Broadway Playwright Bernard Slade Passes Away at 89
Bernard Slade, (born Bernard Slade Newbound), the Canadian/American writer best known for his Broadway play SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR and the TV series THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY, has died. He passed away peacefully at home early this morning (October 30) in Beverly Hills from complications of Lewy Body Dementia. He was 89.
Slade was born on May 2, 1930 to English parents, the third child and only son of Frederick and Bessie Newbound, in St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada. He returned with his family to their native England in 1935 and spent World War II as a child evacuee, moving constantly, attending thirteen schools in seven years. In his memoir SHARED LAUGHTER, he credits this experience as helping to form him as an actor and eventual writer. "Always the 'new boy,' both extremely shy and gregarious, I evolved a personality of the class wit." Upon returning to Canada at the age of eighteen he soon settled in Toronto and embarked upon a career as an actor, appearing in over 200 plays on stage, radio and television. He also (with his wife, actress Jill Foster, who went on to become an early star of the CBC) took over the Garden Center Theatre in Vineland Ontario for a twenty-six week season of regional theatre, putting on a play a week. In 1957 he began to write. THE PRIZEWINNER, his first teleplay, was intended to give him the starring role he always wanted, but it was not to be. Instead, it was sold to NBC and eventually produced in many countries, including Canada, the US, England, France and Australia but never with Slade in the lead. Following that early success, and finding writing much more lucrative than acting, he wrote over one hundred TV shows, ranging from variety sketches to panel shows to soap operas. He also authored stage plays which received Canadian productions, television plays for the CBC (including a ninety minute production of his play A VERY CLOSE FAMILY starring Melvyn Douglas, Tom Bosley, Gordon Pinsent and Jill Foster) and the U.S. Steele Hour before moving to Los Angeles in 1964.
Slade's first major writing job in Hollywood was on the show BEWITCHED, where he served as a story editor and for which he wrote seventeen episodes. He then went on to create and write for many well-known TV shows in the sixties and early seventies including LOVE ON A ROOFTOP , THE FLYING NUN, BRIDGET LOVES BERNIE, THE GIRL WITH SOMETHING EXTRA, and THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY. Slade has said that watching the musical family group The Cowsills on The Tonight Show inspired the idea for the series. Launching the career of teen heartthrob David Cassidy as well as Susan Dey and Danny Bonaduce, the show starred stage and screen actress Shirley Jones as the matriarch of the fictional family singing group. The Partridge Family ran for four seasons on ABC and was heavily syndicated for many years after its initial network run.
Bristling a bit under the network control of his TV projects, Slade returned to the theatre in 1975 with the play SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR. With Charles Grodin and Ellen Burstyn in the leads, the play was a major Broadway hit and ran for 1453 performances. It is considered one of the most popular romantic comedies ever written for the stage and remains one of the world's most widely produced plays. It received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play as well as the Drama Desk Award in 1975 for Best New American Play. Three years later, while SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR was still running, his second Broadway show TRIBUTE opened. Starring Jack Lemmon, it was considered a success but closed shortly after Lemmon left the part six months after opening. National tours followed and TRIBUTE continues to be produced. One of the most successful productions was done fairly recently in Geneva and then Paris at the Theatre Montparnasse in 2013 with French star Michel Leeb in the lead with a new translation. In 1979 Slade's third Broadway play opened, ROMANTIC COMEDY, starring Mia Farrow and Anthony Perkins. All three of Slade's Broadway successes were adapted by him into feature films, (with Jack Lemmon reprising his role in the movie version of TRIBUTE) and his script for SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Ellen Burstyn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Doris. His last Broadway play, produced in 1982, SPECIAL OCCASIONS, had a successful run in the West End in London and elsewhere. All of Slade's plays, including many that were not produced on Broadway such as RETURN ENGAGEMENTS, ACT OF THE IMAGINATION, FATAL ATTRACTION, YOU SAY TOMATOES and SAME TIME, ANOTHER YEAR, have been enjoyed by international audiences for decades, and most continue to be produced domestically and internationally to this day. In fact, a deal was just signed for SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR to be produced in Italy.
Slade was married to Canadian actress Jill Foster for 64 years before her death in 2017. He often credited her as not only his first and most important reader and editor but also the inspiration behind many of his favorite female characters, including Doris in SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR. He is survived by his sister Shirley Rabone, his two children, Laurie Newbound and Chris Newbound, and four grand-daughters, Caitlin Slade Friedman, Madison H. Newbound, Emma Friedman and Hailey Herring-Newbound. Plans for a memorial will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to the Actor's Fund.
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