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Barbara Berjer, 82; Popular Soap Opera Star Had TV Career Spanning 4 Decades

November 06, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

Barbara Berjer, grande dame of television soap operas for four decades, including memorable roles on "As the World Turns" and "Another World," has died. She was 82.

Berjer, who had lived for the last year in her native Seattle, died Oct. 20 of pneumonia while on a trip to New York City.

For more than 12 years, Berjer was the elderly wisdom-dispensing Bridget Connell on "Another World."

She became so popular that, when writers had her character die in 1996, fans became enraged, forcing "Bridget" to reappear on subsequent episodes as a ghost.

Berjer also played the much-married Claire English Lowell Cassen Shea on "As the World Turns" from 1965 until that character was killed off in 1971.

Her other indelible role was as Barbara Norris Thorpe on "The Guiding Light" from 1971 to 1981, with more appearances in 1989 and 1995-96.

Berjer also worked in the soaps "From These Roots" in the late 1960s and "The Edge of Night" in the mid-1960s.

The daytime dramas came naturally to the stage-experienced actress because in the early days they were telecast live. She viewed the work as performing in a daily play.

Berjer, who changed the original spelling of her name, Berger, to indicate the correct pronunciation, studied drama at the University of Washington and then worked briefly in Seattle children's theater.

She moved to New York, where she remained most of her life, to work in live theater. Among her credits was the 1960 Broadway hit "The Best Man," written by Gore Vidal and based on John F. Kennedy's presidential election campaign.

Berjer played a reporter in the show, which ran for 520 performances.

Berjer also co-starred on Broadway with Alec Guinness in "Dylan," a play about poet Dylan Thomas.

In her later years, Berjer coached other actors, including Anne Heche, and had roles on such television series as "Law and Order."

She was married to the late choreographer Lee Foley and is survived by their son, Thomas Michael Foley of Manhattan.

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