Milton Berle
Comedian, actor
Milton Berle
Milton Berle was an American comedian and actor. As the host of NBC's Texaco Star Theater (1948–55), he was the first major American television star and was known to millions of viewers as "Uncle Miltie" and "Mr. Television" during TV's golden age.
Milton Berle's personal information overview.
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Mighty Max - San Diego Jewish Journal
Google News - over 5 years
Six months before The Pelvis famously appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” he was on “The Milton Berle Show.” “I was 5 years old,” Weinberg recalls, “but I remember it vividly. I was most struck by the great drum break in 'Hound Dog
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Watch hours of interviews at the Archive of American TV - USA Today
Google News - over 5 years
"The Milton Berle interview totals four hours." This is definitely a must-see site, and it contains video chats with just about every legend I'd like to talk to (dead or alive): Jack Lemmon, Henry Winkler, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, George Carlin
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Variety shows a la 'Ed Sullivan Show' make a comeback via Nick Cannon's ... - New York Daily News
Google News - over 5 years
Nothing was bigger on 1950s TV than variety shows, hosted right into the early 1970s by the likes of Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Dean Martin. On the surface, nothing looks more dead today. Almost 25 years ago, in 1987, ABC tried to do an
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From Pee-wee to Gaga: the VMA's Water-Cooler Moments (Slideshow) - TheWrap
Google News - over 5 years
Milton Berle: "Oh, we're going to ad lib? I'll check my brain and we'll start even." 1994: "Just think, nobody thought this would last," said Michael Jackson before kissing bride Lisa Marie Presley. Turned out it didn't last. 1998: When your boyfriend
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Yakety yak no more - Financial Times
Google News - over 5 years
For most people, the song will always be associated with Elvis Presley, who seared the number into the US public's consciousness in a blur of pelvic thrusting on the Milton Berle show in 1956, before cementing the association by giving a less
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Jerry Leiber, co-writer of 'Stand By Me' and 'Hound Dog,' dies at 78 - Entertainment Weekly (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
In 1953, the pair formed their own record label, but really took off in 1956 when Presley took “Hound Dog” (which Leiber and Stoller had originally penned for Big Mama Thornton) and turned it into a gigantic hit when he performed it on The Milton Berle
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Classic Hollywood: Jack Carter going strong after 60-plus years - Los Angeles Times
Google News - over 5 years
Milton Berle tried to copy it. It was a wrap-up of what you did when you got to Vegas.... Berle sent his wife in to tape it and Roxanne stopped her. She was sitting there with a tape recorder, and she [Roxanne] said, 'I wouldn't do that if I were you
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Cappelli seeks financing for Concord plans - Westfair Online
Google News - over 5 years
It's been 10 years since developer Louis Cappelli bought the land where the high-spirited echoes of Milton Berle, Alan King and Henny Youngman can be heard if you listen closely enough. The Concord Hotel, home to some of the most famous comedians and
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The mind-boggling tricks of 'Comedy of Errors' - Santa Cruz Sentinel
Google News - over 5 years
Milton Berle. Stan Laurel. Even some "Laugh-In" and Mary Poppins. Brandin Baron's costumes put us squarely in the '50s right out of the gate. As you can imagine, a vehicle with a handful of people playing many has special issues of quick changes and
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RetroBites: Mad World: Berle & Winters (1963) - CBCtv
Google News - over 5 years
Milton Berle and Jonathan Winters ad-lib on the way to Mad World premiere
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Stealing jokes isn't funny, unless your audience doesn't care - Montreal Gazette
Google News - over 5 years
The most infamous joke thief is probably Milton Berle, of whom Bob Hope once quipped, "He never heard a joke he didn't steal." Being a joke thief became a large part of Berle's persona and it didn't hurt his career, either. A well-known spat between
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Chest Pain and Mindless at Churchill's Pub July 26 - Miami New Times
Google News - over 5 years
We'd turn off The Milton Berle Show, plug in the turntable, and give them a crash course in powerviolence and fastcore. Or maybe we'd bring these hypothetical people from the '50s to present-day Churchill's Pub. We'd skip the past 60 years of
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Dwyer comes in threes - BCLocalNews
Google News - over 5 years
Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Bob Newhart, Milton Berle, Kenny Rogers join a slew of celebrated musician's musicians on an enormous list of performers who have shared the stage with Dwyer. “I've been a working professional musician for 50 years
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Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Milton Berle
  • 2002
    Age 93
    One year after the announcement, on March 27, 2002, Berle died in Los Angeles from colon cancer.
