Saturday, September 20, 2014

Obituary: Polly Bergen

Actress and businesswoman Polly Bergen, 84, has died. She was adept at acting on stage, in movies, and on television. She was equally adept in her business interests, which were many over the years.

My favorite role of hers was as the terrified wife of Gregory Peck in the original version of Cape Fear, released in 1962. She was continually harassed by Robert Mitchum, in one of his greatest roles in one of his best films, one I know I was on the edge of my seat to see what was going to happen to her.

She was loads of fun on the television game show classic To Tell the Truth. Here is a clip of one such episode featuring her on the panel:


She made her Broadway debut in the 1953 revue “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac” in a cast that also featured Hermione Gingold, Billy De Wolfe and Harry Belafonte. Determined to make an impression as a vocalist, Ms. Bergen overexerted herself, injured her throat and had to leave the show and undergo surgery.

She was less than thrilled with the quality of the movies she was offered as a contract player in Hollywood, although there were a few exceptions, including “Cape Fear” and “The Caretakers” (1963), in which she convincingly played an inmate in a mental institution ruled by a dictatorial nurse played by Joan Crawford. She also had roles in several light comedies, including “Move Over, Darling” (1963), with Doris Day and James Garner, and “Kisses for My President” (1964), in which she starred as the nation’s first female president.

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