Skilled actor-comedian made 'authentic' funny

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Bernie Mac died of pneumonia Saturday in Chicago, at age 50 never having had quite the time to make it to the mountaintop.

The actor-comedian was best known for his roles in the "Ocean's Eleven" trilogy and other films, including "Guess Who" and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle." However, he sometimes seemed slightly out of step, with a Fox sitcom that arrived a couple of years too early to enjoy true creative freedom and whose skills as a comic movie star were hampered by substandard material in such films as "Guess Who" and "Mr. 3000" and mean-spirited farces like "Bad Santa."

Mac first achieved national prominence after joining the Kings of Comedy stand-up tour in 1997 with Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric the Entertainer, tapping into an underserved market for middle-class blacks.

In television, Mac starred in and executive produced the single-camera comedy "The Bernie Mac Show," which ran on Fox for five seasons. The role earned him two Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations. But even hiseponymous sitcom, it could be argued, failed to gain the full appreciation it should have.

In October 2004, production on Season 4 was halted and the season premiere delayed by two months after Mac was hospitalized for what initially was described as exhaustion. Several months later, the actor reveled he had been taken to the hospital with double pneumonia and sarcoidosis symptoms. He also disclosed that he had lived with sarcoidosis since 1983.

"Bernie Mac was a gifted talent whose comedy came from an authentic and highly personal place," Fox and 20th Century Fox TV, which co-produced the series with Regency TV, said in a statement. "He was a tremendous live performer and a wonderful actor."

This past development season, Mac starred in another comedy prospect for Fox, the Warner Bros. TV-produced father-son sitcom "Starting Under," which was a contender for a series pickup but ultimately missed the cut in May.

Shortly before he was hospitalized this summer, Mac made headlines with off-color jokes during a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in his native Chicago.

Publicist Danica Smith said a public memorial would be held Saturday in Chicago.
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