Tuesday, May 3, 2022

David Birney Passes On

David Birney, who starred on such TV shows as Bridget Loves Bernie, Serpico, St. Elsewhere, Glitter, and Live Shot, died on April 29 2022 at the age of 83. The cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

David Birney was born on April 23 1939 in Washington, D.C. He grew up in Cleveland. He graduated from West High School. He received a degree in English literature from Dartmouth College in 1961 and then earned a master's degree in theatre from UCLA. He served in the United States Army. For a year he was with the Barter Theatre in  in Abingdon, Virginia. In 1967 as part of the New York Shakespeare Festival for Joseph Papp, David Birney appeared in The Comedy of Errors, King John, and Titus Andronicus. It was in 1967 that he made his television debut in the TV movie Saint Joan. That same year he appeared in the TV movie The Unvanquished and in a bit part as a waiter on the daytime serial The Edge of Night. He repeated his role in Saint Joan in 1968 on the TV series BBC Play of the Month. He made his Broadway debut in 1969 in The Miser. In 1970 he appeared on Broadway in The Good Woman of Setzuan.  From 1969 to 1970 he had a regular role on the soap opera Love is a Many Splendored Thing. From 1970 to 1971 he had a regular role on A World Apart.

In the Seventies he played Bernie Steinberg on the sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie. The show centred on the marriage between a Jewish man and a Catholic woman, and as such was a source of considerable controversy. It was cancelled after one season, perhaps for that reason, despite maintaining high ratings. It remains one of the highest rated shows to ever be cancelled. He also played the title character on the TV show Serpico, based on the movie of the same name. He played John Quincy Adams in the mini-series The Adams Chronicles. He also appeared in the mini-series Testimony of Two Men. David Birney guest starred on the shows The F.B.I., Ghost Story, Laugh-In, Orson Welles' Great Mysteries, The Wide World of Mystery, McMillan & Wife, Police Woman, Bronk, Cannon, Medical Center, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Story, Tales of the Unexpected, Hawaii Five-O, Fantasy Island, Greatest Heroes of the Bible, Family, and The Love Boat. David Birney appeared on Broadway in The Playboy of the Western World, An Enemy of the People, Antigone, and Amadeus. He made his film debut in Caravan to Vaccares (1974). In the Seventies he appeared in the movies Trial by Combat (1976), Au revoir à lundi (1979), and Oh God! Book II (1980).

In the Eighties he starred as Dr. Ben Samuels on St. Elsewhere. He also starred on the shows Glitter and Seal Morning. He guest starred on the shows CBS Afternoon Playhouse; The Love Boat; The Twilight Zone; CBS Schoolbreak Special; American Playhouse; Murder, She Wrote; and Matlock. He appeared in the mini-series Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls. He appeared in the movies Prettykill (1987) and Nightfall (1988). He appeared on Broadway is Benefactors.

In the Nineties David Birney starred on the TV Show Live Shot. He guest starred on the shows The Ray Bradbury Theatre; Murder, She Wrote; Burke's Law; Love Boat: The Next Wave; Sliders; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; and Poltergeist: The Legacy. He appeared in the movies The Naked Truth (1992) and The Comedy of Errors (2000). His last appearance was a guest shot on the TV show Without a Trace in 2007.

David Birney was a very talented and versatile actor. He was at home playing Jewish cab driver Bernie Steinberg on Bridget Loves Bernie as he was John Quincy Adams in The Adams Chronicles. He played police officer Serpico on the series of the same name and Dr. Samuels on St. Elsewhere. Over the years he played a wide variety of roles in everything from soap operas to science fiction.

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