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Michael Levin, who portrayed the fiery reporter Jack Fenelli on all 13-plus years of the ABC daytime soap opera Ryan’s Hope, has died. He was 90.
Levin died Jan. 6 of natural causes at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York, his son Jason Levin told The Hollywood Reporter.
Levin also appeared on Broadway in 1965 in The Royal Hunt of the Sun opposite David Carradine as well as in three 1970 plays: Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real (with Al Pacino), Sam Shepard’s Operation Sidewinder (with Garrett Morris) and Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan (with Colleen Dewhurst).
Ryan’s Hope, which ran from July 1975 to January 1989, starred Helen Gallagher and Bernard Barrow as wife and husband Johnny and Maeve Ryan, who run a New York City tavern called Ryan’s across the street from a hospital.
According to IMDb, Levin appeared on 1,074 episodes of the soap, including the first one and the last one. Only Gallagher, Barrow and Nancy Addison (as Jillian Coleridge) were on more often.
He and Kate Mulgrew (as Johnny and Maeve’s daughter, Mary, a TV news reporter) made for one of the most beloved couples on daytime TV.
Levin was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for outstanding actor in a daytime drama series for three straight years, from 1978-80. And on a list of the 50 Greatest Soap Actors of all time compiled in 2010 by the website We Love Soaps, Levin came in at No. 24.
Born in Minneapolis on Dec. 8, 1932, Levin served with the U.S. Navy for two years, attended the University of Minnesota, took acting classes with Jack Nicholson and Robert Blake in California and improved his craft at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater, starting there when it opened in 1962. (He was proud to have acted there with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, his son said.)
After moving to New York, Levin did lots of plays for the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center under the direction of Jules Irving and for the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut.
He said a commercial he did in the role of an Italian spokesman for Alitalia Airlines led to him being hired as Italian American reporter Jack on Ryan’s Hope.
In 1976, Jack and Mary got married in a ceremony filmed on location at St. Benedict the Moor Church on Manhattan’s West Side. However, after Mulgrew announced that she was leaving the soap, Mary was written out in 1979, dying in Jack’s arms after a car accident arranged by mobsters.
Later, when Jack was falling in love with another woman but struggling with his grief over Mary’s death, Mulgrew returned as a ghost for an emotional story arc in 1983 to help Jack get on with his life.
Levin also worked on two other daytime soaps, as John Eldridge on CBS’ As the World Turns and as Dr. Tim Gould on ABC’s All My Children. He appeared on primetime episodes of N.Y.P.D., The Equalizer, Law & Order and New York News as well.
In recent years, he enjoyed woodworking.
Survivors include his wife, Elizabeth, sons Jason and Aaron and grandchildren Veronica and Nico.
“In this profession, you don’t have a lot of control over your own life,” he said in 1978. “It’s a silly thing to say, but if I had it all to do over again, and I could change anything I wanted to change, I would pick a profession where I could have a little bit more control. Maybe I’d be an architect or something like that.”
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