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Born in Newark, New Jersey, she began her career at the age of eight as a model for clothing ads. She attended the Professional Children's School in New York and her first theater appearance was on Broadway in Thunder on the Left (1933).
Bauer was active throughout the 1930s and 1940s on numerous radio dramas of the day, including Let's Pretend, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons. The March of Time, The FBI in Peace and War, Suspense and other programs.
The Guiding Light
She played headstrong and opinionated Bertha "Bert" Miller Bauer on the long-running soap The Guiding Light on radio from 1950 to 1956 and on TV from 1952 to 1985. While her character was a spitfire in the earlier days, by the 1970s she had been relegated to the ceremonial role of town matriarch. To avoid confusion between her real life and her popular soap role, Charita asked the show's producers to name her TV son Michael after her own son Michael Crawford. (The show was aired live in the early days, and a mistake like addressing her TV son by an incorrect name would have been difficult to cover.)
Just before Thanksgiving 1983, complications from a blood clot forced her to have her leg amputated. When she returned to the show in April 1984, her character's life mirrored her own. After visiting Aunt Meta in New York, Bert returned to Springfield and began experiencing pain in her leg (which had been fitted with a prosthesis by this time and mostly kept off camera). She ended up having her leg amputated just as the actress who played her had. For the first time in decades, Bert had to depend upon others to wait on her hand and foot, resulting in one of the series' most memorable stories. (Bert, sitting in a wheelchair at Cedars Hospital, told Josh Lewis, who had been paralyzed recently and had given up hope, that life itself was a miracle and never to forget it.) In a moving scene, Bauer dropped a teacup. She tried to get it, but could not, and in sheer frustration, she burst into tears. As she went through rehab following her operation, camera shot closed in on her remaining leg as she learned to walk again, bringing even more realism to the storyline.
Bauer was no stranger to social issue storylines—in 1962, she became the first actress on daytime television to tackle a real-life medical dilemma, as Bert was diagnosed with uterine cancer. The storyline helped millions of women realize the importance of regular checkups and pap smear screenings. Bauer received a record amount of mail from fans.
Bauer died in 1985 at age 62 after a long illness. She received a posthumous Lifetime Contribution Daytime Emmy Award that summer, along with "Search for Tomorrow's" Larry Haines and Mary Stuart (who in the 1990s would play Meta Bauer). Her character Bert died in March 1986, a full year after Bauer died.
- "Charita Bauer of TV's 'Guiding Light' Dies". Los Angeles Times. 2 March 1985. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- Elze, Winifred. "A Silver Anniversary for The Guiding Light," Deming Headlight, June 23, 1977
- "Charita Bauer, Veteran Star of 'Guiding Light'". Chicago Tribune. 2 March 1985. Retrieved 12 December 2012.