Stage character actor who often appeared in comedy or musical comedy roles, frequently in priggish or fey roles, Leonard Frey earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor for playing Motel the tailor in the screen version of "Fiddler on the Roof" (1971), but may have a more memorable impact as Harold, the self-described "pock-marked Jew fairy" in both the stage and screen versions of "The Boys in the Band" (1970).
Frey had originally intended to become an artist, but switched to acting while in college. He made his Off-Broadway stage debut in "Little Mary Sunshine," and won a Vernon Rice Award for "The Coach With Six Insides," Jean Erdman's adaptation of "Finnegan's Wake." He had previously made his film debut as a background celebrant in "Passages From James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake" (1965). Frey had appeared in "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway in the late 60s, but his role as Motel, the timid tailor, in the screen version gave made Hollywood aware of him. Still, subsequent film roles were sporadic, including "Where the Buffalo Roam" (1980) and "Tattoo" (1981).
More frequently, when not on stage somewhere, Frey would be working in TV. He broke into Hollywood via an episode of "Mission Impossible" in 1971, and appeared in a memorable "Mary Tyler Moore" episode in 1975 as the one student at the Ted Baxter Famous Broadcasters School. Frey became a series regular for the first time as the snide bad guy Parker Tillman who stole most of the laughs on the one-season ABC series "Best of the West" (1981-82). The next year, he was the human star of "Mr. Smith" (1983), more memorable as the series that starred a talking orangutan. Frey's last series foray was "Mr. Sunshine" (1986), in which he was a drama professor working alongside an acerbic man who had recently been blinded. Frey also appeared in occasional TV movies, including the comic "Shirts/Skins" (1973), which focused on male buddies who get away from their daily lives on the playing fields, and the syndicated "Testimony of Two Men" (1977). He was also Judas in a 1970 NBC special drama, "Neither Are We Enemies," a biblical-era story. Frey died from complications from AIDS in 1988.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made screen debut in "Passages From James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake"
Recreated his stage role of Harold in film version of "The Boys in the Band"
Co-starred as Motel the tailor in film version of "Fiddler on the Roof"; Made TV episodic debut on "Mission Impossible"
Made TV movie debut in "Shirts/Skins"
Starred in NBC series "Mr. Smith"
Co-starred in series "Mr. Sunshine"