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86, actor, died peacefully on Thanksgiving. He played the father of Alvy Singer, Woody Allen's character in "Annie Hall;" living beneath the Coney Island Cyclone rollercoaster. A member of Actors Equity, SAG and AFTRA. On Broadway, he played Stanley alongside George C. Scott's Willie Loman in "Death of a Salesman." He often shared the stage with his beloved wife Eugenia Thornton, who died in 2005. He continued to perform at Ensemble Studio Theatre. In 1986, The New York Times quoted his advice to a young actor "Do you know what job you signed up for? It's looking for work. If you don't like looking for work, find another job." He is survived by Carol Hershman, Bruce Birnbaum, Francine Falk Ross, Pamela Falk, Deborah Birnbaum, and Sarah and Mitchell Langbert, along with many loving great-nephews and nieces. Memorial service: Saturday, December 6, 4:30pm at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Avenue, at 81st Street. 212-288-3500.

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Published in New York Times on Nov. 30, 2014.
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Memories & Condolences
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43 entries
December 12, 2014
May 2012 The Neighborhood Playhouse.
"....tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time:" How often we say "there's always tomorrow", but how slow we are to remember how fast TIME passes. My well remembered years at the Playhouse happened 50+ years ago. Mr. Lawner and I met again at the final performances at the Playhouse in Spring of 2012. I had hoped to stay in touch this time, but, alas, time slips between our fingers. I am so glad to have known Morty. My condolences to all his family.
Beverly Hayes
December 11, 2014
my dear mr. lawner,

"not a day goes by...."

love you,
December 10, 2014
I so enjoyed knowing and working with Morty these past few years at EST. I will hold his memory close forever.
Margot Avery
December 8, 2014
Dearest MJL... aka "Pepe":
Thank you for sharing your magic and your beautiful heart with me. You will always be so sweeeeeeeeet!
I love you,
December 7, 2014
December 7, 2014
Dear Jeff Goldlum, Dabney Coleman, Hal Baldridge - Executive Director Emeritus, Neighborhood Playhouse, Nina Murano, Ellen Feinstein, Rosemarie Tichler, alums of the High School of Performing Arts & Carnegie Mellon, members of AFTRA, SAG, and Actors Equity, Friends, Colleagues, and all of the three generations of Family of Mordecai Lawner,

Thank you for making the Memorial Service such a tribute to Morty's acting, teaching, mentoring, and, most important, his friendship.
Pamela Falk
December 6, 2014
Since 2007 when I began my work with EST I had the frequent, grand pleasure of running into Morty on his way to and from rehearsals, and seeing him on stage at EST. He often worked with our Youngblood group of writers in their 20s and their many 20-something colleagues, performing in monthly Brunch plays, in "Asking for Trouble," their instant play fest, and just about any other project. The fact is that Morty was always the youngest, happiest person in the room: his energy, his spirit, his joyful presence, his ageless wisdom and wry humor, all in an agile and limber package of indeterminate age, usually wrapped and capped in a big smile, led the charge into the work at hand. My job naturally instills a form of grumpy cynicism into my daily presence at the theatre, but that always evaporated with Morty around. He was just too happy, ever-engaged in the intimate, profound humanity of bringing new plays to life, for me to remain cynical in his presence. His spirit motivated me instead, to do better, to be better for him and those very special people like him who make theatre happen. As stunned and saddened as I am by his sudden passing, I will always be proud, and happy, and thankful, to have known Mordecai Lawner for these seven plus years of being together - because what else can you be, around such a man? - at EST. His life and memory should and will always be cause for smiles, and joy, and celebration. Love and much respect to you, Morty, always.
Paul Slee
December 6, 2014
R.I.P. <3
David Deutsch
December 5, 2014
RIP Mr. Lawner! You are remembered by your former students from the New York School of Performing Arts with love and admiration. You were an inspiration to so many young aspiring thesbians.
David Deutsch
December 5, 2014
I loved Morty. We met at the summer stock theatre I worked at in my small Pennsylvania home town. He and Eugie arrived and their spirit infected us all. At the age of 17 I had never met anyone quite like Morty! Urbane, sophisticated, wickedly funny and a great actor. When I moved to New York he and Eugie helped me in more ways than I can recount. Morty simply exuded kindness. He taught me that in order to become a good actor you had to understand people. Morty understood people. He valued integrity and cultivated both his artistic and intellectual sides his entire life. He thrived on sharing all of his many gifts with students and friends. His sense of humour and twinkling eyes will never be forgotten. Morty, thank you for being you. Totally, completely, awesomely you. I will miss you my friend. May the twinkle in your eye guide you home. With love and deep affection.
Kathy Feest
December 4, 2014
Morty was my older cousin and a presence in my life since I was born. He was a "step-cousin" (complicated) but was always family. I loved his boundless energy, zest for living, love of the theater and twinkling eyes. He was always supportive, and wonderful with my parents who adored him. He will be missed! Goodbye sweet Morty!
Ellyn Rabinowitz, Nyack, NY
December 4, 2014
Uncle Moo. I will never forget the great moments you shared with our family in Moo Hollow.
David Levie
December 4, 2014
Morty was an inspiration to me from the first day I saw him act at EST. Such a sharp, hilarious, wonderful presence onstage and off. He will be incredibly missed.
Lance Rubin
December 4, 2014
It was an honor and a thrill to get to known Mordecai. Together with his phenomenal artistic achievements I will always remember his immense personal kindness and megawatt charm.
In loving memory of Moo. We will all miss him very much.
Fernando Alexandre
December 4, 2014
Atlantic City
Arsenia Levie
December 4, 2014
Mr. Lawner was my senior year acting teacher at Performing Arts HS. He also directed me in the Spring Drama Festival in The Bad Seed. A wonderful teacher and directed who pushed to the limits. RIP Morty.
Aixa Clemente
December 3, 2014
I am so sad you are gone, you will always be in my heart uncle moo
Alvin Levie
December 3, 2014
I honestly thought you'd never leave us, Morty. I just assumed I'd see you at EST: rehearsing, learning your lines, making us laugh, touching our hearts. Your shared your spirit with us on the stage. You shared it with us off. Your kindness and wit were so damn disarming, and from an unbelievably genuine and honest place.

