The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, His daughter Molly Bernie said.
Mr. Bernie has cycled between theater and television roles for four decades, appearing on stage as Hamlet, Romeo, Richard III, and Macbeth while also starring in TV shows and taking parts of paychecks in made-for-TV movies like “Someone’s Watching Me!” (1978), a John Carpenter horror film that he paired with Lauren Hutton, and “Mom, a Wolfman and Me” (1980), a romantic comedy with Patty Duke.
Taking on the role that earned Al Pacino an Oscar nomination, he starred as an honest cop fighting police department corruption in the crime drama Serpico, which premiered in 1976 but was canceled after one season. He also played President John Quincy Adams that year on the PBS series “The Adams Chronicles,” and appeared in the first season of “St. Elsewhere” as the seductive Dr. Ben Samuel.
For many viewers, he is best remembered as Bernie Steinberg, the Jewish taxi driver and struggling playwright who married Bridget Mary Theresa Colin Fitzgerald, the Catholic teacher played by Baxter in Bridget Loves Bernie. Created by a Canadian writer Bernard SladeLoosely inspired by the 1920s Broadway play, “Abie’s Irish Rose,” the show became the highest-rated new series on television when it premiered on CBS in 1972, airing on Saturday nights among “All in the Family.” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”.
But the series has been harshly criticized by some Jewish groups, including religious leaders who have said it “mocks the teachings of Judaism” by promoting interfaith marriage. One of the premiere episodes showed a priest and a rabbi participating in the characters’ wedding. (In real life, Mr. Bernie was an Irish Protestant.)
Rabbi Balfour Breckner, one of the voices of Jewish Reform, said: “The program deals with intermarriage, one of the most serious problems facing Jews today, not only as a phenomenon that exists but that must be fully accepted.” New York times. He added, “The program deals with mixed marriages in an arrogant, gentle and tolerant manner, and deals with its inevitable problems as if they are solvable immediately and easily.”
CBS President Robert D. Wood defended the show, noting that the producers had brought in Jewish and Catholic clergy as advisors. He said that canceling Bridget Loves Bernie under pressure “would hurt the millions who clearly love it”. However, within six months of its premiere, the show was removed from the network’s schedule and ceased broadcasting.
Mr. Bernie was not exactly disappointed. “Let’s just say the repeal was undated,” he told Newsday.
Even as the show aired, he seemed to resent being involved in a hilarious sitcom, saying he’d rather return to Shakespeare’s on-stage roles. He said, “I only took the TV series because the options for the actors are fewer and fewer.” timesadding, “I’ll go anywhere, anytime to do Romeo—you can print that.”
However, he met Baxter, through “Bridget Loves Bernie”, who starred in the 1980s sitcom “Family Ties”. They married in 1974 and divorced 15 years later, after collaborating together on productions such as “The Adam and Eve Diaries,” a play that Mr. Bernie had adapted from Mark Twain stories.
In his 2011 memoir, Untethered, Baxter wrote that Mr. Bernie was physically and emotionally abusive during their relationship. “His feelings seemed to venture into him,” she recalls, adding that Mr. Bernie was once complaining about Bridget Loves Bernie when she dismissed some of his frustrations — “David! He just the television! – and he knocked her down. She wrote: “It was so sudden and unexpected, I couldn’t tell you which hand hit me, or even how hard.”
Mr. Bernie called the allegations of abuse a “horrific abuse of the truth”, describing her memoirs in a statement. People Magazine “Sort of a fairy tale.”
David Edwin Bernie was born in Washington on April 23, 1939, and grew up in Cleveland. His father was an FBI agent, His mother was a housewife.
“He blew his heart open,” his daughter said in a phone interview, acting in a high school production of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore,” inspiring him to build a career in show business. She added, “There was a lot of arrogance and charm that was both likable and impossible, but really, he was loyal to the theater and his children – they were huge likables to him.”
After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1961, Mr. Bernie earned a master’s degree in theater from UCLA and served in the military. He began his acting career in 1965, appearing in Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever” at the Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia.
Two years later he arrived in New York, where he initially served as a stand-up to the New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Comedy of Errors. “Three days before the opening… [producer] Joe Papp came to me and said, “You are the Antivolus of Syracuse,” Mr. Bernie recalls in an interview with Los Angeles Times. “She was a very nice lead character, because the character doesn’t know what’s going on and I didn’t do that either.”
In 1968, Mr. Bernie received two World Theater Awards and Clarence Derwent for his starring role in Ron Quinn’s off-Broadway play “Summertree”. He played a sensitive young man — Michael Douglas in a 1971 film adaptation — who dropped out of college and was drafted into the Vietnam War. New York Times theater critic Walter Kerr praised his performance:
“So close is the laziness, the anger, the outbursts of affection and the waves of dread that sweep through a young man trying to piece life together before the battlefield can blow it to bits so that he becomes inseparable from the play. Perfection hides the subject in the subject.
On Broadway in the ’80s, Mr. Bernie starred as an alternate actor in “Amadeus” as composer Antonio Salieri and in “Philanthropists” by Michael Fraine as the perfect architect. He also continued to act on television, where his work included roles in the series “Hawaii Five-O”, “The Love Boat”, “Glitter” and “Murder, She Wrote”.
His first marriage to Mary Concannon ended in divorce. Among the survivors is his longtime partner, Michelle Roberg of Santa Monica. three children from his marriage to Baxter, Kate Bernie of Portland, Connecticut, and twins Molly Bernie and Peter Baxter of Portland, Oregon; two children from Baxter’s previous marriage, Eva Bush of Santa Clarita, California, and Ted Bush of Hanover, New Hampshire; two brothers; And two grandchildren.
Mr. Bernie lived in California for decades, though he occasionally commuted across the countryside to work on the New York stage, keeping what he described as a childhood promise to himself to do classic theatrical work.
“The simple act of telling the story, and that night created a real sense of the community in which we all shared this experience — if done well, there are very few things that are more satisfying,” he told the Globe and Mail. “That evening will never come again, and as you age perhaps you become more aware of the fragility of our lives, and the temporary nature of how we nurture rather than possess things, whether they be things of art, children, or works of literature.
He continued, “On that journey, stopping and sharing for a moment with other people is extraordinary.”