae West.
  • Had read for the roles of Max Greevey and Phil Cerreta on "Law & Order" (1990) before finally being cast as Det. Lennie Briscoe.
  • In 1976, he was nominated for the Tony Award« for "Best Actor in a Musical" for his performance in "Chicago."
  • Announced on March 26th, 2004, that he would be leaving the series "Law & Order" (1990) after 12 years on the series.
  • In 1969, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor (Musical) for his 1968 role of Chuck Baxter in the Burt Bacharach/Hal David musical "Promises, Promises", a stage adaptation of Billy Wilder's The Apartment (1960). 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."
  • Was one of the first in a long series of actors who have played multiple characters on "Law & Order" (1990). Before he played Det. Lennie Briscoe, Orbach guest-starred as defense attorney Frank Lehrman in the 2nd season episode "The Wages of Love".
  • The New York Landmark Conservancy declared him a Living Landmark.
  • 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)) and doing real well".
  • He is one of only two actors to play the same character (Detective Lennie Briscoe) on five different television series: "Law & Order" (1990), "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993), "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999), "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (2001) and "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005). His sometime co-star Richard Belzer is the other one, having appeared on six different television shows as Detective John Munch.
  • Had been battling prostate cancer for 10 years.
  • Father was German-Jewish whose ancestry was Spanish Sephardic and Mother was Polish Catholic.
  • Received the Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellence at the 1999 Lucille Lortel Awards.
  • Appeared in episodes of three different series with Jesse L. Martin: "Law & Order" (1990), "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999) and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (2001).
  • Appeared in episodes of three different series with Richard Belzer: "Law & Order" (1990), "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993) and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999).
  • On "Law and Order: Trial by Jury," 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).
  • Along with Jesse L. Martin, Fred Dalton Thompson and Leslie Hendrix, he is one of only four actors to play the same character (Detective Lennie Briscoe) on all four "Law & Order" series ("Law & Order" (1990), "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999), "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (2001) and "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005)).
  • Appeared in episodes of four different series with Sam Waterston: "Law & Order" (1990), "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993), "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999) and "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005).
  • Jesse L. Martin 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 Jerry Orbach, who was both Martin's costar on Law and Order and the first person to perform "Razzle Dazzle" in the original Broadway production of Chicago.
  • Played the uncle of his real-life son, Chris Orbach, in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999).
  • His character "Law & Order" (1990) and "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005) character, Detective Lennie Briscoe, was the longest running character on American prime time live action television from May 2004, when "Frasier" (1993) ended, to March 2005. Kelsey Grammer had played Dr. Frasier Crane in "Cheers" (1982) and "Frasier" (1993) since November 1984. Richard Belzer, who has played Detective John Munch in "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993) and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999) since January 1993, is the current holder of the title.
  • Before joining the cast of "Law & Order" (1990) in 1992, he played a defense attorney named Frank Lehrman in the Season Two episode "The Wages of Love". Detective Lennie Briscoe, the character he later played on the series for twelve seasons, hated defense attorneys for defending "the scum of the earth."
  • The "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005) episode "Baby Boom" was dedicated to his memory. At the end, a message was shown that said "For Jerry".
  • Is one of four cast members from "Law & Order" whose character became a regular on a "Law & Order" spin-off. He played Det. Lennie Briscoe in both "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Trial By Jury." Although he was signed as a regular cast member in L&O:TBJ, he died unexpectedly after shooting only two episodes.
  • Along with Chris Noth, Dann Florek and Fred Dalton Thompson, he is one of four "Law & Order" (1990) cast members who later joined the regular cast of one of the spin-off series. He played Detective Lennie Briscoe in "Law & Order" (1990) from 1992 to 2004 and was a member of the original cast of "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005).
  • Although he and Steven Hill appeared in 177 episodes of "Law & Order" (1990) and the "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999) episode "Entitled" together, the only time that they ever appeared on screen together was during one brief scene in the "Law & Order" (1990) Season Seven episode "Corruption".
  • According to his book "Hollywood Animal", Joe Esterhaus said that when he was down and out, Jerry Orbach would fill his station wagon with groceries and deliver them to his house.


Jerry Orbach Photos

  • Jerry Orbach

    NBC s Law Order Season Premiere

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