Jerry Orbach

Veteran stage, screen and television actor Jerry Orbach died on December 29, 2004 from prostate cancer.

Jerry Orbach was best known to television viewers as Detective Lennie Briscoe on “Law & Order” for 12 years. Briscoe took his work seriously but used a wry sense of humor as a buttress against the pressures of being a DA Investigator. Orbach was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for his work on “Law & Order” during the 1999-2000 season.

Born in the Bronx, on October 20, 1935, Orbach moved frequently as a child. From the Bronx, he moved to Mt. Vernon, New York, then to Pennsylvania where he lived in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton before moving to Springfield, Massachusetts and Waukegan, Illinois. He graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and went on to study with Lee Strasberg. Orbach is a member of the Actor’s Studio.

Orbach’s professional acting career began in the theater. He did summer stock at the age of 16 and made his first New York stage appearance at the age of 21 in “The Threepenny Opera” as Mack the Knife. In 1960, he created the role of El Gallo in the Off-Broadway milestone, “The Fantasticks.” Orbach made his Broadway debut in 1961 in David Merrick’s production of “Carnival” and received his first Tony Award nomination for his portrayal of Sky Masterson in the City Center revival of “Guys and Dolls.” He won a Tony Award for his starring role in “Promises, Promises” and has also appeared in “The Cradle Will Rock,” “Scuba Duba,” “6 Rms Riv Vu” and “Chicago.” It was in this production that Orbach met his wife Elaine Cancilla, who replaced Chita Rivera as his co-star.

Orbach toured with the national company of Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two” for nine months and was last seen on Broadway in the original production of “42nd Street.” Orbach was inducted into the Broadway Hall of Fame in 1999. Orbach’s film credits include “Beauty and the Beast,” “Postcards from the Edge,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Dirty Dancing,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “F/X,” “Brewster’s Millions,” “Prince of the City” and “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”

No stranger to television audiences, Orbach’s television credits include guest appearances in the movie of Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound,” “The Golden Girls,” (both of which earned him Emmy nominations), “Empty Nest” and “Murder, She Wrote.” Additionally, he played Harry McGraw in the 1988 series “The Law and Harry McGraw.”

Jerry Orbach was to reprise his role as the wise-cracking Lennie Briscoe in "Law & Order: Trial by Jury," the new drama series from executive producer Dick Wolf, as retired police detective Briscoe, now working for the District Attorney as a DA Investigator. His illness kept him from most of the filming and as a result his presence in that show will not be felt...

Orbach is survived by his wife, Elaine.


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