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Candice Bergen Biography


Home > Actresses > B > Bergen, Candice > Biography


Birth Name: Candice Bergen
Born: 05/09/1946
Birth Place: Beverly Hills, California, USA


Candice Bergen was born on May 9, 1946, and as the daughter of one of the era's top entertainers, she was immediately in the spotlight. Her father, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, was known the world over for the comedy act he performed with his cheeky wooden sidekick Charlie McCarthy on the radio and the big screen. Her mother, Frances Bergen, was a talented singer, actress and model in her own right. The couple was the toast of Hollywood and their gorgeous blonde daughter played with the children of other famous entertainers while the likes of Jimmy Stewart or Walt Disney were having cocktails in the family living room. While sometimes it was hard playing second fiddle to her father's famous dummy - who, incidentally, had a bigger bedroom than she did - Bergen was given the opportunity to take the stage early on, guesting on dad's radio show at the age of eight and going head to head with Groucho Marx on "You Bet Your Life" (NBC, 1950-1961) when she was 12. By the time "Candy" was a Beverly Hills teen, she was modeling for the Ford agency and beginning to tire of her conservative, privileged background. She spent a few years studying writing and art history at the University of Pennsylvania before returning to Los Angeles where she lived with record producer Terry Melcher (Doris Day's son) and half-heartedly launched a film career with a role as an intellectual lesbian in "The Group" (1966).

For her first acting outings, Bergen did not earn critical favor and in fact was likened to her "wooden" inanimate "brother" Charlie. But her beauty and lineage were enough to propel her career. Bergen took a string of film jobs based on their opportunity to travel to exciting locations, appearing in "The Sand Pebbles" (1966) opposite Steve McQueen and playing Elliot Gould's leading lady in the counter-culture "Getting Straight" (1970). A progressive feminist who had even joined Abbie Hoffman on some of his anti-establishment pranks, Bergen reinforced her image with a role as a white woman "getting back to the land" by living among Native Americans in "Solider Blue" (1971). She played a co-ed romanced by Art Garfunkel in Mike Nichols' comedy "Carnal Knowledge" (1971), yet there were many who continued to question her acting talent, given her obvious blonde beauty. Bergen herself admitted she did not take acting very seriously in her early years, when her passion leaned more towards radical politics, photography and exotic travel. She spent some time in Africa with famed anthropologist Jane Goodall at her chimpanzee research site and landed photojournalism assignments for major magazines. Her exclusive photo feature on president Gerald Ford and the first family was published in Ladies Home Journal and a session with aging silent filmmaker Charlie Chaplin was featured on the cover of Life magazine.

After several years away from the screen, Bergen returned in the mid-1970s with a new focus and dedication towards acting. She immediately gave one of her best dramatic performances in John Milius' "The Wind and the Lion" (1975), in which she played an American woman kidnapped by a Moroccan sheik (Sean Connery). That same year, a spot as the first female guest host of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) suggested a career shift for the actress who had largely been seen in dramatic fare. She followed up in the sappy "Oliver's Story" (1978) - the sequel to 1970's "Love Story" - and worked with famed German director Lina Wertmuller in the heady "The End of the World in Our Usual Bed in a Night Full of Rain" (1978), but she finally hit her stride with a shift towards comedy the following year.

Appropriately enough, her turnaround came with "Starting Over" (1979), where she was brilliant in the poignantly funny role of a tone deaf woman determined to be a singer. The film demonstrated her full comedic and dramatic range and earned her an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress. She followed up with a strong performance in "Rich and Famous" (1981), an uneven remake of the 1943 Bette Davis-Miriam Hopkins vehicle "Old Acquaintance," starring opposite Jacqueline Bisset as a pair of best friends challenged by their competition in careers and love. That same year, Bergen married award-winning French film director Louis Malle and began splitting her time between the United States and France.

Bergen was still active in photojournalism, so when the opportunity arose to fuse both of her careers with a brief portrayal of her idol photographer Margaret Bourke-White in Richard Attenborough's Oscar-winning epic "Gandhi" (1982), she jumped at the chance. In 1985 she gave birth to only daughter Chl and made her Broadway debut in David Rabe's Hollywood satire "Hurlyburly," directed by Mike Nichols. Her career shifted away from the big screen with diverse TV movie roles as the evil Morgan Le Fay in "Arthur the King" (CBS, 1985), the doomed Polish wife of an abusive husband in "Murder: By Reason of Insanity" (CBS, 1985), and the insecure wife who would do anything to revive the career of her fading movie star husband in the ABC miniseries "Hollywood Wives" (1985). In 1987, she was well-cast as the society debutante-turned-escort service owner Sidney Biddle Barrows, the so-called "Mayflower Madam" (CBS), before creating her career legacy with the title role in "Murphy Brown."

The female-centric program stood head and shoulders above the sitcom crowd for its bold incorporation of current events and lifestyle issues into the setting of a fictional TV news magazine. With her reputation in journalism and history as a proponent of progressive causes, Bergen was a perfect choice to play the wry, outspoken news anchor who eventually evolves into a single parent, breast cancer survivor and role model for the new wave of 1990s working moms. Her iconic modern image so permeated pop culture that it was even referenced by Vice President Dan Quayle in a 1992 "family values" speech that critiqued the show's so-called "glamorizing" of the single parent lifestyle. But Quayle was the one to receive media backlash and Bergen and "Brown" continued to be a major television force, with its star earning a record five Emmy wins for Best Actress before requesting her name be removed from the ballot.

After the great "Murphy Brown" era came to a close in 1998 - and after weathering her husband Louis Malle's death from cancer in 1995 - Bergen made several television appearances, including as an editor of Vogue magazine in "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) and launched her own short-lived talk show on the Oxygen network, "Exhale with Candice Bergen" (2000-01). After a long absence from the big screen, she emerged in a small role as a beauty pageant judge in the Sandra Bullock hit comedy "Miss Congeniality" (2000) and took on more surprisingly one-dimensional roles as a cartoonish shrew of a New York mayor in the Reese Witherspoon rom-com "Sweet Home Alabama" (2002) and a flight attendant in the dreadful airline comedy "A View from the Top" (2003).

Welcome guest spots on "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990- ) and "Will & Grace" (1998-2006) helped woo Bergen back to primetime. It was no surprise then that in 2005, she joined the cast of the acclaimed dramedy, "Boston Legal." Bergen was a hit as the whip smart and sexy Shirley Schmidt of the Boston law firm Crane, Poole and Schmidt, where among her many duties were keeping unpredictable former lover Denny Crane (William Shatner) in line. In 2006, Bergen's always-lively performance earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and she was again given an Emmy nod in 2008. That same year, the 62-year-old actress reprised her role - this time, in a cameo - as Vogue editor Enid Frick in the wildly popular chick flick, "Sex and the City: The Movie" (2008).