Milton Berle


Comedian
Milton Berle

About

Also Known As
Mendel Berlinger
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
July 12, 1908
Died
March 27, 2002
Cause of Death
Colon Cancer

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...

Family & Companions

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

Bibliography

"My Father, Uncle Miltie"
Bill Berle, Barricade Books (1999)
"Milton Berle's Joke File"
Milton Berle, William Morrow (1992)
"Milton Berle: An Autobiography"
Milton Berle (1974)
"Out of My Trunk"
Milton Berle (1945)

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

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 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).

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Storybook (1994)
Illuzor
Driving Me Crazy (1991)
Side By Side (1988)
Abe Mercer
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Himself
Smorgasbord (1983)
Female Patient
The Muppet Movie (1979)
The Legend of Valentino (1975)
Lepke (1975)
Mr Meyer
Journey Back to Oz (1974)
Voice
Evil Roy Slade (1972)
Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969)
Good Time Eddie Filth
Where Angels Go ... Trouble Follows! (1968)
Film director
For Singles Only (1968)
Mr. Parker
The Happening (1967)
Fred
Who's Minding the Mint? (1967)
Luther Burton
The Oscar (1966)
Kappy Kapstetter
Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title (1966)
The Loved One (1965)
Mr. Kenton
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
J. Russell Finch
Let's Make Love (1960)
Himself
The Bellboy (1960)
Himself/Milton the bellboy
Always Leave Them Laughing (1949)
Kip Cooper
Margin for Error (1943)
Moe Finkelstein
Over My Dead Body (1943)
Jason Cordry, also known as Baron La Roux
Whispering Ghosts (1942)
H. H. Van Buren
A Gentleman at Heart (1942)
Lucky Cullen
Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
[Jerome K.] Nifty Allen
Rise and Shine (1941)
Seabiscuit
Tall, Dark and Handsome (1941)
Frosty [Welch]
Radio City Revels (1938)
Teddy
New Faces of 1937 (1937)
Wallington Wedge
The Perils of Pauline (1914)

Music (Feature Film)

Roger & Me (1989)
Song
Manifesto (1988)
Song ("I'D Give A Million Tomorrows")
For Singles Only (1968)
Composer
Always Leave Them Laughing (1949)
Composer
Li'l Abner (1940)
Composer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Other

Cast (Special)

100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time (2004)
Television: The First 50 Years (2001)
Interviewee
Jackie Gleason: The Great One (2001)
Interviewee
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs (2000)
Barbara Walters: A Driving Force (2000)
The Rat Pack (1999)
James Bacon: The E! True Hollywood Story (1999)
Interviewee
Let Me In, I Hear Laughter: A Salute to the Friars (1999)
Norman Jewison on Comedy in the 20th Century: Funny Is Money (1999)
Comic Relief VIII (1998)
NYTV: By the People Who Made It (1998)
50 Years of Television: A Celebration of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Golden Anniversary (1997)
Sonja Henie: Fire on Ice (1997)
Interviewee
Phil Silvers: Top Banana (1997)
Steve Allen's 75th Birthday Celebration (1997)
Nichols and May -- Take Two (1996)
Danny Thomas: Make Room For Danny (1996)
1996 Emmy Awards (1996)
Presenter
Liberace: Mr. Showmanship (1995)
Interviewee
The Ed Sullivan All-Star Comedy Special (1995)
Milton Berle: Mr. Television (1994)
The Second Annual Comedy Hall of Fame (1994)
Performer
TV Nation: Year-in-Review Special (1994)
More of the Best of the Hollywood Palace (1993)
The 1993 MTV Video Music Awards (1993)
Presenter
The 9th Annual Television Academy Hall of Fame (1993)
Performer
The First Annual Comedy Hall of Fame (1993)
Performer
Laughing Matters (1993)
Bob Hope: The First Ninety Years (1993)
Elvis: The Great Performances (1992)
A Celebration of Eddy Arnold (1992)
Bob Hope and Other Young Comedians: The World Laughs, Young and Old (1992)
George Burns' 95th Birthday Party (1991)
Just For Laughs: The Montreal International Comedy Festival (1991)
The World of Jewish Humor (1990)
It's Howdy Doody Time-a 40 Year Celebration (1990)
Happy Birthday, Bugs!: 50 Looney Years (1990)
Bob Hope's "Don't Shoot, It's Only Me" (1990)
The Television Academy Hall of Fame (1990)
Performer
The 75th Anniversary of Beverly Hills (1989)
The 41st Annual Emmy Awards (1989)
Performer
Milton Berle: The Second Time Around (1988)
Happy Birthday, Bob -- 50 Stars Salute Your 50 Years With NBC (1988)
NBC Investigates Bob Hope (1987)
Jonathan Winters: On the Ledge (1987)
The Television Academy Hall of Fame (1986)
Performer
George Burns' 90th Birthday Special (1986)
Funny (1986)
NBC's 60th Anniversary Celebration (1986)
The 38th Annual Emmy Awards (1986)
Performer
Life's Most Embarrassing Moments (1985)
Bob Hope Buys NBC? (1985)
The Cracker Brothers (1984)
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1984)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Hilarious Unrehearsed Antics of the Stars (1984)
George Burns Celebrates 80 Years in Show Business (1983)
Family Business (1983)
Isaiah Stein
Parade of Stars (1983)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's 30th Anniversary TV Special (1981)
Sinatra: The First 40 Years (1980)
George Burns' 100th Birthday Party (1979)
The Chevy Chase National Humor Test (1979)
A Tribute to "Mr. Television," Milton Berle (1978)
The Kraft 75th Anniversary Special (1978)
Sheila (1977)
Have I Got a Christmas For You! (1977)
Morris Glickstein
The First 50 Years (1976)
Milton Berle's Mad Mad Mad World of Comedy (1975)
A Show Business Salute to Milton Berle (1973)
The Many Faces of Comedy (1973)
Opening Night: U.S.A. (1972)
20th Century Follies (1972)
A Salute to Television's 25th Anniversary (1972)
Plimpton! Did You Hear the One About...? (1971)
City vs. Country (1971)
Murder At NBC (1966)

