In a six-decade-plus career (she started out as a radio performer at age14), there are very few facets of entertainment that lovelysinger/actress Polly Bergen has not conquered or, at the very least,touched upon. A nightclub and Columbia recording artist of the 50s and60s, she is just as well known for her film and Emmy-winning dramaticperformances as she is for her wry comedic gifts. In the leaner times,she has maintained quite well with her various businesses. Truly onefor the ages, Polly has, at age 70+, nabbed a Tony nomination for hergutsy "I'm Still Here" entertainer Carlotta in'Stephen Sondheim' 's "Follies", and is still dishing out the barbsas she recently demonstrated as 'Felicity Huffman' 's earthy mom on "Desperate Housewives" (2004) .
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee as Nellie Burgin on July 14, 1930, herfamily, which included father William, mother Lucy and sister Barbra,eventually moved to Los Angeles. By the time she was 14, Polly wassinging professionally on radio and managed to scrape up singing gigswith smaller bands around and about the Southern California area. Sheattended Compton Junior College before Paramount mogul'Hal B. Wallis' caught sight of her and signed her up with hisstudio. Having made an isolated film debut (as Polly Burgin) a yearearlier in the Monogram western Across the Rio Grande (1949) ,Wallis showcased her as a decorative love interest in the slapstickvehicles of 'Dean Martin (I)' and 'Jerry Lewis (I)' , the(then) hottest comedy team in Hollywood.
But At War with the Army (1950) , That's My Boy (1951) and The Stooge (1951) did little for Polly although she presentedherself well. MGM and Universal had the idea to cast her in a moreserious vein with co-starring roles in their dramas Escape from Fort Bravo (1953) , Arena (1953) and Cry of the Hunted (1953) , but again she was overlooked. Disasppointed, she decided to abandon her lucrative film contract andseek work elsewhere. That "elsewhere" came in the form of 1950s TV. Focusing on her singing,she promoted her many albums for Columbia by guest-starring on all thetop variety shows of the times.
This culminated in her own varietyprogram, "The Polly Bergen Show" (1957) . The song "The Party'sOver" became her traditional show-closer and signature tune. Polly alsoshowed some marquee mettle on the cabaret and nightclub circuits,performing at many of the top hotels and showrooms throughout thecountry. She made her Broadway debut along with 'Harry Belafonte' in "John Murray Anderson's Almanac" in 1953, and went on to appear insuch stage shows as "Top Man" and "Champagne Complex". A delightfullyengaging game show panelist to boot, she took a regular seat on the "To Tell the Truth" (1956) panel for five seasons.
Polly tended to display a looser, down-to-earth personality to inducelaughs but she was also was formidable dramatic player and fashionplate quite capable of radiating great charm, poise and elegance. Forher role as alcoholic torch singer 'Helen Morgan (I)' in thespecial TV showcase "The Helen Morgan Story", she took home the Emmyaward. Unfortunately for Polly, 'Ann Blyth' took on the role ofthe tragic singer in the film version (with 'Gogi Grant' providingthe vocals), in what could have been a significant return to films forher. Instead, Polly had to wait another five years for that to happen. As thewife of 'Gregory Peck' and designated victim of revengefulpsychopath 'Robert Mitchum (I)' in the taut movie thriller Cape Fear (1962) , her film career reignited.
Other opportunitiescame in the form of her distraught mental patient in The Caretakers (1963) , which found her at odds with nurse'Joan Crawford (I)' and doctor 'Robert Stack (I)' ; thesparkling comedy Move Over, Darling (1963) , which placed her ina comedy triangle with "other wife" 'Doris Day (I)' and husband'James Garner (I)' ; and as the first woman Chief Executive of theWhite House in the frothy comedy tidbit Kisses for My President (1964) opposite bemused "FirstGentleman" 'Fred MacMurray' . In what was to be a tinge of deja vu,Polly again saw her movie career dissipate after only a couple ofvehicles. True to form, the indomitable Polly rebounded on TV. A mild string of TV-movies came her way as she matured into the 1970sand 1980s, most notably the acclaimed miniseries "The Winds of War" (1983) , which reunited her with'Robert Mitchum (I)' , this time as his unhappy, alcoholic wife. This, along with her participation in the sequel, "War and Remembrance" (1988) , earned Polly supporting Emmynominations.
