skip navigation
Milton Berle

Milton Berle

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

All-Star Christmas Show ... This 1958 Christmas spectacular was produced by the USO for the entertainment of... more info $12.95was $14.95 Buy Now

Saturday Night Live: The... The original "Not Ready for Prime Time Players"-including John Belushi, Dan... more info $31.96was $39.98 Buy Now

Who's Minding the Mint ... When United States Mint employee Harry Lucas (Jim Hutton, Major Dundee, Walk... more info $17.95was $20.95 Buy Now

Milton Berle TV Show 3 ... Two classic music and comedy shows. more info $5.95was $6.98 Buy Now

Milton Berle Show 1 & 2 ... Four classic music and comedy shows on 2 DVDs. more info $8.95was $10.98 Buy Now

Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts ... THE DEAN MARTIN CELEBRITY ROASTS were a fixture on NBC's Thursday night lineup... more info $21.25was $59.95 Buy Now

Also Known As: Mendel Berlinger Died: March 27, 2002
Born: July 12, 1908 Cause of Death: colon cancer
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: comedian, comedy writer, vaudevillian, actor, director, lyricist, model, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

In a career that has spanned eight decades, and included everything from silent films to vaudeville to Broadway to radio, Milton Berle qualifies as one of the personifications of "show business." Despite making a mark in each of the aforesaid media, Berle achieved his greatest success as the first acknowledged superstar of television. Between 1948 and 1956, Tuesday nights belonged to the comedian. The success of his weekly variety show earned him the honorific titles of 'Mr. Television' and 'Uncle Miltie'. Famous for his extremely high energy level and for a series of outlandish characterizations--especially those featuring the star in drag--Berle was at the top of the TV ratings for several seasons, but when the inevitable fade occurred, he was unable to find a subsequent suitable vehicle for his talents. He did, however, stay prominent in the public eye via many TV specials, both those built around him and in guest star spots, where his trademark cigar, snide wisecracks, unctuous manner and withering glare at the camera were put to good use. Berle began his career as a child model, posing for the advertising campaign for Buster Brown shoes. He entered films in 1914, appearing in the serial "The...

In a career that has spanned eight decades, and included everything from silent films to vaudeville to Broadway to radio, Milton Berle qualifies as one of the personifications of "show business." Despite making a mark in each of the aforesaid media, Berle achieved his greatest success as the first acknowledged superstar of television. Between 1948 and 1956, Tuesday nights belonged to the comedian. The success of his weekly variety show earned him the honorific titles of 'Mr. Television' and 'Uncle Miltie'. Famous for his extremely high energy level and for a series of outlandish characterizations--especially those featuring the star in drag--Berle was at the top of the TV ratings for several seasons, but when the inevitable fade occurred, he was unable to find a subsequent suitable vehicle for his talents. He did, however, stay prominent in the public eye via many TV specials, both those built around him and in guest star spots, where his trademark cigar, snide wisecracks, unctuous manner and withering glare at the camera were put to good use.

Berle began his career as a child model, posing for the advertising campaign for Buster Brown shoes. He entered films in 1914, appearing in the serial "The Perils of Pauline" and Mack Sennett's "Tillie's Punctured Romance." Reportedly, he appeared in over 50 silent films as a child performer. Berle began to perform on stage in 1920 in the Broadway production of "Floradora." Appearances in vaudeville, where the comedian perfected his wiseguy persona, led to engagements in editions of "Earl Carroll Vanities" and the "Ziegfeld Follies." He returned to features in "New Faces of 1937" (1937) and made sporadic appearances in the 1940s, including "Sun Valley Serenade" (1941) and "Always Leave Them Laughing" (1949).

After establishing himself in the developing medium of TV, Berle returned to features and the stage, searching for the role that would duplicate his success on the small screen. Like others comics who became TV personalities (e.g., Lucille Ball, Red Skelton, Carol Burnett, Sid Caesar), Berle had trouble shaking the public's perception of him as anything other than Uncle Miltie. His return to Broadway in Herb Gardner's play "The Goodbye People" (1968) was short-lived. He had moderate success touring in Neil Simon's "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" (1970) and later in the sex farce "Norman, Is That You?" (1975).

His feature work since 1960 has also been sporadic. He appeared as himself, hired to coach a showgirl (Marilyn Monroe) in comedy in George Cukor's "Let's Make Love" (1960), was a henpecked motorist in Stanley Kramer's all-star "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963), partnered with Margaret Leighton as a mourner in Tony Richardson's sardonic "The Loved One" (1965), and delivered a dramatic portrayal of a Jewish gangster in "Lepke" (1975). He has continued to work into the 1990s, appearing in the 1995 direct-to-video children's film "Storybook."

