from Next Stop, Greenwich Village, 1976
|Born||Leonard Joel Baker
January 17, 1945
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||April 12, 1982
Hallandale, Florida, U.S.
Baker was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Bertha and William Baker. A 1962 graduate of Brookline High School, he received his college degree from Boston University, and performed in regional theater. He spent several summers at the O'Neill Center's National Playwrights Conference in Waterford, Connecticut.
Baker appeared Off Broadway in plays such as Conerico Was Here to Stay, Paradise Gardens East, The Year Boston Won the Pennant, and Summertree, debuting on Broadway in 1974 in The Freedom of the City, performing in repertory in Secret Service and Boy Meets Girl, and in Pericles, Prince of Tyre, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry V and Measure for Measure with the Joseph Papp New York Shakespeare Festival. He devoted himself to the production of new plays at The O'Neill Center's National Playwrights Conference where he worked with Werner Liepolt and many other young playwrights. He was highly praised by critics Clive Barnes and Walter Kerr and won the Tony Award for his performance in I Love My Wife.
Far and away most prominent amongst his film roles, which included The Hospital and The Paper Chase, was Next Stop, Greenwich Village, for which he was widely praised by critics and for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.
Baker's career was cut short by illness. His final television performances were in 1979, and he died on April 12, 1982. The official cause of death was listed as cancer. He had two brothers, Alan and Malcolm.
“Oh my,” Tony sighed sadly, “that’s going to poor Lenny Baker. Nobody sees him anymore. He’s up there alone now. He’s dying of cancer, and the doctors can’t seem to figure out why.”
In just a few years, they would — right around the time that Baker died, in 1982.
Baker’s cancer had come to be known as “gay cancer,” then briefly GRID (Gay-Related Immunodeficiency) and then finally AIDS. We didn’t have any name for it then. Besides, we were all too shocked that a young, vibrant actor, who had made a smashing debut just four years earlier in Next Stop, Greenwich Village, Paul Mazursky’s semiautobiographical tribute to New York bohemia in the 1950s, wouldn’t be following Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro into the world of major stardom. He wouldn’t be anywhere — like so many others all over the city and throughout the industry.
from LA Weekly/David Ehrenstein
- The Freedom of the City – Alvin Theatre, 1974
- Secret Service – Playhouse Theatre, 1976 – Henry Dumont
- Boy Meets Girl – Playhouse Theatre, 1976 – Robert Law
- I Love My Wife – Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 1977 – Alvin
- Off Broadway
- Conerico Was Here to Stay – Fortune Theatre, 1969 – Young Man
- Summertree - Players Theatre, 1969 - Young Man
- Paradise Gardens East – Fortune Theatre, 1969 – Brother
- The Year Boston Won the Pennant – Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, 1969 – Dillinger/Peabody
- Barbary Shore – Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, 1973 – Mike Lovett
- Pericles, Prince of Tyre – Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, 1974 – Thailard/Knight of Ephesus/Boult
- The Merry Wives of Windsor – Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, 1974 – Abraham Slender
- Henry V – Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, 1976 – Dauphin
- Measure for Measure – oseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, 1976 – Lucio
- "Tony Legacy Search Results: I Love My Wife". The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
- Lenny Baker at AllMovie
- Lenny Baker at the Internet Broadway Database
- Lenny Baker at the Internet Movie Database
- Lenny Baker at the Internet Off-Broadway Database