Candice Bergen is best known for shattering stereotypes with her starring role as the title character in the hit situation comedy Murphy Brown, but the acclaimed actress is so much more than the sassy, sharp-tongued media personality she portrayed on TV. As the actress turns 70 on May 9, let's reflect on some of her life's most fascinating ups and downs.
Growing Up Bergen
Candice was born into Hollywood's elite on May 9, 1946. Her father was Edgar Bergen, an actor and comedian of the stage, radio, and film. Edgar became most famous for his ventriloquism talents and puppet act, for which he created such celebrated characters as Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Her mother was actress and fashion model Frances Westerman. As a child, Candice appeared on her father's radio program, as well as popular television shows of the time, including Groucho Marx's quiz show You Bet Your Life.
Teen Model Turned Actress
Bergen was elected both Homecoming Queen and Miss University while completing a brief stint at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. She eventually quit school to follow in her mother's footsteps to pursue a career as a fashion model. Despite being featured on several covers of Vogue, Bergen eventually left the fashion world in order to chase her dreams of becoming an actress.
The Sand Pebbles
Bergen's big break came in 1966 when she landed a starring role opposite Steve McQueen in the period war film The Sand Pebbles. The film was directed by Robert Wise and proved to be a huge commercial success. The Sand Pebbles was critically acclaimed and went on to receive eight nominations for both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.
In 1971, Bergen signed on to star in Mike Nichols' provocative comedy-drama Carnal Knowledge with an ensemble cast that included Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, and Ann-Margret. At the time of the film's release, open discussions about sexual issues were outwardly forbidden according to society's standards. Carnal Knowledge shone a bright spotlight on sex and encouraged the public to have those discussions, rendering the film a staple of progressive thought in the film industry.
Bergen has always considered herself to be a political activist. During her younger years, she was a member of the Youth International Party and even joined in on a Yippie prank with Abbie Hoffman in 1967, which effectively shut down the New York Stock Exchange temporarily. She actively lobbied for George McGovern during the 1972 presidential election by fundraising and organizing many of his diplomatic efforts.
Saturday Night Live
Bergen was the first woman to host Saturday Night Live during its premiere season in 1975. By her third appearance as host, she became increasingly aware of the cast's voracious appetite for drugs and partying, particularly her friend John Belushi, who eventually died from a drug overdose in 1982. Bergen was also the first woman to join the Five-Timers Club after hosting for the fifth time in 1990.
In 1980, Bergen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Jessica Potter in the comedy film Starting Over. Bergen starred alongside Burt Reynolds and Jill Clayburgh in the film that told the story of a recently divorced man (Reynolds) who must choose between his new girlfriend (Clayburgh) and his ex-wife (Bergen). Clayburgh was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Lead Actress.
Marriage to Louis Malle
Bergen married French film director Louis Malle on Sept. 27, 1980. The two married within six months of meeting one another and eventually had one child together, a daughter named Chloe born in 1985. Malle was diagnosed with an untreatable lymphoma in the mid-1990s and died at the family's home at age 63 on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, 1995.
The television show Murphy Brown is, without a doubt, the pinnacle of Bergen's long-standing career. In 1988, she was cast as the title character in the situation comedy that aired on CBS until 1998. Bergen played an investigative journalist and news anchor who had to overcome countless obstacles in order to thrive in a male-dominated profession. The show shattered stereotypes about women in the workplace and thrust Bergen into superstardom.
Candice Meets Emmy
Over the course of Murphy Brown's 10-year run on CBS, the series was nominated for and received innumerable awards. Overall, the show won 18 Emmys, three Golden Globes, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards. Bergen herself received the most individual awards and nominations, winning five Emmys and a Golden Globe. After her fifth Emmy Award win, she voluntarily removed herself from the running.
Dan Quayle vs. Murphy Brown
Murphy Brown frequently pushed the envelope as far as current events and political satire was concerned. When a 1992 episode depicted Murphy Brown giving birth to her son as a single mother, former Vice President Dan Quayle notoriously referenced the episode in a campaign speech later that year. He called out the Murphy Brown character for letting the role of fathers fall by the wayside. The speech attracted national attention and sparked a debate about the diversity of the American family.
Exhale With Candice Bergen
After Murphy Brown ended in 1998, Bergen went on to host her own nightly talk show on the Oxygen network called Exhale with Candice Bergen. The show set out to bring a fresh attitude to the network by bringing in varied guests to have casual but in-depth conversations with Bergen about anything and everything. The show ran until 2002.
In 2000, Bergen starred alongside Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, and Benjamin Bratt in the comedy film Miss Congeniality. Bergen played the part of Kathy Morningside, a corrupt pageant host whose villainous ways attract the attention of the FBI. The film was a major hit, making nearly $14 million at the box office in its opening weekend.
From 2005 to 2008, Bergen joined the cast of the ABC legal dramedy Boston Legal playing the part of senior partner Shirley Schmidt. The show did exceedingly well in the ratings, drawing the richest viewing audience on television. Over the course of her three-year stint on the show, Bergen was nominated for several awards for her performance, including a Golden Globe, a Primetime Emmy, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.
In recent years, Bergen has guest starred in several television shows like House, Law & Order, and Battle Creek. She's also appeared in a number of films including Sex and the City, The Women, Bride Wars, and The Romantics. Bergen is also a regular contributor for wowOwow.com, a website geared towards women that discusses culture, politics, and gossip.
Which of Candice Bergen's roles is your favorite? Tell us about it in the comments!