Born: May 14, 1950;

Died: March 25, 2020.

MARK Blum, who has died, aged 69, from complications of the coronavirus, was an award-winning New York theatre actor who got his film break with Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985 after they hit it off at his audition – even though he failed to recognise her when he turned up.

“They said, you are going to screen-test with this person named Madonna,” he recalled at a 25th anniversary screening of the film. Madonna was relatively new and Desperately Seeking Susan was her first big film role. “This woman”, Blum added, “sat down next to me who I thought was a bike messenger. She had shorts, and a bandana wrapped round her head.

“During the whole scene, she kept kissing and licking the side of my face, which seemed inappropriate, but, you know, fun. Afterwards Susan [the director Susan Seidelman) thanked Madonna and she left. And Susan said: ‘Madonna likes you.’”

Blum played the philandering salesman Gary Glass, whose frustrated wife Roberta, played by Patricia Arquette, realises her potential after linking up with the titular, free-spirited Susan, played by Madonna, but only after Susan and Blum’s character have linked up at a disco and got high together.

Blum went on to play the newspaper editor in Crocodile Dundee (1986), which made an international star of Paul Hogan, and more recently he had a recurring role as piccolo player Union Bob in four seasons of the Netflix series, Mozart in the Jungle (2014-18).

He was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1950 and began acting at school. “I never for a minute at that age considered it for a career,” he said. “I was raised in one of those basic, middle-class Jewish families in the suburbs and that just wasn’t something somebody thought about.” His father worked in insurance.

When he was at school he was thinking more in terms of engineering or law as a profession, but he studied theatre at university, toured with the National Shakespeare Company and started appearing in off-Broadway productions and then on Broadway in the second half of the 1970s.

He won an Obie, the theatre awards for Off-Broadway productions, for his performance as a playwright called Al who travels back in time to meet Gustav Mahler in Gus & Al (1989). He also appeared on Broadway in Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers (1991), with Kevin Spacey; in The Graduate (2002-03), playing Mr Braddock with Jason Biggs as Benjamin Braddock, and as a juror in Twelve Angry Men (2004-05). He appeared in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man in 2000 and again 12 years later.

He made guest appearances in dozens of television series, including Frasier (1997), The Sopranos (1999), The West Wing (1999), The Good Wife (2010) and the award-winning Succession (2018-19), with Brian Cox.

In films, he played a shady former CIA agent in The Presidio (1988), with Sean Connery, and was mixed up in the fake news scandal of Shattered Glass (2003), the true story of an award-winning young American journalist called Glass, like Blum’s character in Desperately Seeking Susan, who simply made his stories up.

On news of his death Madonna called him “a remarkable human, fellow actor and friend”. She tweeted: “I remember him as funny, warm, loving.” He is survived by his wife Janet Zarish, an actress who appeared regularly in the American soap opera One Life to Live in the late 2000s, and also by his mother.