Fyvush Finkel, Star of Yiddish Theater and 'Picket Fences,' Dies at 93
He won an Emmy for his role on David E. Kelley's quirky 1990s series, and also appeared in 'Boston Public.'
Fyvush Finkel, whose 80-year career included starring in numerous Yiddish theater productions in addition to the touring production of Fiddler on the Roof and the 1990s TV series Picket Fences, died Sunday at his Manhattan home. He was 93.
His son, Ian, confirmed the death to The New York Times, noting that Finkel had been dealing with heart problems for several months.
Born Philip Finkel on Oct. 9, 1922, in Brownsville, Brooklyn, he was the son of a Polish tailor and a Russian homemaker who had immigrated earlier. Finkel began his career on the Yiddish stage at age 9 — changing his first name to Fyvush — before going on to become a star of the various theaters around Second Avenue south of 14th Street, which have long since closed.
At age 43, he began touring in Fiddler on the Roof, playing various roles until he eventually starred as Tevye. In 1988, Finkel won an Obie Award for his role in the revival of Cafe Crown.
In the 1990s, he was cast in David E. Kelley's Picket Fences as eccentric defense lawyer Douglas Wambaugh, a role that won him an Emmy in 1994. Finkel also played a history teacher on Kelley's 2000-05 series Boston Public.
Other credits include the late-1990s revival of Fantasy Island and the Coen brothers' 2009 film A Serious Man.
Finkel was actively working up until his death, starring in a one-man show chronicling 84 years in show business in March at the Metropolitan Room and then returning to Barrington Stage on July 19 for a cabaret concert. Also last month, he announced his support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Broadway World reported that a funeral service is set for noon Wednesday at the Sutton Place Synagogue in New York.