‘Bridget Loves Bernie’ & ‘St. Elsewhere’ Actor David Birney Dies at 83

David Birney
ABC/courtesy Everett Collection

The veteran actor-director David Birney, best known for his role in the popular but short-lived CBS sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie, has died. He was 83.

Birney’s death was confirmed by the New York Times, which stated that the actor passed away on April 29 at his home in Santa Monica from Alzheimer’s disease. He was diagnosed with the life-altering neurologic disorder in 2017.

Born on April 23, 1939, in Washington, D.C., Birney graduated from Dartmouth College and later earned an M.A. in Theatre Arts at UCLA. He served in the Army in the 1960s and won the All Army Entertainment contest and received the ‘Barter Theatre Award’ in 1965. This would kick-start Birney’s career in theatre, which included starring roles on Broadway in Amadeus, Benefactors, and Man and Superman, and major roles at the American Shakespeare Festival.

Birney would move into television work in the late 1960s, appearing in bit parts in various TV movies. He would receive his big break in the CBS sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie in 1972, where he starred as Bernie Steinberg alongside his future wife, Meredith Baxter. Despite strong ratings, the series was dropped after just one season. Birney and Baxter went on to have three kids of their own and were together until their divorce in 1989.

In the proceeding years, Birney would appear in numerous TV shows, including a headline role as Officer Frank Serpico in the NBC adaptation of Serpico and a recurring part as Dr. Ben Samuels on the first season of St. Elsewhere. His other credits include Hawaii 5-O, The Love Boat, Glitter, Murder, She Wrote, and Live Shot. Birney’s last on-screen appearance came in a 2007 episode of the CBS police procedural Without a Trace.

He is survived by his children Kate and twins Mollie and Peter.