Barbara Babcock (and Jerry Orbach)

Posting on the 12th on the narcoleptic comedian Vic Hitler on Hill Street Blues (played by Terry Kiser) brought me to other members of the Hill Street cast, in particular the luminous Barbara Babcock as Grace Gardner.


From the Wikipedia page for the show:

Grace Gardner (Barbara Babcock, 1981–85): A designer who is hired to improve the appearance of Hill Street station house and immediately falls for Phil Esterhaus. Her erotic desires seem to know no end and, even in public, she sometimes appears to be restraining the throes of passion. Esterhaus eventually expires while in her bed.

Sgt. Phil Freemason Esterhaus (Michael Conrad [original cast], 1981–84): Esterhaus is the Desk Sergeant, in charge of the uniformed officers, and is rarely seen outside the stationhouse. Each show opens with “Roll Call”, Esterhaus’s morning briefing, which always ends with his catchphrase, “Let’s be careful out there.” His speech is filled with complex syntax and numerous synonyms. Despite, or perhaps because of, his professional and fatherly demeanor, he is pursued by numerous women. He is a divorcee, and nearly marries his 18-year-old girlfriend at the end of Season 1, until the appearance of his paramour Grace Gardner causes him to faint and call off the marriage. Three seasons later, Esterhaus dies during a romantic tryst with Grace Gardner; this served to cover for Michael Conrad’s death due to urethral cancer on November 22, 1983.

Babcock herself is poised and elegant, so her portrayal of a character seized by desire is a comic tour-de-force.

On Babcock, from Wikipedia:

Barbara Babcock (born February 27, 1937) is an American character actress. She is perhaps best known for her roles as the sensuous Grace Gardner on Hill Street Blues for which she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress—Drama Series in 1981 and her role as Dorothy Jennings on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1993.

Although she was born in the United States, she spent a large part of her childhood in Tokyo, Japan, because her father Conrad Stanton Babcock, Jr. was a general in the United States Army. She learned to speak Japanese before English. She attended Miss Porter’s School and later Wellesley College, where she was a classmate of Ali MacGraw.

Not a usual background for a tv and movie actor. Her cultured voice and great beauty netted her a role in the original Star Trek, and she went on from there.

My personal favorite role of hers was in the regrettably short-lived The Law and Harry McGraw, where she was (brilliantly) paired with Jerry Orbach. From Wikipedia:

The Law & Harry McGraw is an American TV series that ran on CBS from September 27, 1987 to February 10, 1988. It is a spin-off from the mystery series Murder, She Wrote.

The series stars Jerry Orbach as a loudmouthed, uncouth private detective who continually finds himself solving mysteries on behalf of the prim and proper attorney (played by Barbara Babcock), who has an office across the hall. The attorney, Ellie Maginnis, finds McGraw’s methods somewhat hard to digest, albeit effective, and a romantic attraction between the two is suggested although the series didn’t last long enough for such a subplot to fully develop.


From a 2/24/15 posting on Law & Order cast members, taken from Wikipedia:

Jerome Bernard “Jerry” Orbach (October 20, 1935 – December 28, 2004) was an American actor and singer, described at his death as “one of the last bona fide leading men of the Broadway musical and global celebrity on television” and a “versatile stage and film actor”. … In 1992, Orbach joined the main ensemble cast of Law & Order as the world-weary, wisecracking, streetwise NYPD detective Lennie Briscoe. (Wikipedia link)

More from Wikipedia:

Orbach’s professional career began on the New York stage, both on and off-Broadway, where he created roles such as El Gallo in the original Off-Broadway run of The Fantasticks (1960) and became the first performer to sing that show’s standard “Try To Remember”, Billy Flynn in the original Chicago (1975-1977) and Julian Marsh in the original 42nd Street (1980-1985). Nominated for multiple Tony Awards, Orbach won for his performance as Chuck Baxter in Promises, Promises (1968-1972).

A wonderful series of careers.

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