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[[Image:File:Polly Bergen 1953.JPG|]]
Bergen in 1953
Polly Bergen
Background information
Birthname Nellie Paulina Burgin
Birthdate (1930-Template:MONTHNUMBER-14)14, 1930
Birthplace Knoxville, Tennessee, United States
Death date

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Deathplace Southbury, Connecticut, United States
Cause of death
alternate names
Occuptation(s) Actress, singer, writer, entrepreneur
Years active 1949–2012
Jerome Courtland
(m. 1950⁠–⁠Expression error: Unexpected < operator.)
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Freddie Fields
(m. 1957⁠–⁠Expression error: Unexpected < operator.)
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Jeffrey Endervelt
(m. 1982⁠–⁠Expression error: Unexpected < operator.)
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Children 2 adopted children
1 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 variety show for one season (The Polly Bergen Show), and as an author wrote three books on beauty, fashion and charm.

Early life

Bergen was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, to Lucy (née Lawhorn) and William Hugh Burgin, a construction engineer.[1] "Bill Bergen", as he was later known, had singing talent and appeared with his daughter in several episodes of her 18-episode NBC comedy/variety show, The Polly Bergen Show, which aired during the 1957-1958 television season.[2]


File:PollyBergen89 crop.jpg

Bergen at the 1989 Emmy Awards

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 also starred in a horse-racing comedy, Fast Company, 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, also starring Doris Day. Bergen's later roles included Mrs. Vernon-Williams in Cry-Baby, a John Waters film.[3]

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.[4] Signed to Columbia Records, she enjoyed a successful recording career during this era, as well. In the 1950s, she also was known as "The Pepsi Cola Girl", having done a series of commercials for that product.[5]

She was a regular panelist on the CBS game show To Tell the Truth, during its original run. She also appeared on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood. She earned an Emmy Award nomination for her role as Rhoda Henry, wife of Captain "Pug" Henry (played by Mitchum), in two ABC miniseries, The Winds of War and its sequel, War and Remembrance.[3]

She 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.[6] 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.[7][8]

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 Lynette Scavo's mother, Stella Wingfield, which earned her an Emmy Award nomination.[3]

She was a semi-regular cast member of Commander-in-Chief (2006) as the mother of Mackenzie Allen, the President of the United States, played by Geena Davis.[3] Bergen herself had once played the first female President of the United States, as President Leslie McCloud in the film Kisses for My President (1964).[3] 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.[3]

In 1965, Bergen created the Polly Bergen Company cosmetics line. She also created lines of jewelry and shoe brands, and authored three books on beauty.[5]

Personal life

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.[9][10] The couple divorced in 1975. She was married to entrepreneur Jeffrey Endervelt in the 1980s.[9][11]

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.[12][13] Bergen's niece is the television producer Wendy Riche.[14]


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.[11][15]



Year Title Role Notes
1949 Champion Singer Uncredited
1949 Across the Rio Grande Singer
1950 The Men Singer Uncredited
1950 At War with the Army Helen Palmer
1951 That's My Boy Betty 'Babs' Hunter
1951 Warpath Molly Quade
1952 The Stooge Mary Turner
1953 Cry of the Hunted Janet Tunner
1953 Half a Hero Red Skelton
1953 Fast Company Carol Maldon
1953 Arena Ruth Danvers
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
1964 Kisses for My President U.S. President Leslie Harrison McCloud
1967 A Guide for the Married Man Technical Adviser (Clara Brown)
1984 Velvet Mrs. Vance
1987 Making Mr. Right Estelle Stone
1989 Mother, Mother Barbara Cutler Short film
1990 Cry-Baby Mrs. Vernon-Williams
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


Year Title Role Notes
1954–1955 The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse Herself-Host Unknown episodes
1956–1961 To Tell the Truth Herself 165 episodes
1957 Playhouse 90: The Helen Morgan Story (Season 1, Episode 33) Helen Morgan Television film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1957–1958 The Polly Bergen Show Herself 18 episodes
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 Television film
1974 Death Cruise Sylvia Carter Television film
1975 Murder on Flight 502 Mona Briarly Television film
1977 79 Park Avenue Vera Keppler Television film
1977 Telethon Dorothy Goodwin Television film
1978 How to Pick Up Girls! Dana Greenberg Television film
1981 The Million Dollar Face Jo Burns Television film
1982 Born Beautiful Marion Carmody Television film
1982 The Love Boat Dana Pierce 3 episodes
1983 The Winds of War Rhoda Henry 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 Television film
1988 She Was Marked for Murder Laura Lee Webster Television film
1988–1989 War and Remembrance Rhoda Henry 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 Television film
1989 My Brother's Wife Myra Gilbert Television film
1990 Steel Magnolias Clairee Belcher Unsold TV pilot
1991 Lightning Field Carol Television film
1991–1992 Baby Talk Doris Campbell 23 episodes
1992 Lady Against the Odds Cleo Storrs Television film
1993 Arly Hanks Ruby Bee Television film
1995 The Surrogate Sandy Gilman Television film
1996 In the Blink of an Eye Murial Television film
1996 For Hope Molly Altman Television film
1998 Touched by an Angel Stella Episode: "Deconstructing Harry"
2004 The Sopranos Fran Felstein Episode: "In Camelot"
2005–2006 Commander in Chief Kate Allen 10 episodes
2006 Candles on Bay Street Rosemary Television film
2007–2011 Desperate Housewives Stella Wingfield 10 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Musical Comedy Theater On an Island with You[16]


Albums list adapted from AllMusic and Discogs.[17][18][19]


  • 1955 Little Girl Blue
  • 1957 Bergen Sings MorganBillboard 20010
  • 1957 The Party's OverBillboard 20020
  • 1958 Polly and Her Pop
  • 1959 My Heart Sings — Columbia #CS 8018 — orchestra conducted by Luther Henderson
  • 1959 All Alone by the Telephone
  • 1959 First Impressions — with Farley Granger and Hermione Gingold
  • 1960 Four Seasons of Love
  • 1961 Sings the Hit Songs from Do-Re-Mi and Annie Get Your Gun
  • 1963 Act One, Sing Too
  • 1996 My Heart Sings — re-release



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External links

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