Fyvush Finkel, a longtime bastion of Yiddish theatre and actor who appeared on the stage of vaudeville, Broadway, television and film, died Sunday at his Manhattan home. He was 93.
Finkel’s son Ian confirmed the actor’s death to the New York Times, adding that Finkel had suffered from heart problems in recent years.
The Brooklyn born-Finkel started his career when he was just nine years old, performing vaudeville to Yiddish crowds along the “Borscht Belt.” In 1965, Finkel made his Broadway debut in the original 1964 production of Fiddler on the Roof, at first playing the innkeeper Mordcha for seven years before assuming the role of butcher Lazar Wolf in the 1981 revival and then, for the play’s national tour, the lead role of Tevye. Finkel also won an Obie Award for his performance in the play Café Crown.
However, Finkel will likely be remembered most for portraying small-town lawyer Douglas Wambaugh during four seasons of the quirky series Picket Fences. That role earned Finkel an Emmy Award for Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1994. David Kelley, the creator of Picket Fences, later cast Finkel in another series he produced, Boston Public.
Finkel was also seen in films like For Love or Money, Nixon and A Serious Man; the actor appears in the opening portion of that 2009 Coen brothers film, playing a man who may or may not be a dybbuk, a wandering ghost.
In addition to those roles, Finkel lent his vocal talents to animated series like Rugrats, Ah! Real Monsters and The Simpsons, with Finkel playing himself portraying Krusty the Clown on a 1997 episode. Most recently, Finkel had appeared in a 2013 episode of the series Blue Bloods.