A belated farewell to William Hickey, a film icon for his hunched shoulders and scratchy voice, who died June 29 at age 69. According to the NY Times obituary, the cause of death was emphysema and bronchitis.
Hickey's best known for his role as the old Don in the film Prizzi's Honor, but he also had an unforgettable cameo in Mel Brooks' The Producers. When Leo and Max go to the bar to celebrate what they assume will be the disastrous close of "Springtime For Hitler," they toast, "Here's to failure!", to which a shrivelled loser at the end of the bar raises his glass and says, "Oh, thank you. That's very kind of you." That was Hickey.
In 1974 Hickey appeared on Broadway in Herb Gardner's Thieves and the NY Shakespeare Festival's Troilus And Cressida, directed by David Schweizer. Hickey followed James Coco and Dick Van Patten in the 1969 Off-Broadway play, Next (by Terrence McNally). He also appeared in the pre-Broadway try-out of This Winter's Hobby, which closed in Philadelphia in 1966. He made his Broadway debut in St. Joan, which starred Hagen.
Hickey studied acting with Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagen and then became an acting teacher at Berghof's HB Studios for more than 40 years. According to the NY Times, his students included Sandy Dennis, Steve McQueen and Barbra Streisand.
--By David Lefkowitz