    More Details Hide Details Berle reportedly left arrangements to be buried with his second wife, Ruth, at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Burbank, but his body was cremated and interred at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City. (Warren Cowan, Berle's publicist, told The New York Times, "I only know he told me he bought plots at Hillside, and it was his idea.") In addition to his third wife, Lorna Adams, Berle was survived by his adopted daughter Victoria, his biological son Bob Williams, and his adopted son Bill.
  • 2001
    Age 92
    In April 2001 Berle announced that a malignant tumor had been found in his colon, but he had declined surgery.
    More Details Hide Details Berle's wife said the tumor was growing so slowly that it would take 10 to 12 years to affect him in any significant or life-threatening way.
  • 2000
    Age 91
    On July 15, 2000, Berle guest-starred as Uncle Leo in the Kenan & Kel special "Two Heads are Better than None".
    More Details Hide Details This would be his last acting role.
  • 1992
    Age 83
    He married a fourth time in 1992 to Lorna Adams, a fashion designer 30 years his junior.
    More Details Hide Details He had three children, Victoria (adopted by Berle and Mathews), William (adopted by Berle and Cosgrove) and a biological son, Bob Williams, with showgirl Junior Standish. Berle had two stepdaughters from his marriage to Adams, Leslie and Susan Brown. He also had three grandchildren: Victoria's sons James and Mathew, and William's son Tyler Roe. Berle's autobiography contains many tales of his sexual exploits. He claimed relationships with numerous famous women, including actresses Marilyn Monroe and Betty Hutton, columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, and evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. The veracity of some of these claims has been questioned. The McPherson story, in particular, has been challenged by McPherson's biographer and her daughter, among others. In later life, Berle found comfort in Christian Science, and subsequently characterized himself as "a Jew and a Christian Scientist". Oscar Levant, when queried by Jack Paar about Berle's conversion, quipped, "Our loss is their loss."
  • 1989
    Age 80
    In 1989, Berle stated that his mother was behind the breakup of his marriages to Mathews.
    More Details Hide Details He also said that she managed to damage his previous relationships: "My mother never resented me going out with a girl, but if I had more than three dates with one girl, Mama found some way to break it up."
  • 1988
    Age 79
    In Berle's 1988 appearance, when fielding phone calls, Stern purposely asked his producer to only air callers whose questions dealt with Berle's penis.
    More Details Hide Details In his autobiography, Berle tells of a man who accosted him in a steam bath and challenged him to compare sizes, leading a bystander to remark, "go ahead, Milton, just take out enough to win". Berle attributed this line to comedian Jackie Gleason and said: "It was maybe the funniest spontaneous line I ever heard". Though he "worked clean" for his entire onstage and onscreen career, except for the infamous Friars Club private celebrity roasts, Berle was known offstage to have a colorful vocabulary and few limits on when it was used. He often criticized younger comedians like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin for their X-rated humor, and challenged them to be just as funny without the four-letter words. Hundreds of younger comics, including several comedy superstars, were encouraged and guided by Berle. Despite some less than flattering stories told about Berle being difficult to work with, his son, Bill, maintains that Berle was a source of encouragement and technical assistance for many new comics. Berle's son Bob backs up his brother's statement. He was present many times during Berle's Las Vegas shows and television guest appearances. Milton aided Fred Travalena, Ruth Buzzi, John Ritter, Marla Gibbs, Lily Tomlin, Dick Shawn and Will Smith. At a taping of a Donny & Marie show episode, for example, Donny and Marie Osmond recited a scripted joke routine to a studio audience, to little response.
