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).
Hickey was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Edward and Nora Hickey, both of Irish descent. He had an older sister, Dorothy Finn. Hickey began acting on radio in 1938.
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, Barbra Streisand, and Sandra McClain 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, 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.
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 MouseHunt (in which he also appeared) is dedicated to his memory.
New York City theatre
- Miss Lonelyhearts (1957)
- The Body Beautiful (1958)
- Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1970)
- Small Craft Warnings (1972)
- Mourning Becomes Electra (1972)
- Thieves (1974)
- Arsenic and Old Lace (1986)
- A Hatful of Rain (1957) Apples (film debut)
- Operation Mad Ball (1957): G.I. Sampson
- The Boston Strangler (1968) Eugene T O'Rourke
- The Producers (1968): Drunk
- Little Big Man (1970) Historian
- Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1971): Looseleaf Harper
- 92 In The Shade (1975) : Mr. Skelton
- Mikey & Nicky (1976) : Sid Fine
- The Sentinel (1977) Perry, a shady locksmith
- Wise Blood (1979 (film) A Preacher
- Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985): The Coney Island Barker
- Prizzi's Honor (1985): Don Corrado Prizzi
- One Crazy Summer (1986): Old Man Beckersted
- The Name of the Rose (1986): Ubertino da Casale
- A Hobo's Christmas (1987): Cincinnati Harold
- Da (1988): Drumm
- Bright Lights, Big City (1988): Ferret Man
- Sea of Love (1989): Frank Keller, Sr.
- Pink Cadillac (1989): Mr. Barton
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989): Uncle Lewis
- Puppet Master (1989): Andre’ Toulon
- Tales From The Crypt (1990) (Season Two, "The Switch") Carlton Webster
- My Blue Heaven (1990): Billy Sparrow
- Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990): Drogan (in the "Cat From Hell" segment)
- Mob Boss (1990): Don Anthony
- Any Man's Death (1990): Erich Schiller/Ernst Bauricke
- The Runestone (1991): Lars Hagstrom
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): voice of Doctor Finklestein
- The Jerky Boys: The Movie (1995): "Uncle Freddy"
- Forget Paris (1995): Arthur
- Major Payne (1995): School Dean
- The Maddening (1995): Roy's deceased father
- Love Is All There Is (1996): Monsignor
- Better Than Ever (1997): Walter
- Twisted (1997): Andre
- MouseHunt (1997): Rudolf Smuntz
- Baby Talk – Mr. Fogarty
- Between Time and Timbuktu – Stony Stevenson
- The Equalizer – elderly blind con man
- Moonlighting - Mr. Kendall
- The Outer Limits - (Episode "White Light Fever")
- Wings – Carlton Blanchard
- The Adventures of Pete and Pete - Grandpa Wrigley
- Spenser: For Hire-Gus Harley
- Appearances in L.A. Law, The Phil Silvers Show, Tales from the Crypt, Miami Vice, Crime Story, The Tracey Ullman Show, Tales from the Darkside, Spenser: For Hire and Hallmark Hall of Fame.
|1985||Prizzi's Honor||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor||Nominated|
|LAFCA Award for Best Supporting Actor||Runner-up*|
|NSFC Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|1990||Tales From The Crypt||Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Season 2, Episode 8: "The Switch"
*John Gielgud won both awards for his performances in Plenty and The Shooting Party.