A toast to you, sir, for your dedication to the theater, for working on your craft until your dying day, and for showing that a little bit of kindness goes a long way. You will be missed.
Michael Rosete
December 3, 2014
Uncle moo it was great great flu that you sweet and kind family to us we all love you, I miss you very much, please pray down on us
Arsenia Levie
December 2, 2014
A PA alum who remembers Morty as a Drama Department faculty member, and also from a summer when he taught acting to neighborhood kids at the Mosholu-Montefiore Community Center in the Bronx. Happy to reconnect with him at a PA reunion a few years ago. In the Performing Arts it is a find to encounter someone who is truly humble and kind.
Toba Singer
December 2, 2014
Generations of Levies' will miss you. You had an indomitable spirit and a kind heart. Your impact on our family has been immeasurable. It is with great affection that we call you Uncle Moo! You live on in all of us.
Allen Levie
December 2, 2014
I met Morty shortly after becoming involved with the Ensemble Studio Theatre about seven years ago. He was an enduring, iconic presence at EST who exuded supportiveness, warmth, grace and humor. He will be joyfully remembered and sorely missed.
Bob Jaffe
December 2, 2014
Dear Morty,Thank you and goodspeed.Love,Connie Bromberg
December 2, 2014
I was just a kid when I had the good fortune of studying with him... he was inspirational. RIP
Stanley Isaacs
December 1, 2014
I was blessed to work with Morty on a short play at EST a few years ago. He had a LOT of lines, an incredibly lovely and whimsical story that he weaved with such commitment and energy. The crowd howled and loved him.

He was incredibly kind to all he encountered and just a really decent man. Really looking to push his art till his last days. What an inspiration. Thank you, Mordecai.
Natalie Kim
December 1, 2014
He was the sweetest man in the world and welcomed me with open arms in 1979 to E.S.T. I will always remember his kindness and talent.
Risa Bramon Garcia
December 1, 2014
He was one of THE kindest men I ever met in my life. We worked together in Death Of A Salesman.
He also loved my dad. I adored him.
Julie Garfield, daughter of John Garfield
December 1, 2014
Dear Morty, You will be cracking everyone up in heaven! Thanks for bringing such wicked joy. We will miss you at EST!
Laura Maria Censabella
December 1, 2014
Mordy was a wonderful teacher who brought tremendous passion, energy and humor to each class. He helped me in may ways, on and off stage, and was the highlight of my years at CMU. It was a privilege and joy to know him.
Marc Field
December 1, 2014
Mordy-actors who reach the maturity of his stature are a blessing to witness performing live; you root for them a little more, laugh a little louder and clap a little harder because they truly are sharing the twilight of their years surrendering their remaining time and talent to the theater and to us, the audience.

