David Birney, ‘St. ‘Elsewhere’ star of ‘Bridget Loves Bernie’ dies aged 83

David Birney, star of the TV series Bridget Loves Bernie and St. Elsewhere” and Broadway’s “Amadeus” died Friday at his home in Santa Monica, California, after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.

The veteran actor’s death was confirmed by “partner” Michele Roberge, the New York Times reported.

Barley first rose to mainstream fame in 1972 with his future wife Meredith Baxter on the CBS sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie. The show was popular — hovering between the ratings of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family — but short-lived thanks to controversial protests from Jewish groups unrelated to the “intermarriage” ofbirny’s Jewish taxi driver character Bernie Steinberg agreed. and Bridget Fitzgerald of Baxter, a Catholic elementary school teacher from a wealthy family.

Cast of a TV movie "CBS school vacation special" 15 and Getting Straight: Davidbirney (standing), (seated, from left) Corey Feldman, Drew Barrymore and Tatum O'Neal.
CBS Schoolbreak Special 15 and Getting Straight cast of the TV movie “CBS Schoolbreak Special” 15 and Getting Straight: Davidbirney (standing), (seated, from left) Corey Feldman, Drew Barrymore and Tatum O’Neal.
Getty Images

Both were divorced at the time,birney and eventual matriarch “Family Ties,” who had two children from her first marriage, actually married in 1974. The couple had three children of their own before divorcing in 1989.

Baxter later claimed thatbirey was emotionally and physically abusive in her 2011 book Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering. He vehemently denied their claims, calling them “an appalling misuse of the truth.”

Born on April 23, 1939, to an FBI agent, Birney grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1961 with a degree in English literature and then earned his master’s degree in theater from UCLA, Variety reports. After touring in the US Army and a year at the Barter Theater in Virginia,birney made his New York theater debut in The Comedy of Errors, King John and Titus Andronicus at the 1967 Shakespeare Festival for Joseph Papp.

David Birney and Linda Purl in the 1977s "testimony of two men."
David Birney and Linda Purl in 1977’s Testimony of Two Men.
Getty Images
Actor David Birney and French Consul General Philippe Larrieu in 2005 at the after party for the film premiere of "The choir."
Actor David Birney and French Consul General Philippe Larrieu at the 2005 after-party for the film premiere of The Chorus.
Getty Images

“I only picked up the television series because the opportunities for actors are getting fewer and fewer,” he told The Times in 1972 at the height of his newfound television fame. “I got into it in the mid ’60s when British actors were dominating American theater and for an actor to want to do Shakespeare you had to steal those bits by hook or by crook across the country. I’m very fortunate to be employed almost full-time, but I haven’t always done what I wanted to do…I’ll go anywhere to do Romeo anytime—you can print that out.”

After the failure of Bridget Loves Bernie,birney gained recognition for his role as John Quincy Adams in the 1976 PBS production of The Adams Chronicles. That same year he landed the role of NYC detective Frank Serpico on NBC series based on Sidney Lumet’s 1973 film Serpico (1973), which earned Al Pacino an Oscar nomination for Best Actor as the title character.

In the decades that followed, he was a familiar face on television and on stage, with a starring role as Antonio Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s Tony-winning Broadway Amadeus. He was also in the original cast of NBC’s classic medical comedy St. Elsewhere’ in 1982 and 1983, but left the hit series to pursue his role in Amadeus.

He also provided the voice of Anakin Skywalker in the 1996 NPR radio dramatization of Return of the Jedi. His last known role was a guest appearance on the 2007 CBS police procedure Without a Trace.

David Birney in a 1985 portrait.
David Birney in a 1985 portrait.
Getty Images

In addition to his professional accomplishments,bireary served for five years as chair of the American Diabetes Association and on the Dartmouth College Board of Overseers for the Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts, according to his official IMDB biography.

Barley is survived by his children with Baxter – daughters Kate and Mollie Barley and a son, Peter Baxter – and a stepdaughter, Eva Bush, and a stepson, Ted Bush, Baxter’s children from a previous marriage. He also had two grandchildren and his brothers Glenn and Gregory.

Leave a Comment