William Hickey (actor)

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William Hickey
William Hickey.jpg
William Hickey, c. 1960s
Born William Edward Hickey
(1927-09-19)September 19, 1927
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died June 29, 1997(1997-06-29) (aged 69)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1957–1997

William Edward Hickey (September 19, 1927 – June 29, 1997) was an American actor. He is best known for his Oscar-nominated role as Don Corrado Prizzi in the John Huston 1985 film Prizzi's Honor, 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[edit]

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


Best known as the ancient Mafia don in Prizzi's Honor (1985), 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 in Greenwich Village, founded by Hagen and Herbert Berghof. George Segal, Sandy Dennis and Barbra Streisand all studied under him. He was a staple of Ben Bagley's New York musical reviews, 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, gravely 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.


Hickey died from emphysema and bronchitis in 1997. He is 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 MouseHunt (in which he also appeared) is dedicated to his memory.[3]

Notable credits[edit]

New York City theatre[edit]




Year Title Award Result
1986 Prizzi's Honor Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated
1985 Prizzi's Honor LAFCA Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated
1986 Prizzi's Honor NSFC Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated
1990 Tales From The Crypt Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Nominated

Both the LAFCA and NSFC recognized Hickey as the 2nd place runner up behind John Gielgud, who won the two awards for Plenty and The Shooting Party.


External links[edit]