NEW YORK (AP) _ Herbert Berghof, an acting teacher whose students included Geraldine Page, Fritz Weaver, Liza Minnelli, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, has died at age 81.

Berghof, who also was a director and actor, died Monday at his Manhattan home of a heart ailment, a family spokesman said.

For more than 50 years, Berghof helped to hone the stage and screen skills of performers. Among his students were Miss Page, Weaver, Miss Minnelli, Pacino, DeNiro, Anne Bancroft, Donna McKechnie and Matthew Broderick.

He showcased many works by new playwrights at his Greenwich Village school, the Herbert Berghof Studio.

Berghof, who fled his native Austria after the country merged with Nazi Germany in 1938, opened an acting school in the Chelsea section of Manhattan in 1945.

In 1947, he became a charter member of the Actors Studio, but came to disagree with his colleagues there who preferred the Method Technique when he shifted his own focus to an emphasis on actions rather than thoughts and reactions.

Among the plays he directed was the American premiere of Samuel Beckett's ''Waiting for Godot,'' in 1956.

He also directed New York productions of the first black version of ''Godot'' in 1957, Jean Cocteau's ''Infernal Machine'' (1958), F. Scott Fitzgerald's ''This Side of Paradise'' (1962), Pavel Kohout's ''Poor Murderer'' (1976), and Peter Hacks' ''Charlotte,'' starring his wife, Uta Hagen, in 1980.

Some of Berghof's Broadway roles were in ''King Lear'' (1940), ''Little Women'' (1944), ''Ghosts'' and Hedda Gabler'' (1948).

In addition to Hagen, his wife of nearly 40 years, Berghof is survived by a step-daughter, Letitia Ferrer of Manhattan, and a granddaughter.