Jerry Orbach

Actor, Singer
This tall, sleepy-eyed character actor and leading man from the Broadway musical stage who, whether sinister or sympathetic, often was cast in roles that connoted a slightly seedy "New Yorkness," eventually finding ... Read more »
Born: 10/20/1935 in Bronx, New York, USA


Actor (71)

Empty Nest 1991 - 2006 (Tv Show)


Homicide: Life on the Street 1991 - 2006 (Tv Show)


Law & Order 1984 - 2006 (Tv Show)


Murder, She Wrote 1984 - 2006 (Tv Show)


Conan O'Brien 10th Anniversary Special 2003 - 2004 (TV Show)


Disney's House of Mouse 2000 - 2002 (TV Show)


Encounters With the Unexplained 2000 - 2002 (TV Show)


Burt Bacharach 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)


Law & Order: Criminal Intent 2001 (Tv Show)


The Hunt 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)


Chinese Coffee 2000 (Movie)

Jake Manheim (Actor)

Prince of Central Park 2000 (Movie)

Businessman (Actor)

Bob Fosse: The E! True Hollywood Story 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)


You Be the Judge 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)


Beauty and the Beast: the Enchanted Christmas 1997 (Movie)

of Lumiere (Voice)

Gourmet Getaways With Robin Leach 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)


1995 Miss America Pageant 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)


Aladdin and the King of Thieves 1996 (Movie)


Mastergate 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)


A Gnome Named Gnorm 1992 (Movie)


Mr. Saturday Night 1992 (Movie)

Phil Gussman (Actor)

Neil Simon's Broadway Bound 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)


Quiet Killer 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)


Straight Talk 1992 (Movie)

Milo Jacoby (Actor)

Universal Soldier 1992 (Movie)

Dr Gregor (Actor)

Beauty and the Beast 1991 (Movie)

of Lumiere (Voice)

California Casanova 1991 (Movie)

Constantin (Actor)

Coney Island 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)


Delirious 1991 (Movie)

Lou Sherwood (Actor)

Delusion 1991 (Movie)

Larry (Actor)

Out for Justice 1991 (Movie)

Detective Ronnie Donziger (Actor)

Toy Soldiers 1991 (Movie)

(uncredited) Albert Trotta (Actor)

Dead Women in Lingerie 1990 (Movie)

Bartoli (Actor)

Last Exit to Brooklyn 1990 (Movie)

Boyce (Actor)

Crimes and Misdemeanors 1989 (Movie)

Jack Rosenthal (Actor)

The Flamingo Kid 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)


A Salute to Broadway: The Shows 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)


I Love N.Y. 1988 (Movie)

Leo (Actor)

Irving Berlin's 100th Birthday Celebration 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)


Out on a Limb 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)


The Law and Harry McGraw 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)


Dirty Dancing 1987 (Movie)

Jake Houseman (Actor)

Someone to Watch Over Me 1987 (Movie)

Lieutenant Garber (Actor)

F/X 1986 (Movie)

Nicholas DeFranco (Actor)

The Imagemaker 1986 (Movie)

Byron Caine (Actor)

Brewster's Millions 1985 (Movie)

Charley Pegler (Actor)

The Streets 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)


Plaza Suite 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)


Prince of the City 1981 (Movie)

Gus Levy (Actor)

The Sentinel 1976 (Movie)

Film Director (Actor)

Mitzi: A Tribute to the American Housewife 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)


Foreplay 1973 (Movie)

Lorsey (Actor)

A Fan's Notes 1971 (Movie)

Fred (Actor)

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight 1971 (Movie)

Kid Sally (Actor)

John Goldfarb, Please Come Home 1963 (Movie)

Pinkerton (Actor)

Mad Dog Coll 1961 (Movie)

Joe (Actor)

An Invasion of Privacy (TV Show)


Dream West (TV Show)


In Defense of a Married Man (TV Show)


Love Among Thieves (TV Show)


None So Blind (TV Show)


The Way They Were (TV Show)

Music (1)

The 64th Annual Academy Awards 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Song Performer


