Bernie West, Class of 1934
Bernie West, a comic actor who became an Emmy-winning writer and producer on socially conscious situation comedies like “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons,” died on Thursday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 92.
The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, said his daughters, Ellen Harris and Isabel Davis.
Mr. West had been a standup comedian and had appeared in Broadway shows before he and a partner, Mickey Ross, submitted a script to Norman Lear for his groundbreaking series “All in the Family” in 1971. The show seized on the liberalized attitudes wrought by the 1960s and sent up prevailing racial, ethnic and social stereotypes, focusing on the Bunkers, a working-class family in Queens, especially Archie, the casually bigoted head of the household played by Carroll O’Connor.
Mr. West and Mr. Ross worked for the show as writers, story editors and, with a third partner, Don Nicholl, producers. A 1972 episode written by Mr. West, Mr. Ross and Lee Kalcheim, “The Bunkers and the Swingers,” in which the naïve Edith Bunker, Archie’s wife, befriends a couple interested in wife-swapping, won an Emmy Award for outstanding comedy writing.
Mr. West, along with Mr. Ross and Mr. Nicholl, subsequently wrote and produced “The Jeffersons,” a sitcom about a black family (the Jeffersons first appeared as neighbors of the Bunkers on “All in the Family”), which ran from 1975-85.
They also wrote and produced “Three’s Company” (1977-84), which exploited society’s changing sexual mores, creating a household of three single adults, two women (originally Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers), and a man (John Ritter), who pretended to be gay so as not to offend the sensibilities of the landlord.
Bernard Wessler was born in the Bronx on May 30, 1918. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants; his father worked as a movie projectionist. He graduated from Baruch College and worked as a comedian in nightclubs and Borscht Belt resorts. During World War II, after being exempted from military service for medical reasons, he performed with the U.S.O. in the South Pacific.
He made guest appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Phil Silvers television shows and appeared on Broadway in the musicals “Bells Are Ringing” (1956) and “All-American” (1962) and a 1969 revival of “The Front Page.”
Mr. West married Miriam Berman in 1947; she died in 2004. In addition to his daughters, Ms. Harris, who lives in Madison, N.J., and Ms. Davis, of Manhattan, he is survived by two grandsons.