On TV, Berle has made numerous guest appearances on comedies, variety shows and specials and dramas. An attempt to revive his variety show in the mid-60s failed to attract audience attention. Berle has proven himself capable as a dramatic performer on the small screen. He earned a Best Actor Emmy nomination for his dramatic performance in the "Doyle Against the House" episode of "The Dick Powell Show" (NBC, 1961) and a Best Guest Actor Emmy nomination for his turn as a veteran actor struggling with Alzheimer's Disease in an episode of "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1995).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Storybook (1994) Illuzor
2.
 Driving Me Crazy (1991) Hotel Clerk
3.
 Side By Side (1988) Abe Mercer
4.
 Broadway Danny Rose (1984) Himself
5.
 Smorgasbord (1983) Female Patient
6.
 Muppet Movie, The (1979) Mad Man Mooney
7.
 Lepke (1975) Mr Meyer
8.
 Legend of Valentino, The (1975) Jesse Lasky
9.
 Journey Back to Oz (1974) Voice
10.
 Evil Roy Slade (1972) Harry Fern
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1913:
Won a Charlie Chaplin impersonation contest
1913:
Worked as child model for Buster Brown shoes
1914:
Film acting debut, "The Perils of Pauline"; also featured in "Tillie's Punctured Romance", directed by Charlie Chaplin
:
Reportedly played bit roles in over 50 silent films, most for Biograph
1920:
Broadway debut "Floradora"
1932:
Featured on Broadway in "Earl Carroll Vanities"
1936:
Appeared on stage with "Ziegfeld Follies"
1937:
Featured in the film "New Faces of 1937"
1948:
Hosted and starred on the radio series "Texaco Star Theater"
1948:
Hosted and starred on the TV series, "Texaco Star Theater" (NBC)
1949:
Last feature for eleven years, "Always Leave THem Laughing"
:
Hosted and starred on the TV series, "The Milton Berle Show" (NBC)
:
Hosted and starred on a revamped "The Milton Berle Show" (NBC)
1960:
Returned to features with "The Bellboy" and "Let's Make Love"
:
Appeared in dramatic role on "The Dick Powell Show" in episode titled "Doyle Against the House"; earned Emmy nomination
1963:
Toured in stage production "Top Banana"
:
Revived "The Milton Berle Show" for ABC
1968:
Returned to Broadway after a thirty-year absence to play role of Max Silverman in Herb Gardner's "The Goodbye People"
1975:
Played dramatic role in the feature "Lepke"
1984:
Played himself in Woody Allen's "Broadway Danny Rose"
:
Underwent coronary bypass surgery
1995:
Had featured role in "Storybook"
1995:
Earned Emmy nomination for guest performance on "Beverly Hills, 90210"
1997:
Launched <i>Milton</i>, a gaming magazine, published by his wife Lorna and edited by his daughter Susan
1998:
Suffered mild stroke in December
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

Berle has written the lyrics to many songs, notably the novelty number "Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long".

"My mother had wanted to be an actress. But in those days, being an actress was considered like being a harlot, so she never did it. Instead, she poured all of her drive and passion for show business into me and my career.

I did whatever my mother wanted. I wanted whatever she wanted. She was the ultimate stage mother--she made Gypsy Rose Lee's mother look like Mary Poppins."--Berle quoted in special tribute issue of The Hollywood Reporter, July 1990

Inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame (1984)

He was the first inductee into the International Comedy Hall of Fame (1991)

Berle presides as the Abbot Emeritus of the Friars Club

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Beryl Wallace. Actor. Divorced.
wife:
Joyce Matthews. Former showgirl. Married and divorced twice; married on December 4, 1941 and divorced in 1947; remarried in 1949 and again divorced.
wife:
Ruth Cosgrove. Former press agent. Married from 1953 until her death in 1989.
wife:
Lorna Adams. Fashion designer, publisher. Born c. 1940; engaged in October 1991; held spring 1992 wedding; survived him.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Moses Berlinger.
mother:
Sandra Berlinger. Actor. Berle has claimed his mother was one of the first NYC policewomen and worked as a store detective prior to his birth.
brother:
Phil Berlinger. Manager, business agent. Born c. 1900; died on January 2, 1999 at age 97; manager for Rudy Vallee.
brother:
Frank Berlinger. Born c. 1903.
brother:
Jack Berlinger. Born c. 1905; died in 1985.
sister:
Rosalind Berlinger. Younger.
step-daughter:
Susan Moll. Magazine editor. Edited <i>Milton</i>; married to actor Richard Moll; survived him.
step-daughter:
Leslie. Survived him.
daughter:
Victoria Berle. Adopted with Ruth Cosgrove; survived him.
son:
William Berle. Born c. 1962; mother, Ruth Cosgrove; estranged from Berle; wrote the scathing memoir "My Father, Uncle Miltie" (published in 1999); survived him.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Laughingly Yours"
"Out of My Trunk"
"Milton Berle: An Autobiography"
"B.S., I Love You"
"Milton Berle's Joke File" William Morrow
"My Father, Uncle Miltie" Barricade Books
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute