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Leonard Frey (September 4, 1938 – August 24, 1988) was an American actor, best remembered for his Academy Award-nominated performance in the 1971 film Fiddler on the Roof.

Leonard Frey
Best of the West TV series.jpg
Leonard Frey (left) and Joel Higgins in Best of the West
Born (1938-09-04)September 4, 1938
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died August 24, 1988(1988-08-24) (aged 49)
Beth Israel Medical Center
Manhattan, New York City, United States
Cause of death HIV/AIDS
Occupation Actor


Frey was born in Brooklyn, New York.[1] After attending James Madison High School,[1] he studied art at Cooper Union, with designs on being a painter, before switching to acting at New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse[1] under famed acting coach Sanford Meisner, and pursued a career in theater instead.

Frey received critical acclaim in 1968 for his performance as Harold in off-Broadway's The Boys in the Band.[1] He would go on to appear alongside the rest of the original cast in the 1970 film version, directed by William Friedkin.[2]

Frey was nominated for a 1975 Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in The National Health. Other stage credits include revivals of The Time of Your Life (1969), Beggar on Horseback (1970), Twelfth Night (1972) and The Man Who Came to Dinner (1980). He also played Clare Quilty in the Alan Jay Lerner musical Lolita, My Love which closed, before reaching Broadway, in 1971.

Frey was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Motel the tailor in Norman Jewison's 1971 film Fiddler on the Roof (he had appeared in the original Broadway musical production as Mendel, the rabbi's son). His other film credits included roles in The Magic Christian (1969), Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970), Where the Buffalo Roam (1980),[3] Up the Academy (1980),[3] and Tattoo (1981).[3]

Frey's television credits included appearances on Hallmark Hall of Fame; Medical Center; Mission Impossible; Eight is Enough; Quincy, M.E.; Hart to Hart; Barney Miller (1975 episode: 'The Escape Artist' & 1980 episode: 'Vanished', part 2); Moonlighting; Murder, She Wrote; and the miniseries Testimony of Two Men, as well as a co-starring role as the villainous Parker Tillman on the short-lived ABC western comedy Best of the West.[3]

On The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode entitled "Ted Baxter's Famous Broadcaster's School," aired February 22, 1975,[4] Frey played the role of Lawrence.[4]

His final role was Walter Witherspoon in the ABC's Disney television movie Bride of Boogedy.

Frey died at the age 49 of an AIDS-related illness in New York on August 24, 1988.[1]


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