This tall, sleepy-eyed character actor and leading man from the Broadway musical stage who, whether sinister or sympathetic, often was cast in roles that connoted a slightly seedy "New Yorkness," eventually finding widespread recognition on television as a cynical police detective on the long-running crime series "Law & Order. "

Although Jerry Orbach made his first film in 1958 (a B flick called "Cop Hater"), film roles were sporadic during the 1960s and 70s while he appeared onstage in such efforts as "6 Rms Riv Vu", "Scuba Duba" and the original cast of the long-running Off-Broadway sensation "The Fantasticks". In the latter, Orbach, in the role of El Gallo, introduced "Try to Remember", a song perennial with which he was long associated. A breakthrough on the Great White Way came several years later with his Tony-nominated turn as Sky Masterson in the 1965 revival of "Guys and Dolls". He later won the Tony for "Promises, Promises" in 1969 .

Boosted by his stage success, Orbach played his first lead in features in the gangster spoof, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" (1971), but the modest success of the film and his subsequent ventures kept Orbach primarily onstage for some time thereafter. His long face, saturnine expression and intriguingly glum magnetism didn't quite make him movie star material, but onstage he toured with Neil Simon's "Chapter Two" for nine months, and starred on Broadway in a musicalized version of the 20s black comedy "Chicago" (1975-76). Orbach also brought real edge to the role of obsessed theater director Julian Marsh in the smash Broadway remake of the classic Warner Bros. musical film "42nd Street" in 1980.

One of Orbach's rare film roles in the early 80s, as a crooked cop in Sidney Lumet's crime saga "Prince of the City" (1980), though, suggested the direction his career would soon take. 1985 saw increased feature film work, but it was really his memorable performance as the gentle, concerned father in the surprise hit "Dirty Dancing" (1987) which insured a prolific career in features. Orbach was also excellent as the shady, mob-connected brother of Martin Landau (whom he somewhat resembles in build and manner) in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989) and his likably world-weary ways also suited his detectives in "Someone to Watch Over Me" (1987) and "Out for Justice" (1991). He has, however, enjoyed a good variety of roles in films ranging from "Last Exit to Brooklyn" (1989) to "Delirious" (1991) to "Mr. Saturday Night" (1992). He perhaps reached his widest audience and engaged views from toddlers to their grandparents providing the French-accented voice of the candelabra Lumiere in Disney's Oscar-nominated animated feature "Beauty and the Beast". Among the highlights of that classic was Orbach's delivery of the showstopping number "Be Our Guest". He again reprised Lumiere for the direct-to-video sequels "Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas" (1997) and "Belle's Magical World" (1998), as well as the Disney TV series "House of Mouse" (2001-2002) .

Beginning with an HBO adaptation of Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite" (1982), Orbach also found increased activity in TV, with miniseries work including a performance as gold-seeking John Sutter in the historical epic "Dream West" (CBS, 1986). TV-movies included "Invasion of Privacy" (CBS, 1983) and "Quiet Killer" (CBS, 1992), and a recurring role as slightly shabby but egotistical detective Harry McGraw on "Murder, She Wrote" led to his own short-lived spin-off series, "The Law and Harry McGraw" (CBS, 1987-88).

Orbach had better luck on series TV when, in 1992, he joined the cast of NBC's acclaimed bipartite police and courtroom drama, "Law & Order" in its thrid season as the cynical but professional Detective Lenny Briscoe, who had a sardonic one-liner ready for any crime scene (he'd previously guest-starred as defense attorney Frank Lehrman in a second season episode). The actor became the rock of the long-running series as it endured through a regular revolving door of cast changes--Orbach's character was partnered with Chris Noth, Benjamin Bratt and Jesse Martin over the years, and it was to Orbach's credit that he developed strong chemistry and camraderie with each new cast mate. Many New York police officers claimed Orbach's portrayal was as close as TV could come to the real thing--Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called Orbach "a friend to all New Yorkers" and "a devoted ambassador of the city." He also carried the Briscoe character over to guest on the many "Law & Order" spin-off series and TV-movies, as well as several crossovers with the NBC series "Homicide: Life On the Streets" and even lent his voice to a series of spin-off video games. Orbach left the original series in 2004 after a dozen years to star in the latest venture from creatorn Dick Wolf, "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (2005 - ), with Briscoe now as an investigator for the district attorney's office. The actor had filmed a handful of episodes when he lost a lengthy battle with prostate cancer.