    Radio shock jock Howard Stern also barraged Berle with an endless array of penis questions when the comedian appeared on Stern's morning talk show on Aug 5, 1988 (Berle was also a guest on the Stern show on Oct 30, 1996).
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  • 1984
    Age 75
    As "Mr. Television", Berle was one of the first seven people to be inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1984.
    More Details Hide Details The following year, he appeared on NBC's Amazing Stories (created by Steven Spielberg) in an episode called "Fine Tuning". In this episode, friendly aliens from space receive TV signals from the Earth of the 1950s and travel to Hollywood in search of their idols, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, The Three Stooges, Burns and Allen, and Milton Berle. (When he realizes the aliens are doing his old material, Uncle Miltie is thunderstruck: "Stealing from Berle? Is that even possible?") Speaking gibberish, Berle is the only person able to communicate directly with the aliens. Berle was again on the receiving end of an onstage jibe at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards where RuPaul responded to Berle's reference of having once worn dresses himself (during his old television days) with the quip that Berle now wore diapers. A surprised Berle replied by recycling a line he had delivered to Henny Youngman on his Hollywood Palace show in 1966: "Oh, we're going to ad lib? I'll check my brain and we'll start even".
  • 1982
    Age 73
    Another well-known incident of upstaging occurred during the 1982 Emmy Awards, when Berle and Martha Raye were the presenters of the Emmy for Outstanding Writing.
    More Details Hide Details Berle was reluctant to give up the microphone to the award's recipients, from Second City Television, and interrupted actor/writer Joe Flaherty's acceptance speech several times. After Flaherty made a joke, Berle replied sarcastically "That's funny!" However, Flaherty's response of "Sorry, Uncle Miltie... go to sleep" flustered Berle. SCTV later created a parody sketch of the incident, in which Flaherty beats up a Berle look-alike, shouting, "You'll never ruin another acceptance speech, Uncle Miltie!" One of his most popular performances in his later years was guest starring in 1992 in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as womanizing, wise-cracking patient Max Jakey. Most of his dialogue was improvised and he shocked the studio audience by mistakenly blurting out a curse word. He also appeared in an acclaimed and Emmy-nominated turn on Beverly Hills, 90210 as an aging comedian befriended by Steve Sanders, who idolizes him, but is troubled by his bouts of senility due to Alzheimer's disease. He also voiced the Prince of Darkness, the main antagonist in the Canadian animated television anthology special The Real Story of Au Clair De La Lune. He also appeared in 1995 as a guest star in an episode of The Nanny in the part of her lawyer and great uncle.
  • 1974
    Age 65
    In 1974, Berle had a minor altercation with younger actor/comedian Richard Pryor when both appeared as guests on The Mike Douglas Show.
    More Details Hide Details At the time, Berle was discussing the emotional fallout from an experience he had with impregnating a woman he was not married to, and having to decide whether or not they would keep the child. During his talk, Pryor let out a laugh, to which Berle took exception and confronted him, stating, "I wish, I wish, Richard, that I could have laughed at that time at your age, when I was your age, the way you just laughed now, but I just couldn't... I told you this nine years ago, and now I'll tell you on the air in front of millions of people: Pick your spots, baby." This prompted Pryor to mockingly quip back, "All right, sweetheart."
  • 1961
    Age 52
    Like his contemporary Jackie Gleason, Berle proved a solid dramatic actor and was acclaimed for several such performances, most notably his lead role in "Doyle Against The House" on The Dick Powell Show in 1961, a role for which he received an Emmy nomination.
    More Details Hide Details He also played the part of a blind survivor of an airplane crash in Seven in Darkness, the first in ABC's popular Movie of the Week series. (He also played it straight as an agent in The Oscar (1966) and was one of the few actors in that infamous flop to get good notices from critics.) During this period, Berle was named to the Guinness Book of World Records for the greatest number of charity performances made by a show-business performer. Unlike the high-profile shows done by Bob Hope to entertain the troops, Berle did more shows, over a period of 50 years, on a lower-profile basis. Berle received an award for entertaining at stateside military bases in World War I as a child performer, in addition to traveling to foreign bases in World War II and Vietnam. The first charity telethon (for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation) was hosted by Berle in 1949. A permanent fixture at charity benefits in the Hollywood area, he was instrumental in raising millions for charitable causes.
