Martin S. Bergmann, a psychoanalyst, author and educator who became known to a wide general audience for his unplanned, much-praised role as a philosopher in Woody Allen’s 1989 film, “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 100.
His son, Michael, confirmed the death.
At his death, Mr. Bergmann was an adjunct clinical professor of psychology in the postdoctoral program in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy at New York University, where he had taught for many years; he had been scheduled to teach a seminar there next week, Michael Bergmann said.
Mr. Bergmann also maintained a private psychoanalytic practice, although, in a concession to his age, he had scaled it back to about 30 hours a week.
A Freudian known for his erudition — he was the author of scholarly books on love, psychoanalysis, history and religion — Mr. Bergmann landed in “Crimes and Misdemeanors” entirely by chance, through a student of his who happened to know the casting director.
As the student was aware, Mr. Allen was looking for a tweedy, white-haired, European-sounding psychoanalyst to portray Professor Louis Levy, a humanistic philosopher. In the movie, a dark comedy about marriage and its discontents, Mr. Allen plays a filmmaker at work on a documentary about Levy, who is seen only in film clips.
Mr. Bergmann fit the bill. Introduced to Mr. Allen, he answered his searching questions about philosophical matters like love, life and death. Twenty minutes later, as The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1989, Mr. Allen told him, “You’ll do.”
Much of Levy’s dialogue in the film was extemporized by Mr. Bergmann along similar philosophical lines.
“Human happiness does not seem to have been included in the design of creation,” Mr. Bergmann, as Levy, says. “It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe.”
Mr. Bergmann, whose professional training let him put his finger instantly on the operative question in almost any situation, did wonder why, if Mr. Allen wanted a philosopher, he did not simply cast a philosopher.
“I asked him that question,” Mr. Bergmann told Newsday in 1989. “He didn’t answer.”
Martin Shlomo Bergmann was born in Prague on Feb. 15, 1913. His father, Hugo, was a noted philosopher and an early Zionist; the family moved toPalestine when Martin was 6.
As a young man in the 1930s, Mr. Bergmann was sent by his kibbutz to study agriculture in the United States. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field from the University of California, Berkeley.
During this time, Mr. Bergmann’s parents divorced and he chose not to return to Palestine. Already interested in psychology, he began reading Freud while at Berkeley.
During World War II he served stateside in the United States Army, where his duties included administering psychological tests to servicemen. After World War II, he settled in New York, where he received his psychoanalytic training.
His books include “The Anatomy of Loving” (1987), a history of mankind’s struggle, from antiquity to modernity, to understand love; “In the Shadow of Moloch: The Sacrifice of Children and Its Impact on Western Religions” (1992); and several volumes he edited, among them “Generations of the Holocaust” (1982, with Milton E. Jucovy) and “Understanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of Psychoanalysis” (2004).
Among his many honors is the Distinguished Psychoanalytic Educator Award from the International Federation for Psychoanalytic Education.
On the strength of “Crimes and Misdemeanors” — and perhaps inspired by the cleansing power of psychoanalysis — a maker of washing machines attempted to cast Mr. Bergmann in a television commercial. He declined, his son said.
After an early marriage that ended in divorce, Mr. Bergmann married Maria Vari in 1947. Besides his wife, a psychoanalyst, and his son, a filmmaker, Mr. Bergmann’s survivors include a grandson.
When Mr. Bergmann first saw “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” he received a psychological jolt: at the end of the film, he discovered, Professor Levy commits suicide off camera.
“It was a little bit of a shock,” Mr. Bergmann told The Inquirer in 1989. “It was essential for Woody Allen, to develop the plot. It wasn’t so nice for me. Some of my patients were quite upset.”