Bernie Adler: Who Was Steven Spielberg’s Stepfather?

Directed by Steven Spielberg, ‘The Fabelmans’ is a coming-of-age film that revolves around Samuel “Sammy” Fabelman, who aspires to become a filmmaker upon getting fascinated by the medium after watching a film at a theatre for the first time. Sammy masters the art of cinema by making home movies, capturing his father Burt Fabelman, mother Mitzi Fabelman, and Burt’s best friend Bennie Loewy. While editing such a home movie shot during a family camp, Sammy discovers that Mitzi and Bennie are closer than two friends. Since the film is a semi-autobiographical account of director Spielberg’s life and intrigued by Bennie, we have found out more details about him.

Who Was Bennie?

Bennie Loewy is a semi-fictionalized version of Bernie Adler, one of the best friends of Arnold Spielberg, Steven Spielberg’s father. Bernie “was almost like a member of the Spielberg family. He and Arnold got along great. The three of them would go on vacations together to California. The kids called him Uncle Bernie. He was always there. He did everything with them,” Walter Tice, who worked with Arnold, told Joseph McBride for the book ‘Steven Spielberg: A Biography.’ Spielberg found out about Bernie and his mother Leah’s relationship the same way Sammy finds Bennie and Mitzi’s relationship: while editing a home movie.

“That [finding out about Leah and Bernie’s relationship] was one of the toughest things, I think, that I had to sit down and decide to expose, because it was the most powerful secret my mom and I shared since my discovery when I was 16,” Spielberg told The New York Times. Bernie and Leah’s companionship was threatened when the Spielbergs moved to California from Arizona for the sake of Arnold’s job. Spielberg found that his mother “went from being completely joyful and celebrative about life” to “being full of despair and palpable sadness” due to the move and seemingly because of her separation from Bernie, as per the 2017 documentary titled ‘Spielberg.’

Bernie Remained Was Married to Spielberg’s Mom Till His Death

Bernie Adler married Leah in 1967 after the latter and Arnold divorced in 1966. Although Steven knew about Leah and Bernie’s closeness, he blamed his father for the divorce. “It’s still a mystery to me, but even though my mother was like an older sister to me, I kind of put her up on a pedestal. And my dad was much more terrestrial, much more grounded, much more salt of the Earth. And for some reason, it was easier for me to blame him than it was to someone who I was already—exalted,” Steven said in a ’60 Minutes’ interview.

Arnold wanted to protect Leah by letting their kids think that he was in the wrong. “I never would tell the kids that she divorced me. Instead, I let them think I divorced her,” Arnold said about the divorce, as per ‘Spielberg.’ As per reports, the son distanced himself from the father for fifteen years due to the same. After the divorce, Leah was able to marry Bernie, with whom she was “madly in love.” Leah and Bernie eventually moved to Los Angeles and opened The Milky Way, a kosher restaurant located on Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Leah and Bernie’s marriage lasted almost three decades. On October 2, 1995, Bernie died at the age of 75, in Los Angeles. He is buried in Hillside Memorial Park, a Jewish cemetery located in Culver City, California. After Bernie’s death, Leah reconnected with Arnold as a friend. “My sisters and I constantly marvel at the fact that very few kids get their parents back after a divorce. And yet, we were able to get ours back.” Spielberg told The Hollywood Reporter.

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