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Jerry Orbach was a Tony Award-winning American actor best known for his role as Detective Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order.
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In 1976, he received another Tony nomination for his role in Chicago. He last appeared on Broadway in 1981, playing Julian Marsh in 42nd Street at the Majestic Theatre in New York.
Launching off from his illustrious theater career, Orbach began to move increasingly toward roles in film and television in the 1980s and 1990s. He was a recurring guest star on Murder, She Wrote and played the title role in its short-lived spin-off, The Law and Harry McGraw. His stint in Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound (1991) and his frequent appearances on the sitcom The Golden Girls both earned him Emmy nominations. His first major supporting film role came in Sidney Lumet’s drama Prince of the City (1981), and he followed up with the crime-thriller F/X in 1986. In 1987, he changed pace, playing the stern but loving father of a rebellious teenage girl in the runaway hit Dirty Dancing, costarring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, still his best-known movie role. He then lent his voice and personality to the loquacious lantern, Lumiere, in the animated musical Beauty and the Beast (1991). Most recently, he starred in Chinese Coffee (2000) with longtime friend Al Pacino, who also produced and directed the film.
Orbach first appeared on the critically acclaimed NBC series Law & Order in 1990 and in 1992 landed a regular role on the show, playing the quick-witted and sharp-tongued Detective Lennie Briscoe.
Orbach and actress/writer Marta Curro, who was a fellow understudy in The Threepenny Opera, married in June 1958 and had two sons, Anthony and Christopher, before divorcing in 1975. In 1979, Orbach married Elaine Cancilla, who had replaced Chita Rivera as his co-star in the 1975 production of Chicago.
Jerry Orbach died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Manhattan on December 28, 2004 after suffering complications from prostate cancer. The actor was 69.
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