Warren Berlinger, long a familiar, cherubic face on TV, the stage and in the movies — and an actor beloved by his peers — died Wednesday at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia, California. He was 83.
His daughter confirmed his death, but did not provide a cause.
Born in Brooklyn on August 31, 1937, Berlinger worked in entertainment from childhood, including a stint in the original 1946 production of Annie Get Your Gun with Ethel Merman (1908-1984), and appearing on The Howdy Doody Show in the early '50s.
His primary work, initially, was on Broadway. Berlinger and his future wife, actress Betty Lou Keim (1938-2010), starred in A Roomful of Roses (1955), reprising their performances in the big-screen adaptation, Teenage Rebel (1956), which served as his movie debut.
He also appeared in the controversial, abortion-themed stage hit Blue Denim (1958) with Carol Lynley (1942-2019), and both appeared in the 1959 movie version.
Other stage highlights included Happy Time (1951) on Broadway; playing Buddy Backer in Broadway's Come Blow Your Horn (1961); and starring as J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in London for two years (1963-1965), the latter of which he identified as his all-time favorite role and experience as an actor. "We were the talk of the town," he fondly recalled in 2019.
He took his final Broadway bows in A Broadway Musical (1978) at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
In the movies, Berlinger's boyish quality was put to good use in such films as The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1960), Because They're Young (1960), Billie (1965), the Elvis (1935-1977) vehicle Spinout (1966) and Thunder Alley (1967), with later features including The Long Goodbye (1973), The Shaggy D.A. (1976), The World According to Garp (1982), Going Bananas (1987), Hero (1992) and That Thing You Do! (1996).
Perhaps his most famous movie role was in the star-studded romp The Cannonball Run (1981), in which he shared a motorcycle with Bert Convy (1933-1991).
On TV, Berlinger was a regular on The Joey Bishop Show (1961-1962), playing the comic's (1918-2007) kid brother. He co-starred with Marlo Thomas (b. 1937) during his run, and later appeared on two episodes of her series That Girl (1967 & 1970). He was also a regular on Bracken's World (1969-1970), A Touch of Grace (1973), made seven appearances on Love, American Style (1970-1973), was an Operation Petticoat (1978-1979) regular and recurred on Too Close for Comfort (1982-1986).
His dozens of TV appearances included such diverse and popular fare as The Secret Storm (1955), The Goldbergs (1956), Johnny Staccato (1960), The Magical World of Disney (1965), Gunsmoke (1967), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969), Emergency! (1973 & 1975), Blansky's Beauties (1977), The Love Boat (1979), The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo (1979), The Dukes of Hazzard (1979), Charlie's Angels (1977 & 1980), Alice (1977 & 1980), Happy Days (five appearances, 1975-1981), CHiPs (three appearances, 1978-1981), It's a Living (1981), Dynasty (1981), Laverne & Shirley (1982), Charles in Charge (1985), The Jeffersons (1985), The A-Team (1985), Riptide (1986), Murder, She Wrote (three appearances, 1985-1989), Columbo (1991), Picket Fences (1992), Friends (1996), and his final episodic-TV appearance, Grace and Frankie (2016).
Berlinger was also a staple of TV movies, including the cult classic The Girl Most Likely To ... (1973).
In his later years, Berlinger was an active member of SAG, including serving on its National Board, and continued to work in show biz, including directing a local production of Lend Me a Tenor in 2018.
Berlinger was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years in 2010. He is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
In perhaps one of Berlinger's final interviews, conducted by a fan at the Hollywood Show late last year, Berlinger — in entertainment since 1946 — was excited about three upcoming projects: