Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Television Writer Bernie West Passes On

Bernie West, who began as an actor and went onto write for such shows as All in the Family and The Jeffersons, passed July 29 at the age of 92. The cause was complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Bernie West was born Bernard Wessler in New York City on May 30, 1918. He graduated from Baruch College in New York City. After graduation he was a stand up comic in night clubs. During World War II he did not have to serve in the military due to medical reasons, but performed in U.S.O. shows in the South Pacific. He also toured the Borsch Belt and other resort areas as part of the comedy team of Ross and West with Ross Martin (now best known as Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West). After Ross Martin left the team he was replaced by a college friend of Mr. West, Mickey Ross.

In 1956 he made his television debut on The Frankie Laine Show. He also made his Broadway debut that same year, in the play Bells Are Ringing. In the late Fifties he would also appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hallmark Hall of Fame, and in a television adaptation of Bells Are Ringing.

In the Sixties Mr. West appeared on Broadway in All American, The Beauty Part, Children from Their Games, Poor Bitos, The Wayward Stork, and A Teaspoon Every Four Hours. On television he appeared on The Garry Moore Show, Car 64 Where Are You, The Trials of O'Brien, and Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.

It was in 1971 that Bernie West, with his partner Mickey Ross, submitted a script to All in the Family. Mr. West would go onto write over thirty episodes for the show. He also served as a story editor on the show from 1972 to 1975 and as a producer from 1974 to 1975. With Mickey Ross and Don Nicholl, Mr. West created the All in the Family spin off The Jeffersons. He served as a producer on The Jeffersons from 1975 to 1978 and as script supervisor from 1976 to 1977. Along with Don Nicholl and Mickey Ross, Bernie west adapted the British series Man About the House as Three's Company in 1977. He served as a producer on the series from 1976 to 1980. He also produced the two spinoffs from Three's Company, The Ropers and Three's a Crowd.

Along with his partners Don Nichol and Mickey Ross, Bernie West was part of one of the most talented writing teams in television. The shows on which they worked are now regarded as classics. And they contributed several great episodes to those shows, including "The Bunkers and The Swingers" for All in the Family, which won an Emmy Award. Very few television writers have had as notable a career as Bernie West.

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