Herschel Bernardi, along with his actor-brother Jack, was the product of a long-established family of Yiddish performers. On stage from childhood, Bernardi made his first on-camera appearances in a brace of Yiddish-language films, Green Fields and Yankel the Blacksmith, both lensed in New Jersey in 1939. While successful in ethnic productions, Herschel encountered resistance from producers of mainstream Broadway plays, one of whom advised the actor to wait until he "grew into" his character-actor face. As Harold Bernardi, he played a bit in the 1945 Hollywood film Miss Susie Slagle's. He was one of several actors blacklisted for their alleged leftist politics in the 1950s, an experience he relived as a cast member of the 1976 film The Front. Shortly after being "exonerated," Bernardi was cast in the recurring role of Lt. Jacoby on the late-1950s series Peter Gunn, an assignment for which he won an Emmy. In 1969, Bernardi played the starring part of a blue-collar worker thrust into the executive pool in the TV sitcom Arnie. He also provided voiceovers for hundreds of cartoons and commercials, "starring" as Charley the Tuna and the Jolly Green Giant. On Broadway in the 1960s and '70s, Herschel Bernardi starred in over 700 performances of Fiddler on the Roof and also played the lead in the musical Zorba; at one juncture, Bernardi had so strained his vocal chords that he was ordered by his doctor not to speak for a full year, lest he permanently lose his voice.