Producer (Special)

Milton Berle: The Second Time Around (1988)
Producer

Cast (Short)

Hollywood Hobbies (1939)
Himself

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Desilu Story: The Rags to Riches Success of the Desilu Empire (2003)
Two Heads Are Better Than None (2000)
Jingle Bell Rock (1995)
Voice

Life Events

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

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"

1960

Returned to features with "The Bellboy" and "Let's Make Love"

1963

Toured in stage production "Top Banana"

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"

1995

Earned Emmy nomination for guest performance on "Beverly Hills, 90210"

1995

Had featured role in "Storybook"

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

Photo Collections

Rise and Shine - Title Lobby Card
Rise and Shine - Title Lobby Card

Videos

Movie Clip

Sun Valley Serenade (1941) - That Must Be Her Chest Measurement At Ellis Island on a publicity stunt, big band pianist Ted (John Payne), manager Nifty (Milton Berle) and bandleader Phil (Glenn Miller, the bandleader), arrive to pick up their kid war orphan, who turns out to be Sonja Henie, in Twentieth Century-Fox's It Happened In Sun Valley, 1941.
New Faces Of 1937 - Our New Dancing Discovery, Ann Miller! Introduced by then-radio star Milton Berle, and getting the best notices by far in this failed inaugural RKO new-talent launch vehicle, Ann Miller, age 14, in her first film under studio contract, in New Faces Of 1937, 1937.
It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) - Every Man For Himself! The second scene of motorist-witnesses Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, and Buddy Hackett (Edie Adams and Dorothy Provine not talking) finally not agreeing on how to split the loot from the dead gangster’s stash, in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1963.
It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) - Natural Born Flyer Desperate to find the dead gangster’s loot, Ding and Benjy (Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett) have enlisted boozy pilot Fitzgerald (Jim Backus), and would-be seaweed tycoon Finch (Milton Berle) loses it with Hawthorne (Terry-Thomas), whom he’s promised a share, in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1963.
It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) - Title Song It’s not always remembered that there’s a title song, by Ernest Gold and Mack David, presented here as the Overture, before the credits and everything, sung by an uncredited chorus, from the Stanley Kramer all-star mega-comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1963.
Loved One, The (1965) - Wagging His Tail In Heaven Dennis (Robert Morse) on his first house call for the pet cemetery, meets harried Kenton (Milton Berle) and his erratic spouse (Margaret Leighton), later with co-worker Harry (Jonathan Winters), in The Loved One, 1965.
Oscar, The - Steve Marks Frankie (Stephen Boyd) meets agent Kappy (Milton Berle) for a dinner framed by the entire and meaningful appearance of fellow actor Steve Marks (Peter Lawford) in The Oscar, 1966.
Oscar, The - Frankie's Screen Test Studio boss Kenneth Regan (Joseph Cotten) hears Sophie (Eleanor Parker) and Kappy (Milton Berle) pitch Frank Fane's screen test while Frank (Stephen Boyd) eavesdrops in The Oscar, 1966.
Oscar, The - Botulism or Typhus! In a Hollywood screening room, studio boss Regan (Joseph Cotten) makes a call about actor Frank Fane while Sophie (Eleanor Parker) concurs and agent Kappy (Milton Berle) gets philosophical in The Oscar, 1966.

Trailer

Promo

Family

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

Companions

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

Bibliography

"My Father, Uncle Miltie"
Bill Berle, Barricade Books (1999)
"Milton Berle's Joke File"
Milton Berle, William Morrow (1992)
"Milton Berle: An Autobiography"
Milton Berle (1974)
"Out of My Trunk"
Milton Berle (1945)
"Laughingly Yours"
Milton Berle (1939)
"B.S., I Love You"
Milton Berle

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