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Jerry Orbach
Jerry Orbach 1965 press photo.JPG
Orbach in May 1965
Jerome Bernard Orbach

(1935-10-20)October 20, 1935
Died December 28, 2004(2004-12-28) (aged 69)
Manhattan, New York City, United States
Cause of death Prostate cancer
Nationality American
Occupation Actor
Years active 1955–2004
Spouse(s) Marta Curro (1958–1975; divorced: 2 children)
Elaine Cancilla
(m. 1979–2004; [his death])
Children 2 sons
Awards Tony Award

Jerome Bernard Orbach (October 20, 1935 – December 28, 2004) was an American actor and singer, described at the time of his death as "one of the last real leading men of the Broadway musical and global celebrity on television" and a "versatile stage and film actor".

Orbach's professional career began on the New York stage, both on and off-Broadway. Nominated for multiple Tony Awards, Orbach won for his performance as Chuck Baxter in Promises, Promises (1968–1972).

Later in his career, Orbach played supporting roles in films such as Prince of the City (1981), Dirty Dancing (1987), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991).

He also made frequent guest appearances on television; including a recurring role on Murder, She Wrote (1985–1991) as private detective Harry McGraw. However, he gained worldwide fame for his starring role as NYPD Detective Lennie Briscoe on the long-running NBC crime drama Law & Order (1992–2004).

Prior to his death, Orbach was signed to continue in the role of Lennie Briscoe on the new spin-off Law & Order: Trial by Jury, which was to accommodate his illness by giving him a lighter schedule than he had had on the original series, but he was only featured in the first two episodes, both of which aired following his death.

Personal life

Michael O'Haughey and Jerry Orbach in Chicago musical
Orbach (right) as Billy Flynn in the original 1975 Broadway production of 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 also an actor and singer. In 1979, Jerry Orbach married Broadway dancer Elaine Cancilla, whom he met while starring in Chicago.

Orbach lived in a high-rise on 53rd Street off Eighth Avenue in Hell's Kitchen and was a fixture in that 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 Italian restaurants nearby. As of 2007, the intersection of 8th Avenue and 53rd Street was renamed in honor of Orbach.


Orbach as Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order

In January 1994, less than two years into his stint on Law & Order, Orbach was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He succumbed to his cancer on December 28, 2004, at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York at age 69. Despite being diagnosed with the cancer more than a decade before his death, Orbach's illness was not revealed to the general public until just weeks before he died.

The day after Orbach's death, the marquees on Broadway were dimmed in mourning, one of the highest honors of the American theatre world, while NBC re-aired the Law & Order episode "C.O.D." (the last episode of the original series to feature Orbach) in honor of him.



Year Title Role Notes
1955 Guys and Dolls Barbershop extra Uncredited
1955 Marty Ballroom extra Uncredited
1958 Cop Hater Gang Leader- "Mumzer"
1961 Mad Dog Coll Joe Clegg
1964 Ensign Pulver Unknown
1965 John Goldfarb, Please Come Home Pinkerton
1971 The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight Kid Sally
1972 A Fan's Notes Fred
1975 Fore Play Jerry Lorsey
1977 The Sentinel Michael Dayton
1981 Underground Aces Herbert Penlittle
1981 Prince of the City Det. Gus Levy Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor (2nd place)
Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor (3rd place)
1985 Brewster's Millions Charlie Pegler
1986 The Imagemaker Byron Caine
1986 F/X Nicolas DeFranco
1987 Dirty Dancing Dr. Jake Houseman
1987 Someone to Watch Over Me Lt. Garber
1987 I Love N.Y. Leo
1989 Last Exit to Brooklyn Boyce
1989 Crimes and Misdemeanors Jack Rosenthal
1991 California Casanova Constantin Rominoffski
1991 Out for Justice Capt. Ronnie Dozinger
1991 Toy Soldiers Albert Trotta Uncredited
1991 Delusion Larry
1991 Delirious Lou Sherwood
1991 Beauty and the Beast Lumière (voice)
1992 A Gnome Named Gnorm Stan Walton
1992 Straight Talk Milo Jacoby
1992 Universal Soldier Dr. Christopher Gregor
1992 Mr. Saturday Night Phil Gussman
1993 The Cemetery Club Unknown Uncredited
1996 Aladdin and the King of Thieves Sa'luk (voice) Direct-to-video
1997 Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas Lumière (voice) Direct-to-video
1998 Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World Lumière (voice) Direct-to-video
1999 Temps Announcer
2000 The Acting Class Unknown
2000 Chinese Coffee Jake Manheim
2000 Prince of Central Park Businessmes
2002 Beauty and the Beast: Special Edition Lumière (voice) IMAX release
2002 Manna from Heaven Waltz Contest Announcer
2003 Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There Himself
2003 Try to Remember: The Fantasticks Himself
2004 Protesters Police Investigator


Year Title Role Notes
1961 Twenty-Four Hours in a Woman's Life Cristoff Television film
1967 Annie Get Your Gun Charles Davenport Television film
1973 Love, American Style Homer Episode: "Love and the Hoodwinked Honey"
1975 Medical Center Josh Episode: "The Captives"
1975 Kojak Brubaker Episode: "A Question of Answers"
1980 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Lars Mangros Episode: "Space Rockers"
1983 The Magic of Herself the Elf King Thorn (voice) Television film
1983 An Invasion of Privacy Sam Bianchi Television film
1985 Our Family Honor Brian Merrick 2 episodes
1985–1991 Murder, She Wrote Harry McGraw 6 episodes
1986 Dream West Capt. John Stutter Television film
1986 The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers Zachary Foxx (voice) 7 episodes
1987 Tales from the Darkside Robert Episode: "Everybody Needs a Little Love"
1987 Out on a Limb Mort Viner Television film
1987 Love Among Thieves Spicer Television film
1987–1988 The Law & Harry McGraw Harry McGraw 16 episodes
1988 Simon & Simon Harrison/Malcolm Stanley III Episode: "Ain't Gonna Get It From Me, Jack"
1989 Perry Mason: The Case of the Musical Murder Blaine Counter Television film
1989 The Flamingo Kid Phil Brody
1990 Hunter Sal Scarlatti Episode: "Son and Heir"
1990 The Golden Girls Glen O'Brien Episode: "Cheaters"
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
1990 Who's the Boss? Nick Episode: "Starlight Memories"
1990 Kojak: None So Blind Tony Salducci Television film
1990 In Defense of a Married Man Alan Michaelson Television film
1991 Perry Mason: The Case of the Ruthless Reporter Vic St. John Television film
1991 Law & Order Frank Lehrmann Episode: "The Wages of Love"
1992 Empty Nest Arthur 2 episodes
1992 Neil Simon's Broadway Bound Jack Jerome Television film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1992 Quiet Killer Dr. Vincent Califano Television film
1992 Mastergate Clifton Byers Television film
1992–2004 Law & Order Detective Leonard W. "Lennie" Briscoe 273 episodes
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series (posthumously)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (1995–2004)
Nominated—Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Drama Series (1998–2000)
1996 Frasier Mitch Episode: "High Crane Drifter"
1996–1999 Homicide: Life on the Street Det. Lennie Briscoe 3 episodes
1998 Exiled: A Law & Order Movie Det. Lennie Briscoe Television film
1999–2000 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Det. Lennie Briscoe 3 episodes
2000-2002 Encounters with the Unexplained Himself, Host TV Documentary
2001 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Det. Lennie Briscoe Episode: "Poison"
2001–2002 Disney's House of Mouse Lumière (voice) 9 episodes
2005 Law & Order: Trial by Jury D.A. Investigator Lennie Briscoe 2 episodes

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