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Milton Berle's Death

Milton Berle

The life and death of Milton Berle:

He was hands-down the first big star on TV – nicknamed "Mr. Television." Milton Berle was the host of NBC's "Texaco Star Theater" from 1948 to 1955 and people used to stay home to watch "Uncle Miltie" during TVs Golden age in the 1950s

The name on his birth certificate was Mendel Berlinger. He was born into a Jewish family in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. His father Moses sold paint and varnish to support the family at his mother Sarah changed your name to Sarah Berle when her son became famous.

Milton Berle with his mother

Berle's career started at the very young age of five, when he won amateur talent contest. He started appearing as a child actor in silent films, beginning with "The Perils of Pauline", filmed in New Jersey.

The Perils of Pauline promotion

Other child film roles followed and in 1920, when he was only 12, Milton was playing in an Atlantic City stage production "Floradora", that eventually moved to Broadway.

By age 15, he was an emcee in Vaudeville shows …

Milton berle around age 15

…and by the early 1930s he was a successful standup comedian.

Multi-talented as he was, Milton wrote music, scoring the film called "Poppin' the Cork", in which he also acted.

Milton berle in Poppin The Cork

Radio beckoned and starting in 1934, he was a regular on the airwaves, and even got his own show.

Milton berle radio promotion

And important member of his comedy troupe was Arnold Stang

Arnold Stang

His radio show morphed into the Milton Berle show on TV, and he had a stable of writers who went on to great career success, including Neil Simon and Nat Hiken.

Milton Berle on cover of Time Magazine

Uncle Miltie dominated Tuesday night television for the next several years, reaching number one of the Nielsen ratings with as much as an 80% share of the viewing audience.

TV set sales more than doubled after the "Texaco Star Theater" debuted, reaching 2 million in 1949.

Milton Berle show promotion

In 1951, NBC signed him to exclusive, 30 year TV contract - which was a first. But he and the network had a disagreement when Berle wanted to fil the show instead of doing it live. He wanted to have material for re-runs, something Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were doing with "I Love Lucy" but NBC said no.

By 1943, Texaco pulled out of the sponsorship and it was picked up by Buick but the ratings continued to sag.

But even though his TV presence faded, Berle pivoted and started playing show rooms like Caesar's Palace, The Desert Inn and The Sands in Las Vegas.

He appeared in several more films including "Let's Make Love" with Marilyn Monroe, and "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World", among others.

Never too far from TV, came back to guest host Saturday Night Live in April 1979.

He married and divorced showgirl Joyce Matthews twice.

Milton Berle and Joyce Matthews

…also married Ruth Cosgrove 1953. She died in 1989

Milton Berle and Ruth Cosgrove

In his autobiography borough owned up to sexual exploits including relationships with many famous women, including Marilyn Monroe and Betty Hutton.

Milton Berle and Marilyn Monroe

And he was rumored in show business to have an outrageously oversized sex organ.

Milton Berle

In fact, Radio Shock Howard Stern barraged with it and was a way of questions about it when he appeared on this morning show August 5, 1988. And it wasn't the only time his "endowment" was raised as an interview topic.

In April 2001, 92 year old Berle announced a malignant tumor had been found in his colon - but he declined surgery. He died from the disease less than a year later.

Milton Berle, born and raised a Jew but a Christian Scientist later in life, was cremated and his ashes buried at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Milton Berle grave
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