Actor/singerDied when: 69 years 69 days (830 months)
Star Sign: Libra
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 bona fide 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, where he created roles such as El Gallo in the original off-Broadway run of The Fantasticks (1960) and became the first performer to sing that show's standard "Try to Remember", Billy Flynn in the original Chicago (1975–1977), and Julian Marsh in 42nd Street (1980–1985).
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 as private detective Harry McGraw between 1985 and 1991, and was the voice of Zachary Foxx in The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers in 1986.
He gained worldwide fame for his starring role as NYPD Detective Lennie Briscoe on the original Law & Order series from 1992 to 2004.
His father was a Jewish emigrant from Hamburg, Germany.Orbach stated that his father was descended from Sephardic refugees from the Spanish Inquisition.
His mother, a native of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, was a Roman Catholic of Polish-Lithuanian descent, and Orbach was raised in her faith (a religious background later replicated in his character on Law & Order).
Throughout his childhood, the Orbach family moved frequently, living in Mount Vernon, New York;Wilkes-Barre, Nanticoke, and Scranton, Pennsylvania;Springfield, Massachusetts; and Waukegan, Illinois.
Orbach attended Waukegan High School in Illinois and graduated in 1952 (having skipped two grades in elementary school due to his high IQ of 163).
He played on the football team and began learning acting in a speech class.The summer after graduating from high school, Orbach worked at the theatre of Chevy Chase Country Club of Wheeling, Illinois, and enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in the fall.
In 1953, Orbach returned to the Chicago area and enrolled at Northwestern University.Orbach left Northwestern before his senior year and moved to New York City in 1955 to pursue acting and to study at the Actors Studio, where one of his instructors was the studio's founder, Lee Strasberg.