Thank you for that precious gift, Mordy.
Scotty Sowers
December 1, 2014
I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Morty three weeks ago in his last play at EST. One night we arrived early and were chatting in the lobby and, to my surprise, it turned out his nephew in Racine, Wis was an acquaintance of my brother, both being social activists. That night he also told me "I want to act as long as I can."He said, "If I have to go into a home, I'll die. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to die on stage." Well, dying peacefully on Thanksgiving three weeks after giving a marvelously quirky and very funny performance to an SRO audience at one of the most respected theaters in NYC is pretty close to achieving that wish. Rest in peace Morty. You'll be missed.
James Murtaugh
December 1, 2014
If you don't love acting and being an actor, you are truly wasting your time in this biz. Morty, you never wasted a single day. Well done.
Jay Patterson
December 1, 2014
Morty was as real and honest as Brando, Karl Malden, Martin Balsam, Eli Wallach and all those guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I miss him and will always miss him. I would wish to create a EST LAWNER Wall of Fame for all the great talent we have lost, with age comes loss and the responsibility to honor those we have loved. Bless his very large heart.........Bill Cwikowski
December 1, 2014
What a joy you always were to be around and perform with. I'll never forget you singing at the top of your lungs "I'm a flea! I'm a flea! I'm a flea!" in our YB civil war play...singing with gusto and panache the silliest of things. You were up for anything, and it was inspiring and infectious.
Pepper Binkley
December 1, 2014
Morty played my father in my first lead acting role in New York City, in The Contest by Shirley Lauro, at The Ensemble Studio Theatre. I was very young and very vulnerable. He was generous and kind and supportive to me from the day we met at rehearsal. For almost forty years, whenever we saw each other at the theatre, it was always mutual and loving support for each other as artists, but more importantly as people. He will always be in my heart. To all Morty's family and friends, I am so sorry for your loss. The grace here is Morty has the kind of spirit and kindness that will be ever present. I send love to you Morty, always. Thank you for everything. Rest in peace.
Loren Brown
December 1, 2014
Am a colleague of Morty's at EST and did countless readings and meeting with him over the years.I recently met him on the stairs going up to the second floor for a performance of one of the recent series of plays we both participated in... he rested at the first landing and we stopped to chat.."climbing the stairs to heaven" he said... we laughed and went to work..
November 30, 2014
Morti was a warm, loving teacher and human being a truly gentle man. As a teacher he would always let you know what was good first and then offer constructive criticism second and in a way that did not deflate your ego. It was always and only about the work.

I have known Morti since 1968 and had the honor of working with him and Eugenia as an actor and stage manager and had the good fortune of meeting the love of my life in his professional class.

The world is a sadder place without him in it.
Peter Gatto
November 30, 2014
Mort, I miss you. Sixty years. You took over as my godfather when Cappy died. You nurtured me before that with your gentle way. Later, you showed me strength and love which I needed in the middle years. Now you leave me. You leave me with a responsibility I will uphold: to ride your extraordinary spirit. Love forever, and thank you. Dion
Dion Lowery
November 30, 2014
Francine, Pamela, and your families, Morty was so wonderful that all the grief that always attends a family member's death is compounded many times. Not only his achievements in theater but also his lively, warm, fun, and humorous presence at family events and holidays will be badly missed.
Mitchell Langbert
November 30, 2014
At the Metropolitan Museum
Morty has been the greatest influence in my life as a singer and actress. Never did I ever think I would have the profound good fortune to have his guidance when I started to teach the 'Meisner' classes. My mentor and inspiration his words and knowledge will carry me through for the rest of my life. He is always in my heart.
Nina Murano
November 30, 2014
Mordy was a long-time member artist at the Ensemble Studio Theatre. Since I came on board as Artistic Director seven years ago Mordy has been an active, stalwart participant at EST jumping at any opportunity to act on our stage and doing numerous readings, workshops and Brunch plays. His last appearance was a short play he performed a few weeks ago in Asking for Trouble. As always his delight at being onstage and alive in every moment was both an inspiration and a joy to see. We will all miss his wonderful acting, his sly and wicked sense of humor and his generous and amazing spirit.
William Carden
November 30, 2014
To the children of his sisters and their families, I am deeply saddened to see that Morty, my Dad's first cousin, is gone.
Like his father before him, Morty was so vibrant, intelligent and full of feeling for family. My thoughts and sympathies are with each of you on this great loss. Fredda Pravitz
November 29, 2014
Annie Hall
To Family, Friends, Colleagues, Students of Mordecai Lawner, Please join us on Saturday at the Memorial Service and share your thoughts. We will miss our dear Morty, who was a dedicated actor and a Mentor to many.
Pamela Falk
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