Philip "Fyvush" Finkel (Yiddish: פֿײַוויש פֿינקעל; October 9, 1922 – August 14, 2016) was an American actor known as a star of Yiddish theater and for his role as lawyer Douglas Wambaugh on the television series Picket Fences, for which he earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1994. He is also known for his portrayal of Harvey Lipschultz, a crotchety history teacher, on the television series Boston Public.
Finkel on the red carpet at the 1994 Emmys
October 9, 1922
|Died||August 14, 2016 (aged 93)|
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Trudi Lieberman (m. 1947–2008); her death
|Awards||Emmy Award (1994)|
Philip Finkel was born at home in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the third of four sons of Jewish immigrant parents, Mary ("Miryam"), a housewife from Minsk, Belarus, and Harry ("Cwi Hirsh") Finkel, a tailor from Warsaw. He adopted the stage name "Fyvush", a common Yiddish given name.
Finkel first appeared on the stage at age 9, and acted for almost 35 years in the thriving Yiddish theaters of the Yiddish Theater District of Manhattan's Lower East Side, as well as performing as a standup comic in the Catskills' Borscht Belt. In 2008 he recalled:
I played child parts till I was 14, 15, then my voice changed. So I decided to learn a trade and went to a vocational high school in New York. I studied to be a furrier, but I never worked at it. As soon as I graduated high school, I went to a stock company in Pittsburgh, a Jewish theater, and I played there for 38 weeks, and that's where I actually learned my trade a little bit as an adult.
He worked regularly until the ethnic venues began dying out in the early 1960s, then made his Broadway theatre debut in the original 1964 production of the musical Fiddler on the Roof, joining the cast as Mordcha, the innkeeper, in 1965. The production ran through July 2, 1972. Finkel then played Lazar Wolf, the butcher, in the limited run 1981 Broadway revival, and eventually played the lead role of Tevye the milkman for years in the national touring company.
Shortly afterward, Finkel succeeded Hy Anzell in the role of Mr. Mushnik in the Off-Broadway musical Little Shop of Horrors. Then in 1988, Finkel's work as "Sam" in the New York Shakespeare Festival revival of the Yiddish classic Cafe Crown earned him an Obie Award and a Drama Desk nomination.
Finkel made his movie debut in the English-subtitled, Yiddish sketch-comedy revue Monticello, Here We Come (1950), then after small parts in an episode of the television series Kojak in 1977 and the miniseries Evergreen in 1985, returned to film in the detective comedy Off Beat (1986). That same year saw a role opposite Robin Williams in a PBS American Playhouse adaptation of Saul Bellow's novel Seize the Day, and a role in the film adaptation of Neil Simon's Broadway comedy Brighton Beach Memoirs. An appearance as a lawyer in director Sidney Lumet's Q & A (1990) led TV producer-writer David E. Kelley to cast Finkel as public defender Douglas Wambaugh in the television series Picket Fences (CBS, 1992–1996). For the role, Finkel earned a 1994 Emmy Award, announcing at the televised ceremonies that he had waited 51 years for that moment.
Following the end of Picket Fences, Finkel had a regular role on the short-lived revival of Fantasy Island (ABC, 1998) and then reteamed with writer-producer Kelley to play history teacher Harvey Lipschultz in Boston Public (Fox; 2000–04).
Through the 1990s and 2000s, Finkel appeared in movies including Nixon and The Crew, guested on TV series including Chicago Hope, Law & Order, Early Edition, and Hollywood Squares, and provided voiceovers for episodes of the animated series The Simpsons ("Lisa's Sax") and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters ("Ickis! You'll Be Snorched!") and the animated direct-to-video feature The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars. In 2009, he appeared in the Coen brothers' film A Serious Man, and in 2013 had a guest appearance in Blue Bloods ("Men In Black")
Finkel continued to appear onstage in productions such as Fyvush Finkel: From Second Avenue to Broadway (1997) and Classic Stage Company's historical drama New Jerusalem (2007), by playwright David Ives.
Finkel was married to Trudi Lieberman from March 1947 until her death in 2008. They had two sons: Ian, a musical arranger, and Elliot, a concert pianist.
|1950||Monticello, Here We Come|
|1986||Seize the Day||Shomier|
|1986||Brighton Beach Memoirs||Mr. Greenblat|
|1993||The Pickle||Mr. Shacknoff|
|1993||For Love or Money||Milton Glickman|
|1995||Aaron's Magic Village||Narrator||English version, Voice|
|1995||Nixon||Murray Chotiner||Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture|
|1998||The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars||Hearing Aid||Voice|
|2000||The Crew||Sol Lowenstein|
|2009||A Serious Man||Dybbuk||Nominated—Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cast|
|2013||The Other Men in Black||Moshe|
|2016||Game Day||Max|| (final film role)|
- Lovece, Frank (January 6, 2008). "Fast Chat: Fyvush Finkel". Newsday (interview). Archived from the original on March 8, 2008. Retrieved 2017-04-11.
- Berger, Joseph (August 15, 2016). "Fyvush Finkel, Pillar of Yiddish Theater Who Crossed Into TV, Dies at 93". New York Times. p. D11. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
- Internet Broadway Database: Fiddler on the Roof Replacements/Transfers
- Internet Broadway Database: Fiddler on the Roof (1981 revival)
- Internet Theatre Database: Little Shop of Horrors
- Infoplease: 1988–1989 Obie Awards
- Fyvush Finkel at the Internet Broadway Database
- Gates, Anita (December 30, 1997). "Theater Review: Legends of Yiddish Stage Brought to Life". The New York Times.
- Press release, "Tony Award-Winner Richard Easton to Star in New Jerusalem", Marc Thibodeau, The Publicity Office, November 19, 2007
- "Fyvush Finkel Dies at 93". BroadwayWorld. August 14, 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-14.
- Trav, S.D. (March 2, 2016). "Formerly of 'Fiddler,' Finkel, 93, far from final act". The Villager. Retrieved August 4, 2016.