  • 1960
    Age 51
    By 1960, he was reduced to hosting a bowling program, Jackpot Bowling, delivering his quips and interviewing celebrities between the efforts of that week's bowling contestants.
    More Details Hide Details In Las Vegas, Berle played to packed showrooms at Caesars Palace, the Sands, the Desert Inn, and other casino hotels. Berle had appeared at the El Rancho, one of the first Vegas hotels, in the late 1940s. In addition to constant club appearances, Berle performed on Broadway in Herb Gardner's The Goodbye People in 1968. He also became a commercial spokesman for the thriving Lum's restaurant chain. He appeared in numerous films, including Always Leave Them Laughing (released in 1949, shortly after his TV debut) with Virginia Mayo and Bert Lahr, Let's Make Love with Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Loved One, The Oscar, Who's Minding the Mint? Lepke, Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose, and Driving Me Crazy. Freed in part from the obligations of his NBC contract, Berle was signed in 1966 to a new, weekly variety series on ABC. The show failed to capture a large audience and was cancelled after one season. He later appeared as guest villain Louie the Lilac on ABC's Batman series. Other memorable guest appearances included stints on The Barbara Stanwyck Show, The Lucy Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, Get Smart, Laugh-In, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, The Hollywood Palace, Ironside, F Troop, Fantasy Island, I Dream Of Jeannie, and The Jack Benny Program.
  • 1958
    Age 49
    Berle knew that NBC had already decided to cancel his show before Presley appeared. Berle later appeared in the Kraft Music Hall series from 1958 to 1959, but NBC was finding increasingly fewer showcases for its one-time superstar.
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  • 1956
    Age 47
    By the time the again-renamed Milton Berle Show finished its only full season (1955 - 56), Berle was already becoming history—though his final season was host to two of Elvis Presley's earliest television appearances, April 3 and June 5, 1956.
    More Details Hide Details The final straw during that last season may have come from CBS scheduling The Phil Silvers Show opposite Berle. Ironically, Silvers was one of Berle's best friends in show business and had come to CBS's attention in an appearance on Berle's program. Bilko's creator-producer, Nat Hiken, had been one of Berle's radio writers.
  • 1953
    Age 44
    After twice marrying and divorcing showgirl Joyce Mathews, Berle married publicist Ruth Cosgrove in 1953; she died in 1989.
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  • 1949
    Age 40
    He also earned another nickname after ending a 1949 broadcast with a brief ad-libbed remark to children watching the show: "Listen to your Uncle Miltie and go to bed."
    More Details Hide Details Francis Craig and Kermit Goell's Near You became the theme song that closed Berle's TV shows. Berle risked his newfound TV stardom at its zenith to challenge Texaco when the sponsor tried to prevent black performers from appearing on his show: I remember clashing with the advertising agency and the sponsor over my signing the Four Step Brothers for an appearance on the show. The only thing I could figure out was that there was an objection to black performers on the show, but I couldn't even find out who was objecting. "We just don't like them," I was told, but who the hell was "we"? Because I was riding high in 1950, I sent out the word: "If they don't go on, I don't go on." At ten minutes of eight—ten minutes before showtime—I got permission for the Step Brothers to appear. If I broke the color-line policy or not, I don't know, but later on I had no trouble booking Bill Robinson or Lena Horne.
    Television set sales more than doubled after Texaco Star Theatre's debut, reaching two million in 1949.
    More Details Hide Details Berle's stature as the medium's first superstar earned him the sobriquet "Mr. Television".
  • 1948
    Age 39
    Berle would revive the structure and routines of his vaudeville act for his debut on TV. His first TV series was The Texaco Star Theatre, which began September 22, 1948 on ABC and continued until June 15, 1949 with cast members Stang, Kelton and Gallop, along with Charles Irving, Kay Armen, and double-talk specialist Al Kelly.
