Film and television star Ken Berry, known for a variety of projects including Herbie Rides Again and Mama's Family, has died. He was 85.
According to TMZ, Berry's ex-wife Jackie Joseph-Lawrence announced his passing in a Facebook post on Saturday evening.
"With very deep sorrow, I must inform friends of Ken Berry that he died a short time ago," the post read.
Berry had a long career as beloved characters in some of television's classic programs, including Captain Wilton Parmenter on F Troop, town councilor Sam Jones on The Andy Griffith Show spinoff Mayberry R.F.D., and the clumsy, affable Vinton Harper on Mama's Family. He also had a small role in The New Batman Adventures as well as larger roles in Disney's Herbie Rides Again and The Cat from Outer Space.
While talented as a "song and dance man", it was Berry's knack for physical comedy that shone in many of his more memorable roles over the course of his career and it's a career that got a significant boost from another beloved actor -- Star Trek star, Leonard Nimoy.
While serving in the U.S. Army, Berry won a talent competition with a tap dancing routine that, according to The Hollywood Reporter, led to Nimoy inviting him into the Special Service Corps -- a branch of service that entertained the troops. After Berry won another talent contest and landed on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town, Nimoy gave Berry some advice.
“Lenny told me, ‘You ought to get in touch with some of the people at the talent departments at the studios,” Berry said in a 2012 interview with the Archive of American Television. “I said, ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ He said, ‘Ah, I’ll do it for you.’ And he did. He sent wires out to agencies and the people in charge of the talent programs at the various studios. I got a couple of bites, and I took the one from Universal.”
Berry's first major role was on F Troop, a role he considered the highlight of his entire career even decades later.0comments
“I have never been that happy in my life,” he said during the Archive of American Television interview. “I walked on air for a long time. It never let me down. I felt like that every day I went to work. I knew how lucky I was at the time.”
Berry, who was born in Moline, Illinois on November 3, 1933, died at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California. No cause of death has been reported.