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Herschel Bernardi

Herschel Bernardi

American actor
The basics
Occupations Actor Stage actor Film actor Television actor
Countries United States of America
Gender male
Birth October 30, 1923 (New York City)
Death May 9, 1986 (Los Angeles)
Authority IMDB id ISNI id Library of congress id Musicbrainz id VIAF id
The details

Herschel Bernardi (October 30, 1923 – May 9, 1986) was an American film, stage, and television actor.


Born in New York City, into the Yiddish theatre, 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 Fiddler on the Roof (as Tevye), Zorba, and Bajour, but he also acted in many television programs, including Harbor Command and The Eleventh Hour (both with Wendell Corey) and State Trooper with Rod Cameron.

From 1958-1961 Bernardi co-starred with Craig Stevens in Blake Edwards' popular television series Peter Gunn. He received his sole Emmy nomination for his portrayal of the dour Lieutenant Jacoby.

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.

In 1970, Bernardi was the lead in the CBS sitcom Arnie. Bernardi starred for two years as someone plucked from the loading dock of a flange company to become an executive. 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.

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 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."

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".


Herschel Bernardi died in his sleep of a sudden heart attack in Los Angeles, California, on May 9, 1986. He was 62 years old and was survived by his wife, Terry, and son Michael; three children from a previous marriage, Adam, Beryl and Robin; and brothers Jack, also an actor, and Sam. Bernardi is buried at Mt. Sinai Memorial Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

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