    More Details Hide Details Writers included Nat Hiken, brothers Danny and Neil Simon, Leo Fuld, and Aaron Ruben. The show began with Berle rotating hosting duties with three other comedians, but in October he became the permanent host. Berle's highly visual style, characterized by vaudeville slapstick and outlandish costumes, proved ideal for the new medium. Berle modeled the show's structure and skits directly from his vaudeville shows, and hired writer Hal Collins to revive his old routines. When the show moved to NBC, it dominated Tuesday night television for the next several years, reaching the number one slot in the Nielsen ratings with as much as an 80% share of the viewing audience. Berle and the show each won Emmy Awards after the first season. Fewer movie tickets were sold on Tuesdays. Some theaters, restaurants and other businesses shut down for the hour or closed for the evening so their customers would not miss Berle's antics. Berle's autobiography notes that in Detroit, "an investigation took place when the water levels took a drastic drop in the reservoirs on Tuesday nights between 9 and 9:05. It turned out that everyone waited until the end of the Texaco Star Theatre before going to the bathroom."
  • 1946
    Age 37
    Kiss and Make Up, on CBS in 1946, featured the problems of contestants decided by a jury from the studio audience with Berle as the judge.
    More Details Hide Details Berle also made guest appearances on many comedy-variety radio programs during the 1930s and 1940s. Scripted by Hal Block and Martin Ragaway, The Milton Berle Show brought Berle together with Arnold Stang, later a familiar face as Berle's TV sidekick. Others in the cast were Pert Kelton, Mary Schipp, Jack Albertson, Arthur Q. Bryan, Ed Begley, Brazilian singer Dick Farney, and announcer Frank Gallop. Sponsored by Philip Morris, it aired on NBC from March 11, 1947 until April 13, 1948. Berle later described this series as "the best radio show I ever did... a hell of a funny variety show". It served as a springboard for Berle's emergence as television's first major star.
  • 1939
    Age 30
    In 1939, he was the host of Stop Me If You've Heard This One with panelists spontaneously finishing jokes sent in by listeners.
    More Details Hide Details In the late 1940s, he canceled well-paying nightclub appearances to expand his radio career. Three Ring Time, a comedy-variety show sponsored by Ballantine Ale, was followed by a 1943 program sponsored by Campbell's Soups. The audience participation show Let Yourself Go (1944–1945) could best be described as "slapstick radio" with studio audience members acting out long suppressed urges—often directed at host Berle.
  • 1934
    Age 25
    From 1934–36, Berle was heard regularly on The Rudy Vallee Hour, and he attracted publicity as a regular on The Gillette Original Community Sing, a Sunday night comedy-variety program broadcast on CBS from September 6, 1936 to August 29, 1937.
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  • 1933
    Age 24
    In 1933, he was hired by producer Jack White to star in the theatrical featurette Poppin' the Cork, a topical musical comedy concerning the repealing of Prohibition.
    More Details Hide Details Berle also co-wrote the score for this film, which was released by Educational Pictures. Berle continued to dabble in songwriting. With Ben Oakland and Milton Drake, Berle wrote the title song for the RKO Radio Pictures release Li'l Abner (1940), an adaptation of Al Capp's comic strip, featuring Buster Keaton as Lonesome Polecat. Berle wrote a Spike Jones B-side, "Leave the Dishes in the Sink, Ma."
  • 1920
    Age 11
    Around 1920, at age 12, Berle made his stage debut in a revival of the musical comedy Florodora in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which later moved to Broadway.
    More Details Hide Details By the time he was 16, he was working as a Master of Ceremonies in Vaudeville. By the early 1930s he was a successful stand-up comedian, patterning himself after one of Vaudeville's top comics, Ted Healy.
  • 1916
    Age 7
    In 1916, Berle enrolled in the Professional Children's School.
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  • 1908
    Born on July 12, 1908.
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Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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