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May 9: Herschel Bernardi

May 9, 2013

Arnie_Herschel_Bernardi_TV_CBS_1971-500x372Herschel Bernardi, a child of the Yiddish theater who became the first Zorba the Greek on Broadway and one of the last Tevyes in Fiddler on the Roof, died at 62 on this date in 1986. Bernardi was a victim of the anti-communist blacklist in the 1950s and played a role in the 1976 film starring Woody Allen on the subject, The Front. He also starred as a Jewish cop, Lieutenant Jacoby, on the television series Peter Gunn, and provided the voice for Charlie the Tuna in Starkist television commercials (and the “Ho-Ho-Ho” of the Jolly Green Giant). His movie credits included Irma La Douce and Love with the Proper Stranger. To see him performing “If I Were a Rich Man” from the 1981 revival of Fiddler, see below. Bernardi took over the role from Zero Mostel in 1965, and performed as Tevye more than 1,200 times. (Photo of Bernardi at right from

“There are five stages to an actor’s career: who is Herschel Bernardi? get me Herschel Bernardi; get me a Herschel Bernardi type; get me a young Herschel Bernardi; and who is Herschel Bernardi?” —Herschel Bernardi

Update 9 May 2014 13:00: Clarified Woody Allen’s role in The Front, per Myron Wollin’s comment.