Elaine Orbach

married on October 7, 1979

Leon Orbach


Marta Orbach

married on June 21, 1958 divorced in 1975 mother of Orbach's two sons

Emily Orbach


Anthony Orbach

mother, Marta Orbach

Christopher Orbach

mother, Marta Orbach had recurring role on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" as a nephew of Orbach's character


studied acting with Herbert Berghof, Mira Rostova and Lee Strasberg in NYC

studied singing with Hazel Schweppe in NYC

Northwestern University

Evanston , Illinois 1953 - 1955

University of Illinois

Urbana , Illinois 1952 - 1953
stayed one year before transferring to Northwestern



Was set to reprised his role of Detective Briscoe in the spin-off "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" (NBC), before his death in December 2004


Portrayed Detective Briscoe in cross-over appearances on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC)


Reprised character of Lumiere in the direct-to-video sequel "Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas"


Filmed co-starring role in "Chinese Coffee" opposite director-star Al Pacino; movie premiered at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival


Joined the cast of NBC's police drama, "Law & Order", which had already been on the air since 1990, as Detective Lenny Briscoe; earned a 2000 Emmy nomination


Provided the voice of Lumiere, the candelabra, for Disney's animated blockbuster "Beauty and the Beast"


Received Emmy nomination for one-time guest appearance on an episode of the NBC sitcom "The Golden Girls" entitled "The Cheaters"


Had featured role in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors"


Supplied a voice for the animated children's series, "Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers"


Began making recurring guest appearances on the long-running CBS detective series, "Murder, She Wrote", in the role of detective Harry McGraw; would appear occasionally on the series over the next five years


First TV miniseries, "Dream West" (CBS)


First network TV-movie, "An Invasion of Privacy" (CBS)


Starred in HBO adapatation of Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite"


Originated the role of Julian Marsh in the smash Broadway musical, "42nd Street", based on the classic Warner Bros. musical film of 1933; played role originated by Warner Baxter


Starred on Broadway opposite Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera in the Bob Fosse musical, "Chicago", based on the 1920s play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and the film adaptation "Roxie Hart" (1942), which starred Ginger Rogers; received Tony nomination as Actor in


Returned to films after a seven-year absence to play his first leading role in a feature, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight"


Starred on Broadway in "Promises, Promises", a musical with a score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and a book by Neil Simon based on the screenplay for the Billy Wilder film, "The Apartment"; received Tony Award as Actor in a Musical


Appeared on TV in the prominent supporting role of Charles Davenport in a performance of the classic Irving Berlin Broadway musical, "Annie, Get Your Gun", with Ethel Merman recreating her original stage role


Received first Tony nomination (in supporting category) for playing Sky Masterson in a revival at New York's City Center of the Frank Loesser musical, "Guys and Dolls"


Last film for seven years, "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home", a zany comedy starring Shirley MacLaine


Earliest TV appearances included a supporting role in the CBS drama special, "Twenty-Four Hours in a Woman's Life", starring Ingrid Bergman and Rip Torn


Made Broadway debut in the musical, "Carnival", produced by David Merrick, directed by Gower Champion and based on the MGM musical "Lili" (1953), which starred Leslie Caron


Created the role of El Gallo in the long-running Off-Broadway musical, "The Fantasticks"


Played first notable film role in "Cop Hater"


Made NYC stage debut at age 21 in a revival of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's "The Threepenny Opera"; played Mack the Knife


Began acting in summer stock at age 16; made stage debut in a production of the farce, "Room Service"

Made cross-over appearances as Briscoe on the NBC drama series "Homicide: Life on the Street"

Moved from the Bronx, New York to Mount Vernon, New York as a child; later moved to Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Pennsylvania, Springfield, Massachusetts and Waukegan, Illinois

Played title role in short-lived CBS detective series, "The Law and Harry McGraw", a spin-off from "Murder, She Wrote"

Bonus Trivia


Inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2000


December 2, 2004, Jerry Orbach was diagnosed with prostate cancer