Wednesday, December 29, 2004

nobody puts jerry in a corner... 

It's strange. There are actors that seem to have been around forever. They have a way of sneaking into your heart even if you don't follow their careers all that closely. So much so that whenever you see them onscreen, whether in a movie or on TV, you have to smile a little smile because the entertainment you're watching is just that much better for their mere presence. A twinkle in the eye, a broad smile, or even a curmudgeonly scowl is enough to brighten the screen. And when they're gone, when they leave this earth forever, you know the entertainment world will never be the same again.

I am, of course, talking about Jerry Orbach. He passed away on Tuesday due to prostate cancer just as he was ready to take the role of Detective Lennie Briscoe to a Law and Order spinoff.

I'll be honest - I've never seen a full episode of Law and Order. I understand it was very good but I just never got into it, not even with Jerry on it. To be frank, I'm not even sure how Jerry Orbach first entered my consciousness. I know it was before he appeared in Dirty Dancing, which is a movie that legions of women from my generation seem to adore. Including myself, though it wasn't until the film appeared on TV that I saw it. But Dirty Dancing certainly seemed to bring Jerry into mainstream awareness, cemented by his twelve season run on Law and Order.

An awareness that was richly deserved, because he was one of the best. I remember when I watched Chicago the first time. As Richard Gere strutted onscreen, I thought, "Not bad, but he's no Jerry Orbach." Jerry originated the role of Billy Flynn on Broadway. I'm very familiar with the original cast recording of Chicago and his performance was enough to enable me to envision him onstage - smooth and cocky, every inch the proverbial "anything to win" laywer. To be able to convey an fascinating character with just the power of your voice is amazing to me. A talent he put to good use in Beauty and the Beast as Lumiere.

He was in a few clunkers, to be sure, but what actor hasn't? Though I've never seen the clunkers in question, I have no doubt that he still managed to perk up the screen even in A Gnome Named Gnorm and Dead Women in Lingerie. He just had that kind of presence and talent. Enough so that a person could pretty much bank on his continued excellence as an entertainer.

That's the thing with character actors that have been around for such a long time - they are just there, and they seem like they'll be there forever and that you'll never know life without them around.

But they're human, too. Almost painfully so, subject to human illnesses and weaknesses. And when they fall prey to those illnesses, it makes life just a little bit sadder.

Goodbye, Jerry. We'll miss you.

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Carol/Female/36-40. Lives in United States/California/Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley, speaks English. Spends 40% of daytime online. Uses a Normal (56k) connection.
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