Saturday, October 20, 2012

RIP Bernard Behrens

Bernard ‘Bunny’ Behrens passed away on September 19th 2012 in Perth, Ontario Canada just shy of his 86th birthday. Behrens was married to Canadian actor Deborah Cass (nee Bernice Katz), who passed away in 2004, and was father to three sons: Mark (of Dallas, Texas), Matthew (of Perth, Ontario) and Adam (of London, England), grandfather to Taylor, Spenser, and Kate. As a boy, Bernard dreamed of being a Hollywood actor, and escaped the privations of poverty when he sneaked into movie theatres to live out the fantasy world of Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Irene Dunne, and Myrna Loy, a world he eventually immersed himself in for more than half a century. As a child evacuee during the Second World War, Bunny was forced to live by his wits with a foster family, an experience he never forgot and which often haunted him throughout his life.

Behrens path took him everywhere from the Bristol Old Vic to Canadian Players Tours in the 1950s and 1960s, CBC TV and Radio in their golden age, Toronto's Crest Theatre, Halifax's Neptune and then a decade in Hollywood, where he appeared in many 1970s TV series from “Dallas”, “Starsky and Hutch” and “The Bionic Woman” to “Columbo” and “Marcus Welby, MD”. Bernard was a Gemini Award winner and sevberal time Gemini nominee. He appeared in many films and TV shows including “Firefox” (1982) with Clint Eastwood and his only Euro-western “Another Man, Another Chance” (1977) with James Caan and Geneviève Bujold. He also appeared on the French/Canadian/U.S.A. co-produced TV western "Bordertown" in 1990.

Behrens was diagnosed with dementia in 2008 and his final years were spent in Niagara on the Lake and, for the past year, in Perth, Ontario, where he met the actors and enjoyed a performance at the Classic Theatre Festival, run by his daughter-in-law Laurel Smith. The last show he attended was a production of Mary, Mary in Perth, in which he starred 50 years ago in the Canadian premiere at the Neptune Theatre. Behrens suffered a major stroke a month ago and died from its effects on September 19. News of his death was only recently released.

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