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Warren Berlinger, the boyish actor who starred in the Broadway and film versions of Blue Denim and in the original stage production of Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn, has died. He was 83.
Berlinger died Wednesday at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia, California, his daughter Elizabeth told The Hollywood Reporter.
Berlinger also worked alongside his future wife, Betty Lou Keim, on Broadway in 1955’s A Roomful of Roses, and they reprised their roles for the big-screen adaptation at Fox, retitled Teenage Rebel (1956). That marked his movie debut.
Quite similarly, Berlinger received a Theatre World award in 1958 for starring opposite Carol Lynley in Blue Denim, a story about teenagers and abortion, and they both returned for the movie version, also at Fox, that was released a year later.
Berlinger portrayed Buddy Baker on Broadway in Come Blow Your Horn starting in 1961 — Joel Gray would replace him — but when it came time for the 1963 Paramount adaptation, it was Tony Bill who got the part of Frank Sinatra’s younger brother.
Berlinger, however, kept busy with roles in Jack Lemmon’s The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1960), Because They’re Young (1960), Patty Duke’s Billie (1965), Elvis Presley’s Spinout (1966) and Thunder Alley (1967), starring Annette Funicello and Fabian.
On television, Berlinger played Joey Bishop’s kid brother — Marlo Thomas was their sister — on the first season (1961-62) of The Joey Bishop Show, and in the ’70s, he was a regular on the short-lived series A Touch of Grace, Bracken’s World and Operation Petticoat.
He also was known for sharing a motorcycle with Bert Convy in Hal Needham’s The Cannonball Run (1981), starring Burt Reynolds.
Born in Brooklyn on Aug. 31, 1937, Berlinger was in the cast of the original 1946 Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun, starring Ethel Merman. His Great White Way credits also included The Happy Time, Take a Giant Step, Moss Hart’s Anniversary Waltz and 1978’s A Broadway Musical.
He performed as the ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch for two years in the ’60s in the London stage production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a role made famous by Robert Morse on Broadway and the big screen.
Berlinger’s movie résumé also included Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973), The Girl Most Likely to … (1973), Lepke (1975), The Shaggy D.A. (1976), The World According to Garp (1982), Ten Little Indians (1989), Hero (1992) and That Thing You Do! (1996).
His TV guest-starring appearances ranged from Howdy Doody, Johnny Staccato and That Girl to Happy Days, Columbo, Friends and Grace and Frankie.
Berlinger joined SAG in 1956 and served on several committees over the years, always “looking out for the little guy,” his daughter said.
He was married to Keim from 1960 until her death in January 2010, and they had four children, Lisa, David, Edward and Elizabeth. His survivors also include eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
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