American actress Candice Bergen was a celebrity even before she was born. As the first child of popular radio ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his young wife Frances, Candice was a hot news item months before her birth, and headline material upon that blessed event (her coming into the world even prompted magazine cartoons which suggested that Edgar would try to confound the nurses by “giving” his new daughter a voice). Candice made her first public appearance as an infant, featured with her parents in a magazine advertisement. Before she was ten, Candice was appearing sporadically on dad’s radio program, demonstrating a precocious ability to throw her own voice (a skill she hasn’t been called upon to repeat in recent years); at 11 she and Groucho Marx’s daughter Melinda were guest contestants on Groucho’s TV quiz show You Bet Your Life. Candice loved her parents and luxuriated in her posh lifestyle, though she was set apart from other children in that her “brothers” were the wooden dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd – and Charlie had a bigger bedroom than she did! Like most 1960s teens, however, she rebelled against the conservatism of her parents and adopted a well-publicized, freewheeling lifestyle – and a movie career. In her first film, The Group (1965), Candice played a wealthy young lesbian – a character light years away from the sensibilities of her old-guard father. She next appeared with Steve McQueen in the big budget The Sand Pebbles (1966), simultaneously running smack dab into the unkind cuts of critics, who made the expected (given her parentage) comments concerning her “wooden” performance. Truth to tell, Candice did look far better than she acted, and this status quo remained throughout most of her film appearances of the late 1960s; even Candice admitted she wasn’t much of an actress, though she allowed (in another moment that must have given papa Edgar pause) that she was terrific when required in a film to simulate an orgasm. Several films later, Candice decided to take her career more seriously than did her critics, and began emerging into a talented and reliable actress in such films as Carnal Knowledge (1971) and The Wind and the Lion (1975). Most observers agree that Candice’s true turnaround was her touching but hilarious performance as a divorced woman pursuing a singing career – with little in the way of talent – in the Burt Reynolds comedy Starting Over (1979). Candice’s roller-coaster offscreen life settled into relative normality when she married French film director Louis Malle; meanwhile, her acting career gained momentum as she sought out and received ever-improving movie and TV roles. In 1988, Candice began a run in the title role of the television sitcom Murphy Brown, in which she was brilliant as a mercurial, high-strung TV newsmagazine reporter, a role that won Ms. Bergen several Emmy Awards. While Murphy Brown capped Candice Bergen’s full acceptance by audiences and critics as an actress of stature, it also restored her to “headline” status in 1992 – when, in direct response to the fictional Murphy Brown’s decision to become a single mother, Vice President Dan Quayle delivered his notorious “family values” speech.
Murphy Brown finished its successful run in 1997, and Bergen would make a handful of big-screen appearances in the ensuing years including Miss Congeniality, Sweet Home Alabama, and The In-Laws. In 2004 she became part of the cast of Boston Legal, another hit show that ran for five often award-winning seasons. When that show came to a close, she appeared in films such as The Women, Sex and the City, and Bride Wars – where she portrayed the country’s leading wedding planner.