Fyvush Finkel, star of Yiddish theater and 'Picket Fences,' dies at 93

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Fyvush Finkel, whose 80-year career included starring in numerous Yiddish theater productions in addition to the touring production of Fiddler on the Roof and the 1990s TV series Picket Fences, died Sunday at his Manhattan home. He was 93.

His son, Ian, confirmed the death to The New York Times, noting that Finkel had been deal with heart problems for several months.

Born Philip Finkel on Oct. 9, 1922, in Brownsville, Brooklyn, he was the son of a Polish tailor and a Russian homemaker who had immigrated earlier. Finkel began his career on the Yiddish stage at age 9 — changing his first name to Fyvush — before going on to become a star of the various theaters around Second Avenue south of 14th street. Those theaters have since closed.

At age 43, he began touring in Fiddler on the Roof, playing various roles until he eventually starred as Tevye. In 1988, Finkel won an Obie Award for his role in the revival of Cafe Crown.

See photos of Fyvush Finkel:

28 PHOTOS
Fyvush Finkel through the years
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Fyvush Finkel through the years
LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 18: August 18, 1992 Fyvush Finkel as Douglas Wambaugh in PICKET FENCES. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 1: Picket Fences deals with life in a small town - in this case the town of Rome, Wisconsin; it centers around the Brock Family. Fyvush Finkel as Douglas Wambaugh. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - MAY 23: Actor Fyvush Finkel and wife Gertrude Finkel attend The American Television Awards on May 23, 1993 at the Barker Hanger at the Santa Monica Airport in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Producer Robert Breech, writer/producer David E. Kelley, producer Michael Pressman, producer Alice West, producer Jonathan Pontell, actress Lauren Holly, actress Kathy Baker, actor Fyvush Finkel, actress Zelda Rubenstein, actor Costas Mandylor, actor Kelly Connell, actress Holly Marie Combs, and producer Mark B. Perry attend the 45th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 19, 1993 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Fyvush Finkel and Michael Richards during 1993 Emmy Awards - Press Room in Los Angeles, CA, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Fyvush Finkel during 1993 Emmy Awards Arrivals in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 1: Fyvush Finkel as Douglas Wambaugh in PICKET FENCES. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 1: Fyvush Finkel as Douglas Wambaugh in PICKET FENCES. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 7: Actor Fyvush Finkel attends CBS TV Winter Press Tour on January 7, 1995 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - DECEMBER 3: Actor Fyvush Finkel attends 64th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade on December 3, 1995 at KTLA Studios in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 532 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actor Fyvush Finkel at 'The Other Emmy's' on September 12, 1994 -- (Photo by: Margaret Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 16: August 16, 1995 Fyvush Finkel as Douglas Wambaugh in PICKET FENCES. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Fyvush Finkel during A Family Celebration Second Annual Gala at Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
WESTWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Actor Fyvush Finkel attends Sixth Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Nominees Cocktail Party on September 10, 1997 at the Westwood Marquis Hotel in Westwood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - OCTOBER 19: Actor Fyvush Finkel attends the 2002 Shine Awards at the House of Blues on October 19, 2002 in Hollywood, California. The Shine Awards honors outstanding portrayals of family planning, reproductive health and sexuality in the media. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
BEVERY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 3: (L to R) Actors Anthony Heald, Sharon Leal, Fyvush Finkel and Loretta Devine attend The Diversity Awards 10th Anniversary Celebration at the Beverly Hills Hotel on November 3, 2002 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Fyvush Finkel during Fox Television 2002-2003 Upfront Party - Arrivals at Pier 88 in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK - APRIL 1: Actor Fyvush Finkel speaks onstage at the 50th Annual New York Emmy Awards Gala on April 1, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 12: (Front to Back) Actor Fyvush Finkel and Dominic Chianese arrives at the 2006 New York Emmy Awards at the the Marriott Marquis on March 12, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JULY 18: Actor Fyvush Finkel attends the 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry' premiere presented by Universal Pictures at the Ziegfeld Theatre on July 18, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: Fyvush Finkel attends the 'Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike' Broadway Opening Night at The Golden Theatre on March 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: Actor Fyvush Finkel attends the 'A Serious Man' premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre on September 24, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 30: Actor Fyvush Finkel poses for a photo before the start of the 72nd Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade November 30, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 11: Fyvush Finkel attends the 2013 Primary Stages Gala at The Edison Ballroom on November 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 21: Fyvush Finkel attends a Special Press Preview at 54 Below on February 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Fyvush Finkel attends 2015 Primary Stages Gala at 583 Park Avenue on November 16, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Fyvush Finkel in attendance at the 2015 Primary Stages Annual Gala at 583 Park Avenue on November 16, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Mack/FilmMagic)
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Read more: Fyvush Finkel, Beloved Character Actor, Looks Back on a Career That Defied the Odds (Video)

In the 1990s, he was cast in David E. Kelley's Picket Fences as eccentric defense lawyer Douglas Wambaugh, a role that won him an Emmy in 1994. Finkel also played a history teacher on Kelley's 2000-05 series Boston Public.

Other credits include the late-1990s revival of Fantasy Island and the Coen brothers' 2009 film A Serious Man.

Finkel was actively working up until his death, starring in a one-man show chronicling 84 years in show business in March at the Metropolitan Room and then returning to Barrington Stage on July 19 for a cabaret concert. Also last month, he announced his support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Broadway Worldreported that a funeral service is set for noon Wednesday at the Sutton Place Synagogue in New York.

Read more: Hollywood's Notable Deaths of 2016


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