Nellie Paulina Burgin
July 14, 1930
Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||September 20, 2014 (aged 84)|
Southbury, Connecticut, U.S.
|Children||3, including Kathy Fields (stepchild)|
Polly Bergen (born Nellie Paulina Burgin; July 14, 1930 – September 20, 2014) was an American actress, singer, television host, writer and entrepreneur.
She won an Emmy Award in 1958 for her performance as Helen Morgan in The Helen Morgan Story. For her stage work, she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Carlotta Campion in Follies in 2001. Her film work included Cape Fear (1962) and The Caretakers (1963), for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. She hosted her own weekly variety show for one season (The Polly Bergen Show), was a regular panelist on the TV game show To Tell The Truth, and later in life had roles in The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives. She wrote three books on beauty, fashion, and charm. She is also the inspiration behind Mother Goose in The Land of Stories.
Bergen was born in Knoxville, Tennessee to Lucy (née Lawhorne; 1909–1985) and William Hugh Burgin (1909–1982), a construction engineer. Bill Bergen, as he was later known, had singing talent and appeared with his daughter in several episodes of her 18-episode comedy/variety show The Polly Bergen Show, which aired during the 1957–1958 television season to much fanfare. They released a duet Columbia LP Polly and Her Pop.
Bergen appeared in many film roles, most notably in the original Cape Fear (1962) opposite Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. She had roles as the romantic interest in three Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy films in the early 1950s: At War with the Army, That's My Boy, and The Stooge. She was featured in a number of Westerns during the 1950s, including Warpath, Arena, and Escape from Fort Bravo. She starred in the horse racing comedy Fast Company; she starred as the first female commander-in-chief in Kisses for My President; and as the wife of James Garner in the romantic comedy Move Over, Darling, which also starred Doris Day. Bergen's later roles included Mrs. Vernon-Williams in Cry-Baby, a John Waters film.
Bergen received an Emmy Award for her portrayal of singer Helen Morgan in the episode The Helen Morgan Story of the 1950s television series Playhouse 90. Signed to Columbia Records, she also enjoyed a successful recording career during this era. In the 1950s, she was known as "The Pepsi Cola Girl", having done a series of commercials for this product.
She was a regular panelist on the game show To Tell the Truth during its original run. She was an occasional panelist and appeared three times as the mystery guest on What's My Line?. She appeared on the interview program Here's Hollywood. She earned two Emmy Award nominations for her role as Rhoda Henry, wife of Captain "Pug" Henry (played by Mitchum), in two miniseries: The Winds of War and its sequel War and Remembrance.
Bergen starred in a 2001 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies at the Belasco Theater and received a Tony Award nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Musical. In 2003, she starred at the same theatre in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks opposite Mark Hamill in a role she took over from Rue McClanahan.
In 2004, Bergen played Fran Felstein on HBO's The Sopranos, the former mistress of Johnny Soprano and John F. Kennedy. From 2007 to 2011, Bergen had a guest role in Desperate Housewives as Stella Wingfield, which earned her an Emmy Award nomination.
She was a semi-regular cast member of Commander-in-Chief (2006) as the mother of Mackenzie Allen, the fictional president of the United States, played by Geena Davis. Bergen had once played the first female president of the United States in the movie Kisses for My President (1964). Another late appearance came in the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation Candles on Bay Street (2006), in which she played the assistant to a husband-and-wife team of veterinarians.
In 1965, Bergen created the Polly Bergen Company cosmetics line also known as Oil of the Turtle. She also created lines of jewelry and shoe brands, and wrote three books on beauty.
Bergen was married to actor Jerome Courtland in the early 1950s. In 1957, she married Hollywood agent-producer Freddie Fields, with whom she had two adopted children, Pamela Kerry Fields and Peter William Fields, and stepdaughter, Kathy Fields. Bergen converted from Southern Baptist to Judaism upon marrying Fields. The couple divorced in 1975. She was married to entrepreneur Jeffrey Endervelt in the 1980s.
In 1991, Bergen spoke about having had an abortion, for inclusion in the book The Choices We Made: Twenty-Five Women and Men Speak Out About Abortion.
On March 31, 1993, Brandon Lee died accidentally on the set of The Crow, and in early April, Bergen held a memorial at her home in Los Angeles, and 200 of Lee's family, friends and business associates attended.
Bergen was a liberal-minded, politically active Democrat and feminist. She was an active advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment, women's education, and Planned Parenthood. Bergen's niece is the television producer Wendy Riche.