In the years to come, she would find herself still indemand displaying her trademark comic grit in such shows as "The Sopranos" (1999) , "Commander in Chief" (2005) and "Desperate Housewives" (2004) . Polly returned to singing in 1999 after nearly a three-decade absence(due to health and vocal issues). Quite huskier in tone, she went on todelight the New York musical stage with stand-out performances in"Follies" (2001), "Cabaret" (2002) and "Camille Claudel" (2007). Pollystill makes nitery appearances and has even put together singingconcert tours on occasion. Polly has authored three best-selling beauty books outside the actingarena and has demonstrated a marked level of acumen in the businessworld.
Founding a mail-order cosmetics business in 1965, she sold it toFaberge eight years later. She also developed her own shoe and jewelrylines. Married (1950-1955) to MGM actor 'Jerome Courtland' during herfirst movie career peak, she later wed topflight agent/producer'Freddie Fields' in 1957, a union that lasted 18 years andproduced two adopted children, Pamela and Peter. A third marriage inthe 1980s also ended in divorce. An assertive voice when it comes towomen's rights and issues, her memoir "Polly's Principles" came out in1974.
|1||A Conversation with Polly Bergen||2007||as Herself|
|2||Bing Crosbys White Christmas USO All Star Show||1958||as Herself|
|3||Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde||1995||as Mrs. Unterveldt|
|4||Half a Hero||1953||as Herself - Guest Appearance|
|5||Kisses for My President||1964||as Leslie McCloud|
|6||Max Liebman Presents: The Maurice Chevalier Show||1956||as Herself|
|7||Move Over, Darling||1963||as Bianca Steele Arden|
|8||The Making of War & Remembrance||2004||as Herself|
|9||The Princess Grace Foundation Special Gala Tribute to Cary Grant||1988||as Herself|
|10||Arthur Godfrey and His Friends||1949||as Herself|
|11||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||1963||as Jennifer Randolph|
|12||Dr. Kildare||1961||as Janice Graham/Cathy Brandon|
|13||One on One with John Tesh||1991||as Herself - Guest|
|14||The Bell Telephone Hour||1959||as Herself - Host|
|15||The Chuck Woolery Show||1991||as Herself - Guest|
|16||The Colgate Comedy Hour||1950||as Herself - Actress|
|17||The Joey Bishop Show||1967||as Herself - Guest Host|
|18||The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse||1953||as Host (1954-1955)|
|19||The Polly Bergen Show||1957||as Herself - Hostess|
|20||The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson||1962||as Herself - Guest|
|21||Whats My Line?||1950||as Herself - Mystery Guest|
|22||A Guide for the Married Man||1967||as Technical Adviser (Clara Brown)|
|23||A Very Serious Person||2006||as Mrs. A|
|24||Across the Rio Grande||1949||as Cantina Singer|
|25||Addicted to His Love||1988||as Vivien Langford|
|26||Arena||1953||as Ruth Danvers|
|27||Arly Hanks||1993||as Ruby Bee|
|28||At War with the Army||1950||as Helen Palmer|
|29||Atlantic City Holiday||1956||as Herself|
|30||Belle Sommers||1962||as Belle Sommers|
|31||Born Beautiful||1982||as Marion Carmody|
|32||Candles on Bay Street||2006||as Rosemary|
|33||Cape Fear||1962||as Peggy Bowden|
|34||Champion||1949||as Radio and Jukebox Singer|
|35||Cry of the Hunted||1953||as Janet Tunner|
|36||Cry-Baby||1990||as Mrs. Vernon-Williams|
|37||Death Cruise||1974||as Sylvia Carter|
|38||Desperate Housewives Special: Secrets and Lies||2007||as Stella Wingfield|
|39||Doris & Marty||2007||as Herself|
|40||Doris Days Best Friends||2007||as Herself|