×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fyvush Finkel, ‘Picket Fences’ and ‘Boston Public’ Actor, Dies at 93

Fyvush Finkel, an Emmy Award-winning actor who is best known to contemporary audiences for his roles on “Picket Fences” and “Boston Public” but who spent most of his early career on Gotham’s Lower East Side performing in the Yiddish theater, died Sunday in his Manhattan home. He was 93.

His son, Ian, confirmed the news to the New York Times, and said Finkel had been suffering from heart problems.

While Finkel was popular in his niche stage community, he broke out into the mainstream in 1964 with the national production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which he played Mordcha the innkeeper; in 1981 he took on the role of Tevye the milkman in a national touring production. Soon thereafter he landed a part in “Little Shop of Horrors” Off Broadway and won an Obie Award for his work in the New York Shakespeare Festival revival of “Cafe Crown.”

On the bigscreen, Finkel had a breakout performance in the 1990 Sidney Lumet pic “Q&A” as a corrupt attorney. He also appeared in “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “For Love or Money” and “Nixon.”

In 2009 Finkel appeared in the opening scene of best picture nominee “A Serious Man.” He played a Treitle Groshkover, known as a “Dybbuk” in Jewish lore — the wandering soul of a dead person that enters the body of a living person and controls his or her behavior.

In 2011 he starred in Philip R. Garrett’s film “The Other Men in Black,” playing a grandfather who recounts stories of Hasidic life.

But Finkel was best known to TV auds as public defender Douglas Wambaugh in “Picket Fences,” for which he was twice Emmy nominated, winning in 1994. He soon became a favorite of “Fences” creator David E. Kelley, who also cast him in “Boston Public” as an eccentric high school teacher.

Two years after “Picket Fences” ended its run, Finkel was cast in a remake of the ABC skein “Fantasy Island,” but the show was canceled after 13 episodes.

One of Finkel’s first television appearances was in a 1977 episode of Telly Savalas cop drama “Kojak.”

Born in Brooklyn to Jewish immigrant parents, Finkel was given the English first name of Philip but quickly became known as Fyvush, the Yiddish equivalent.

He took to the stage at age 9. Over the years he refined his act as a singer, dancer and comedian in the Jewish theater as well as a standup comedian. When not working in Manhattan, he would often head upstate to the Catskills resorts, part of the Borscht Belt.

Finkel was married to Trudi Lieberman for 61 years until her death in 2008. Survivors include two sons: Ian, a musical arranger and xylophone virtuoso, and Elliot, a concert pianist.

Hollywood Stars and Icons Lost in 2016

More Legit

  • Stephen Sondheim's 'Follies' in the Works

    Stephen Sondheim's 'Follies' in the Works as a Movie From Heyday, BBC Films

    David Heyman’s Heyday Films, whose credits include “Gravity,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Marriage Story” and the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises, and BBC Films have secured the film rights to Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical “Follies.” “Follies” will be adapted for the screen and directed by Dominic Cooke, a four-time Olivier [...]

  • Tina Turner The Musical

    How 'Tina: The Tina Turner Musical' Tells the Icon's Traumatic Story

    It wasn’t the response Tali Pelman had hoped to receive. The group creative managing director of Stage Entertainment had traveled to Küsnacht, Switzerland, with one goal in mind: Convince Tina Turner that her life could be the stuff of a successful stage musical. “We walked in the door,” Pelman remembers. “Tina was already there, and she greeted [...]

  • Ben McKenzie

    'Gotham' Star Ben McKenzie to Make Broadway Debut in 'Grand Horizons'

    “Gotham” star Ben McKenzie will make his Broadway debut in Bess Wohl’s “Grand Horizons.” He joins a cast that includes Oscar nominees Jane Alexander (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” “The Great White Hope”) and James Cromwell (“Babe,” “L.A. Confidential”). The show has a strictly limited 10-week run and begins previews on Dec. 23, 2019, before officially opening [...]

  • The Great Society review

    Listen: Brian Cox on 'Succession,' Shakespeare, and the Crisis We're In

    Brian Cox is having a pop-culture moment with “Succession,” the buzzy HBO series in which he stars. But he’s also an accomplished theater actor with plenty of experience doing Shakespeare — and it serves him well in both “Succession” and in his current Broadway show, “The Great Society.” Listen to this week’s podcast below: Cox [...]

  • Scooby Doo Ella Louise Allaire Martin

    Scooby-Doo Live Theater Tour Is Goofy Dane's Latest Adventure

    From its 1969 start as a Saturday morning kids mystery cartoon series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” starring its titular, talking Great Dane and his four teenaged friends, has made adventure its staple. Once Hanna-Barbera’s successor, Warner Bros. Animation, took the leash, Scooby and company became a comic book, a board game, a series of video [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    'Tootsie' Ending Broadway Run in January

    “Tootsie,” the critically acclaimed musical adaptation of the 1982 classic film comedy, will play its final Broadway performance on Jan. 5, 2020. When it wraps up its run, the show will have logged 293 regular and 25 preview performances at the cavernous Marquis Theatre, where it sometimes labored to draw big crowds. Last week, “Tootsie” [...]

  • Laurel Griggs

    Laurel Griggs, Broadway and 'SNL' Actress, Dies at 13

    Laurel Griggs, who starred in Broadway’s “ONCE the Musical” as Ivanka, has died. She was 13. An obituary posted to Dignity Memorial indicates she died on Nov. 5, and Griggs’ grandfather wrote on Facebook that her death was due to a massive asthma attack. Griggs made her Broadway debut when she was six years old [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content