Richard Belzer left “Law & Order” and Hollywood for a quiet life in the French countryside. He lived with his wife, Harlee McBride

Richard Belzer opted to depart from the bustling world of “Law & Order” and the glamour of Hollywood for a serene existence in the French countryside. Accompanied by his wife, Harlee McBride, and their four cherished dogs, he resided in a picturesque abode enveloped by natural beauty. Belzer attributed his prolonged life to the companionship of his beloved canine friends.

Prior to his passing at the age of 78 in February 2023, Richard Belzer left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry as a comedian and actor, particularly renowned for his portrayals in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

In the twilight of his life, Belzer grappled with various health challenges. According to his close friend, Bill Scheft, his final moments were punctuated with humorous banter and playful jests. Belzer breathed his last in his residence in Bozouls, France.

Jean-Luc Calmelly, the mayor of their quaint village, paid homage to the actor, acknowledging his fame not only as a celebrity but also for his amiable demeanor and benevolent nature towards others.

Years preceding his demise, Belzer bid adieu to his iconic character, Detective John Munch, on “SVU.” Warren Leight, the show’s executive producer, confessed to the difficulty of parting ways with Belzer’s character, remarking:

“In the real world, which we try very hard to simulate, NYPD has mandatory retirement before your 63rd birthday, and we were trying to figure out how to deal with it. [NYPD does it] because you can’t have 65-year-old guys running after guys.”

Despite Munch’s departure from the police force, he seamlessly transitioned to the District Attorney’s office as an investigator, leaving his 21-year legacy on “SVU” with a narrative still ripe for exploration in a different domain.

In a similar vein, Barry Levinson, the executive producer of “Homicide: Life on the Street,” admired Richard Belzer’s portrayal of the character. Particularly, he appreciated the rhythm of Belzer’s speech.

Born on August 4, 1944, in Connecticut, Belzer spent his final years residing in the picturesque French countryside alongside his wife, Harlee McBride.

Munch made his debut on “Homicide: Life on the Street” in 1993. Following the show’s cancellation, Belzer and his wife commemorated the end with champagne, having portrayed the character for seven years. Little did they anticipate that Munch’s legacy would endure for many more years.

The iconic character crossed over into the original “Law & Order” series. Belzer reprised his role in “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” “Arrested Development,” “The X-Files,” “The Beat,” “The Wire,” “30 Rock,” and even “Sesame Street.”

Thankfully, Belzer grew attached to his on-screen alter ego. “He is very close to how I used to be. It is very pleasing and luxurious to have a character just like you,” Belzer remarked. His final appearance as Munch on “Law & Order: SVU” was in 2016.

Following his passing, the official “Law & Order” Twitter page honored Richard Belzer with a heartfelt post, mourning his loss while celebrating his enduring legacy. The post expressed:

“Anyone who had the pleasure of watching Richard Belzer portray Det. John Munch will never forget how much he inhabited that beloved character to make it his own.”

Born on August 4, 1944, in Connecticut, Richard Belzer spent his final years basking in the serene countryside of France alongside his wife, Harlee McBride.

Their decision to move to France stemmed from an incident in 1985 when wrestler Hulk Hogan inadvertently choked Belzer during a talk show stunt, causing him to pass out and requiring stitches.

McBride, also an actress and producer, born on November 20, 1948, shares a rich on-screen history with her husband. In the 1990s, she graced the screen alongside Belzer in “Homicide: Life on the Street” as Dr. Alyssa Dyer.

Having tied the knot in 1985, Belzer’s marriage to McBride marked his third, following previous marriages to Gail Susan Ross and Dalia Gnoch. Similarly, McBride had been previously married to actor Garth Benton.

Though they didn’t have biological children together, Belzer embraced the role of a father figure to McBride’s children, Jessica Erin Benton and Shannon Bree Benton.

Their move to France after the Hulk Hogan incident was pivotal, as Belzer recounted the severity of the situation and the legal aftermath, which led to a settlement that facilitated their relocation.

Residing in a small village in Bozouls, their estate became a permanent haven, solidified by a residence permit in 2021. Despite language barriers, Belzer made efforts to connect with their neighbors, integrating themselves seamlessly into the local community.

In their rustic French abode, Belzer and McBride found solace in the company of their four beloved dogs, treated like cherished members of the family. Their social media posts often featured their furry companions, illustrating their bond.

Nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of Roquefort cheese country, their countryside retreat offered tranquility near the historic Sainte Fauste Church, embodying their idyllic life in rural France.

Belzer’s home, showcased in various snippets, evoked admiration from fans for its tranquil allure. The charming church occasionally peeked in the background of their home photos.

Surrounded by lush trees, vines, and vibrant blooms, including roses, Belzer’s abode radiated natural splendor. His wife’s affinity for nurturing plants was evident, as Belzer shared glimpses of McBride tending to her garden even during winter, captured in a tweet.

A sizable stack of wood chunks stood ready for colder days and nights, a detail Belzer humorously shared with a snapshot of their neatly arranged stock, cheekily noting his modest contribution to the task.

Beyond the physical comforts of their home, it was the presence of their four beloved dogs that brought joy to Belzer and McBride. These furry companions, treated as cherished family members, frequently partook in their activities, as depicted in their social media posts.

Relaxation for the couple often involved lounging in their plunge pool with a refreshing glass of wine, surrounded by their canine companions, creating what Belzer fondly termed a “pool party.”

One notable fur baby, Bebe, a poodle-fox terrier mix, often accompanied Belzer to red-carpet events, serving as a beloved sidekick. Bebe’s presence extended to the set of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” where the affectionate pooch was warmly welcomed by cast and crew, brightening the atmosphere with his endearing antics.

Belzer attributed much of his emotional balance and longevity to Bebe, citing the calming influence of his loyal companion, who instinctively soothed his temperamental nature. Their bond transcended mere pet-owner dynamics, rooted in shared experiences and mutual affection.

In addition to Bebe, Belzer and McBride welcomed three other canine companions, Tulip, Django, and Lacey, into their loving home, each contributing to the warmth and vibrancy of their household.

Advocating for animal welfare, Belzer lent his support to various nonprofit organizations, including the North Shore Animal League, championing causes close to his heart. His philanthropic endeavors extended to issues of gun control and violence, reflecting his commitment to effecting positive change in society.

Despite the challenges of his upbringing, marked by familial hardships and personal losses, Belzer carved a path of resilience and creativity. From his early days in comedy to his iconic portrayal of Detective Munch, he left an indelible mark on both the entertainment industry and the world at large.

Through his writings and performances, Belzer shared his unique perspective with audiences, leaving behind a legacy that transcends the confines of time and space. His enduring impact serves as a testament to his unwavering dedication to his craft and his profound influence on those he encountered along the way.