David Birney

Active - 1972 - 1993  |   Born - Apr 23, 1939   |   Genres - Drama, Mystery

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Cleveland, David Birney was the son of an FBI agent, a fact kept from him until he was ten years old. A short, underweight kid, Birney built up his confidence by playing football and participating in school plays. Entering Dartmouth as a literature major, Birney transferred to the U.C.L.A. theater department. Drafted during the Vietnam War, he sang and danced in a special-services troupe. After his tour of duty, Birney made his professional acting debut at Virginia's Barter Theater in 1965. Two years later, he was working with Joe Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival, and shortly thereafter starred in the Broadway production Summertree. His first steady TV work was as a regular on the daytime serial Love Is a Many Splendored Thing. In 1972, Birney broke into prime-time as Jewish cabdriver Bernie Steinberg in the popular sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie. While the series was withdrawn due to protests from religious groups who frowned upon its mixed-marriage premise, Bridget Loves Bernie was hardly a total loss so far as Birney was concerned; in 1974, he married his B Loves B co-star, Meredith Baxter, a union that endured for nearly two decades. Though he preferred stage work (his favorite parts included Hamlet and Henry Higgins), Birney continued making TV and film appearances so that he could afford to accept the occasional high-prestige but low-salaried theatrical role. David Birney's series-TV assignments have included The Adams Chronicles (1976, as John Quincy Adams), Serpico (1977, in the title role), Glitter (1984), St. Elsewhere (1982-1983 season, as Dr. Ben Samuels), and Master of the Game (1987).

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