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6th Resident at MPTF Nursing Facility Dies of Coronavirus

Leah Bernstein was the executive secretary for the late producer and manager Irving Fein

Leah Bernstein died on Wednesday night from coronavirus complications, the sixth person to die from COVID-19 complications at Woodland Hills nursing home. She was 99.

Bernstein was the executive secretary for the late producer and manager Irving Fein, among others. Bernstein lived in the Mary Pickford House on the Motion Picture and Television Fund campus for the past two years. She was born in 1921, the same year MPTF was founded.

“Leah was a native Los Angeleno, who got to live her dream. She always loved movies and made it her goal to work in the entertainment industry,” MPTF president and CEO Bob Beitcher said in a statement to TheWrap. “At age 16, thanks to her focus on typing, shorthand and bookkeeping at Fairfax High, she landed a job working from 5pm to midnight at MGM Studios.”

Later in her career, Bernstein worked with producer and director Stanley Kramer on 28 films. She counted luminaries such as Sidney Poitier, Bobby Darin, and Vivien Leigh among her friends. “I remember Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney playing outside the window, and Katharine Hepburn was always trying to get me to play tennis,” she said in a 2015 interview, according to a release from MPTF.

In 2007, Bernstein donated a collection of production materials from her years with Kramer to the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Reflecting on her career, Bernstein would often say that she was most proud of the social impact of the films she made with Kramer and Sidney Poitier and the way they defied stereotypes of the time.

Dorothy Schlom, MPTF resident, whose husband Marshall Schlom worked with Kramer as a script supervisor, said of Bernstein, “She was a delight to know. I remember her sense of humor and the twinkle in her eye as she juggled the problems of the day. She and Marshall often worked together to make Stanley laugh in spite of himself.”

In retirement, Bernstein enjoyed spending time with her family, especially her great-great nieces and nephews, and was a dedicated volunteer for organizations such as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Beverly Hills Public Library.

Even in her late 90s, Bernstein had a dry, witty sense of humor and was a flirt until her last days. Celebrating her enduring sweetness, one staff member fondly recalled, “She believed the most important thing you could do with your life was be genuinely kind to others, and she would often say to us ‘thank you for being so nice to me.'”

Leah lived her final days on the same campus as her old boss Kramer, who passed away at the Motion Picture Home in 2001.