Birth Date: October 20, 1935
Birth Place: New York City
Date of Death: December 28, 2004 / Age: 69
Location of Death: New York City
Biography: Jerome Bernard "Jerry" Orbach (October 20, 1935 – December 28, 2004) was an American actor best known for his starring role in the Law & Order television series and his musical theater roles.
Orbach was born in the Bronx, a borough of New York City to an Irish-American mother and a Russian-Jewish father. He was raised 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 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!, 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 the 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 he 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.
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.