Bernie Kahn Dies: Prolific Writer-Producer For ‘Get Smart’, ‘Addams Family’ & More Was 90

Bernie Kahn, a writer-producer who penned over 100 episodes of television including The Addams Family, Three’s Company, Get Smart! and more, has died. He was 90. He died April 21 at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills.

Kahn’s death was confirmed by a spokesperson for the family.

Born on April 26, 1930, in Brooklyn, Kahn was also a gold medal swimmer. While in high school, he won numerous swimming championships, including the New York City championship, the New York State championship, the Junior National championship and the Boys Club of America championship. After graduating, Kahn got a swimming scholarship to the University of Michigan, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature.

In 1953, only five years after Israel’s inception as a nation, he represented the USA overseas at the Maccabiah Games, where he won the 100 meter backstroke race and claimed a gold medal. He completed this race in just one minute and 7.6 seconds; his time would remain unbroken for a decade. Later, he would go on to represent the U.S. once again at the Pan American Games in Argentina, winning a bronze medal. 10 years ago, Kahn was inducted into the Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Even in the army, Kahn swam and won championships. And it was after being drafted, during the Korean War, that he got his first taste of show business, running his own radio talk show on his Maryland base.

Out of the army, Kahn’s first job as a producer and writer was at NBC’s Monitor Radio. He would later join the Bob and Ray comedy radio show as a staff writer, and was its last surviving original scribe.

In the early 1960s, Kahn worked on a number of popular TV game shows, including NBC’s Your First Impression.

The bulk of his work, though, would be in sitcoms. Over the years, he wrote for such acclaimed, culturally significant series as Get SmartMaudeThe Addams FamilyThe Love BoatTabithaThree’s CompanyThe Courtship of Eddie’s FatherThe Lucy ShowMake Room for GrandaddyLove American StyleThe Partridge FamilyJames at 15 and Bewitched. Writing 15 episodes of the latter series, he also created NBC’s Joe & Valerie. 

On the feature side, Kahn wrote The Barefoot Executive and Basic Training, while producing movies for television, including She Led Two LivesFather & Son: Dangerous Relations and Fire in the Dark.

He was honored, for his artistic contributions, with two Writers Guild of America Award nominations for episodic comedy, on behalf of Get Smart and My World and Welcome to It.

Kahn lived with his wife, Elinor Berges, in Los Angeles.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three daughters, two step-children and five grandchildren. While a memorial is being planned, a date has not yet been set.

Donations in his memory can be made to the Motion Picture & Television Fund by clicking here.

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