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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Polly Bergen, Rest in Peace

This is becoming an obit blog, sadly, as one celebrity after another leaves this mortal coil to go beyond the studio gates of heaven. I loved Polly Bergen since childhood. I mean, I had a schoolboy's crush on her. And it's never gone away.

Obviously the week's supermarket tabloid, The Globe, didn't pick this death up on their deathdar.

I vividly remember my own mother, who left us in 2011, taking me to the drive-in so I could see Kisses for My President, a 1964 sitcom co-starring Fred MacMurray in which Polly was elected President of the USA, which proved awkward for hubby. Old sexist flavorings but in some ways very modern and relevant. Anyhow, I loved it in my jammies and a blanket in the back.

Ms Bergen (nee Nellie Paulina Bergin of Knoxville, TN) had a career that spanned six decades. She began on radio at age 14. She was born the same year as my mother (1930) and died 11 days shy of the same date, though three years later.

She had her own cosmetics line and published articles on cosmetics and beauty. She co-starred with Joan Crawford in The Caretakers. She was a patient/inmate at Joan's mental institution. Drama! The film opened with Polly going polly-wack-a-doodle at the movies and running up in front of the projected movie on-screen, to scream and act out badly. I loved every second of it. Perhaps her finest role was as Gregory Peck's wife in the original Cape Fear (1962), also opposite Robert Mitchum. She played Mitchum's wife in the mini-series The Winds of War and its sequel.

Polly was part of the romantic triangle in Move Over, Darling opposite Doris Day and James Garner. She co-starred with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin in three of their feature films. She was a star and she always looked like and comported herself like one. She came across as highly intelligent, down-to-earth, and her natural beauty and sultry brunette persona could not be ignored.

Polly was in John Waters' Cry-Baby. She had a recurring role in Desperate Housewives though I think I last saw her in a stand-out episode of The Sopranos, playing Tony's father's mistress who was also mistress to JFK.

She was a recording artist as well, and performed many shows in clubs and cabarets throughout her life, mostly in NYC as she lived in Connecticut. She died, surrounded by family, of emphysema-related illnesses. She was a life-long smoker.

Rest in Peace, pretty Polly, I loved you from afar all my life.

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