Herschel Bernardi

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Herschel Bernardi
Herschel Bernardi 1970.JPG
Bernardi in 1970
Born(1923-10-30)October 30, 1923
DiedMay 9, 1986(1986-05-09) (aged 62)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeMount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery
OccupationActor & Singer
Years active1937–1986
Spouse(s)Teri (m. 1982; d. 1986)
Cynthia (m. 1958; div. 1971)
Children2 sons - Adam & Michael
2 daughters - Beryl & Robin

Herschel Bernardi (October 30, 1923 – May 9, 1986) was an American actor and singer.[1] He is best known for his supporting role in the drama television series Peter Gunn (1958–1961) and his leading role in the comedy television series Arnie (1970–1972). Two series earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination and two consecutive Golden Globe Award nominations.

On stage, Bernardi appeared in many Broadway musicals. He was nominated for two Tony Awards for his performances in the original production of Zorba and the 1981 revival of Fiddler on the Roof.


Born in New York City, the younger son of Berel Bernardi and Helen Bernardi, Herschel was appearing on the stages of 2nd Avenue with his acting family before he could talk. In the 1930s, Bernardi appeared in the Yiddish films of Edgar G. Ulmer and was later among those actors who made the transition from Yiddish-speaking roles in film to American films. Herschel was the brother of Jack Bernardi (who played Harvey Pulp in "It's a Bikini World)."

Bernardi is known for his starring roles on Broadway, including Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Zorba, and Bajour. He also appeared in many television programs, including Harbor Command and The Eleventh Hour (both with Wendell Corey) and State Trooper with Rod Cameron.[2]

His career as a performer was affected by his being blacklisted for alleged involvement in the Communist Party in the 1950s.

From 1958-1961 Bernardi co-starred with Craig Stevens in Blake Edwards' television series Peter Gunn.[3]:827 He received his sole Emmy nomination, for Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series - 1959,[4] for his portrayal of Lieutenant Jacoby.

In 1961 Bernardi guest starred in a Bonanza episode ("The Smiler") as Clarence Bolling, the vengeful brother of a murdered man.

In 1963, he was cast as Mr. Otis, a teacher who mostly ignores his students, in the episode, "I Don't Even Live Here", of the NBC education drama series, Mr. Novak, starring James Franciscus.

Bernardi starred in the CBS sitcom Arnie (1970-1972).[3] He starred for two years as someone plucked from the loading dock of a flange company to become an executive. He was nominated for Golden Globe Awards for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy in 1971 and 1972.[5]

He voiced Woodhead the rocking horse in Filmation's Journey Back to Oz. He also provided the Cowardly Lion's singing voice while Milton Berle provided the character's speaking voice. He also appeared as Joe Vitelli in the 1977 TV miniseries Seventh Avenue.

In Hail to the Chief (1985), a comedy on ABC, Bernardi played Helmut Luger.[3]:425

Bernardi was in several notable films, including Murder by Contract (1958), A Cold Wind in August (1961), The George Raft Story (1961), Irma La Douce (1963), Love with the Proper Stranger (1963), No Deposit, No Return (1976), and The Front (1976), a film about blacklisting in the entertainment industry. Bernardi was the victim of blacklisting during the 1950s, as were several other performers and the screenwriter and director on that film. Bernardi also narrated and emceed The Golden Age of Second Avenue, a 1969 film documentary about the Yiddish theatre movement on New York's Lower East Side of the early-to-mid-20th century (where Bernardi had launched his acting career).

Bernardi was a noted voiceover artist and narrator with hundreds of films, commercials and cartoons to his credit and was the original voice of StarKist Tuna animated character "Charlie the Tuna" as well as the original voice of the Jolly Green Giant and also was the narrator of a long running Tootsie Pop commercial, saying "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know."[6]

Herschel Bernardi also had two minor record hits, 1967's "If I Were a Rich Man", reflecting his success as Tevye, and 1971's "Pencil Marks on the Wall".

In 1961, the Vanguard Recording Society issued "Chocolate Covered Matzohs", recorded 'live' in front of an audience at the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center of Los Angeles, California and was a collection of sentimental and wryly humorous tales in Yiddish and English of Jewish immigration into the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century and also featured some songs.


Bernardi died in his sleep of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California, on May 9, 1986.[7] He was 62 years old.[2] Bernardi is buried at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries
  2. ^ a b Saxon, Wolfgang (10 May 1986). "Herschel Bernardi, 62, Played Tevye in 'Fiddler on the Roof'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-09-22.
  3. ^ a b c Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  4. ^ "Awards Search". Emmy Awards. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Archived from the original on 19 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Herschel Bernardi". Golden Globe Awards. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on 19 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  6. ^ Jones, Jack (10 May 1986). "Herschel Bernardi, First 'Zorba' on Broadway, Dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-09-22.
  7. ^ Entertainment Tonight story on Bernardi's death on YouTube

External links[edit]