Bernard Slade, a versatile writer who created one of Broadway’s most successful plays and several hit TV shows, has died. He passed Wednesday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. at age 89 of complications from Lewy body dementia, according to his daughter.
Slade began his career as a theatrical producer and stage actor in Canada. His success there led to a contract with Screen Gems, where he was assigned to write three television pilots per year. His work there resulted in the show Love On A Rooftop, which lasted one season, and The Flying Nun, which ran for three seasons and boosted the career of Sally Field.
His greatest success was 1970’s The Partridge Family, the tale of a musical family that traveled by bus. Shirley Jones was the mother of a singing family, which included stepson David Cassidy, whose good looks and smooth voice spawned nationwide teenage devotion. It was based on the real-life band The Cowsills, whom Slade had seen on The Tonight Show and thought would make a great TV show. He was right, as the lightweight sitcom ran four years and made David Cassidy into a major pop star.
Among his television credits were 17 episodes of Bewitched, plus episodes of Bridget Loves Bernie and The Girl With Something Extra.
The success of his TV writing led Slade back to his first love, the theater. In 1975, he bowed Same Time, Next Year, the story of a man and a woman who – thought married to others – have a vow to meet once a year at an inn.
The play opened with Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin, and ran for more than three years. It was nominated for a Tony as Best Play and ran for more than 1,454 performances on Broadway before becoming a 1978 movie that was Oscar-nominated.
Bernard Slade Newbound was born May 2, 1930 in Ontario, Canada, near Niagara Falls. They moved to England in 1935, but Slade returned to Canada when he turned 18. He answered an ad for summer-stock actors, and thus began his show business career.
Slade also had another Broadway hit with Romantic Comedy, which opened in October 1979 with Mia Farrow and Anthony Perkins as the leads. It ran for just short of a year, and was followed by 1982’s Special Occasions, which was not successful.
Slade’s wife, Jill, died in 2017. He is survived by a daughter, Laurie Newbound; a sister, Shirley Rabone; a son, Chris Newbound; and four granddaughters. No memorial plans have been announced.
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