Bergen died of natural causes on September 20, 2014, at her home in Southbury, Connecticut, surrounded by family and close friends. She had been diagnosed with emphysema and other ailments in the late 1990s. Upon her death, she was cremated.
|1949||Across the Rio Grande||Singer||(as Polly Burgin)|
|1950||At War with the Army||Helen Palmer||A Martin & Lewis comedy|
|1951||That's My Boy||Betty 'Babs' Hunter||A Martin & Lewis comedy|
|1952||The Stooge||Mary Turner||A Martin & Lewis comedy|
|1953||Cry of the Hunted||Janet Tunner|
|1953||Half a Hero||Herself-Guest Appearance|
|1953||Fast Company||Carol Maldon|
|1953||Escape from Fort Bravo||Alice Owens|
|1954||The Blue Angel||Herself-Host|
|1962||Cape Fear||Peggy Bowden|
|1963||The Caretakers||Lorna Melford||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama|
|1963||Move Over, Darling||Bianca Steele||A Doris Day - James Garner comedy|
|1964||Kisses for My President||U.S. President Leslie Harrison McCloud|
|1967||A Guide for the Married Man||Technical Adviser (Clara Brown)|
|1987||Making Mr. Right||Estelle Stone|
|1989||Mother, Mother||Barbara Cutler||Short film|
|1990||Cry-Baby||Mrs. Vernon-Williams||A comedy directed by John Waters|
|1995||Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde||Mrs. Unterveldt|
|1995||Once Upon a Time... When We Were Colored||Miss Maybry|
|2005||Paradise, Texas||Beverly Cameron|
|2006||A Very Serious Person||Mrs. A|
|2012||Struck by Lightning||Grandma|
|1954, Oct 16||Your Hit Parade||Singing ‘Mountain Scenery’|
|1954–55||The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse||Herself/Host|
|1956–61||To Tell the Truth||Herself||165 episodes|
|1957||Playhouse 90||Helen Morgan||"The Helen Morgan Story" (episode 33)|
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
|1957–58||The Polly Bergen Show||Herself||18 episodes|
|1960||The George Burns Show||Herself||Guest|
|1961||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Crystal Coe||Episode: "You Can't Trust a Man"|
|1961||Wagon Train||Kitty Allbright||Episode: "The Kitty Allbright Story"|
|1962||What's My Line||Herself||Episode: "January 28, 1962|
|1962||Belle Sommers||Belle Sommers||Movie|
|1967||The Red Skelton Show||Myrtle (Bolivar's Fiancee)||Season 17, Episode 12, "Red's Relatives"|
|1973||Thriller||Suzy Hunter||Season 1, Episode 4 “An Echo of Theresa”|
|1974||Death Cruise||Sylvia Carter||Movie|
|1975||Murder on Flight 502||Mona Briarly||Movie|
|1976||Ellery Queen||Dina Carroll-Winer||Episode: "The Tyrant of Tin Pan Alley"|
|1977||79 Park Avenue||Vera Keppler||Movie|
|1978||How to Pick Up Girls!||Dana Greenberg||Movie|
|1981||The Million Dollar Face||Jo Burns||Movie|
|1982||Born Beautiful||Marion Carmody||Movie|
|1982||The Love Boat||Dana Pierce||3 episodes|
|1983||The Winds of War||Rhoda Henry||Miniseries (6 episodes)|
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
|1984||Fantasy Island||Esther Brandell||Episode: "Lady of the House/Mrs. Brandell's Favorites"|
|1985||Hotel||Elizabeth Hastings||Episode: "Images"|
|1985||Murder, She Wrote||Dr. Jocelyn Laird||Episode: "School for Scandal"|
|1988||Addicted to His Love||Vivien Langford||Movie|
|1988||She Was Marked for Murder||Laura Lee Webster||Movie|
|1988–89||War and Remembrance||Rhoda Henry||Miniseries (6 episodes)|
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
|1988||My Two Dads||Evelyn Taylor||Episode: "Joey's Mother-in-Law"|
|1989||Jake and the Fatman||Emma Julian||Episode: "By Myself"|
|1989||The Haunting of Sarah Hardy||Emily Stepford||Movie|
|1989||My Brother's Wife||Myra Gilbert||Movie|
|1990||Steel Magnolias||Clairee Belcher||Unsold pilot|
|1991–92||Baby Talk||Doris Campbell||23 episodes|
|1992||Lady Against the Odds||Cleo Storrs||Movie|
|1993||Arly Hanks||Ruby Bee||Movie|
|1994||Burke's Law||Rachel Doucet||Episode: "Who Killed the Starlet?"|
|1995||The Surrogate||Sandy Gilman||Movie|
|1996||In the Blink of an Eye||Murial||Movie|
|1996||For Hope||Molly Altman||Movie|
|1998||Touched by an Angel||Stella||Episode: "Deconstructing Harry"|
|2004||The Sopranos||Fran Felstein||Episode: "In Camelot"|
|2005–06||Commander in Chief||Kate Allen||10 episodes|
|2006||Candles on Bay Street||Rosemary||Movie|
|2007–11||Desperate Housewives||Stella Wingfield||10 episodes|
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
|1952||Musical Comedy Theater||"On an Island with You"|||
Albums list adapted from AllMusic and Discogs.