William Hickey (actor)
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William Hickey Actor

William Hickey
William Hickey.jpg
William Hickey, c. 1960s
William Edward Hickey

(1927-09-19)September 19, 1927
DiedJune 29, 1997(1997-06-29) (aged 69)
Years active1938-1997
Height5 ft 6 in (168 cm)

William Edward Hickey (September 19, 1927 - June 29, 1997) was an American actor. He is best known for his Academy Award-nominated role as Don Corrado Prizzi in the John Huston film Prizzi's Honor (1985), as well as Uncle Lewis in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) and the voice of Dr. Finklestein in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

Early life

Hickey was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Edward and Nora Hickey, both of Irish descent.[1] He had an older sister, Dorothy Finn. Hickey began acting on radio in 1938.[2]

He grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and Richmond Hill, Queens.[3]


Hickey had a long, distinguished career in film, television and the stage. He began his career as a child actor on the variety stage and made his Broadway debut as a walk-on in the 1951 production of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan, starring Uta Hagen. He performed often during the golden age of television, including appearances on Studio One and Philco Playhouse. His most important contribution to the arts, however, remains his teaching career at the HB Studio[4] in Greenwich Village, founded by Hagen and Herbert Berghof. George Segal, Sandy Dennis, Barbra Streisand, and Sandra McClain all studied under him. He was a staple of Ben Bagley's New York musical revues, he can be heard on several of the recordings, notably Decline and fall of the entire world as seen through the eyes of Cole Porter.

Hickey enjoyed a career in film, television and theater. In addition to his work as an actor, he was a respected teacher of the craft. Notable for his unique, gravelly voice and somewhat offbeat appearance, Hickey, in his later years, was often cast in "cantankerous-but-clever old man" roles. His characters, who sometimes exuded an underlying air of the macabre, usually had the last laugh over their more sprightly co-stars. One of his early roles was a suspect in the 1968 film The Boston Strangler starring Tony Curtis.

His most notable onscreen role was that of the gravelly voiced Don Corrado Prizzi in Prizzi's Honor (1985), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Hickey portrayed Don Corrado as sharp-witted and cunning, despite his frail physical state, and shared key scenes with Anjelica Huston and Jack Nicholson.


Hickey died from emphysema and bronchitis in 1997. His remains are interred in the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn. He died during the filming of Uzo's Better Than Ever, and his role was played by the producer in a pick-up shot depicting his character in the hospital. His final movie, Knocking on Death's Door (in which he plays the town sheriff), was released nearly two years after his death. The movie Mouse Hunt (in which he also appeared) is dedicated to his memory.[5]

Notable credits

New York City theatre




*John Gielgud won both awards for his performances in Plenty and The Shooting Party.


  1. ^ William Hickey - Bucks County Playhouse roles Archived April 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ William Hickey Biography - Yahoo! Movies Archived March 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Van Gelder, Lawrence. "William Hickey, Actor, 69, Dies; Played a Wise Old Don in Prizzi", The New York Times, July 1, 1997. Accessed March 4, 2019. "Mr. Hickey, born in Brooklyn, said his upbringing in Flatbush and in Richmond Hill, Queens, in a close Irish family helped him to understand the family loyalty of the murderous Prizzis."
  4. ^ HB Studio Alumni
  5. ^ "MouseHunt summary".

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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