Bergen, Edgar (1903-1978)

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Bergen, Edgar (1903-1978)

Chicago-born Edgar Bergen put himself through college as a part-time ventriloquist with a doll he had acquired while in high school. It was to his relationship with this doll, the cheeky, monocled toff Charlie McCarthy, that Edgar Bergen owed his fame and a special Oscar. Edgar and Charlie played the vaudeville circuit, then became popular radio performers in the medium's hey-day. They made several appearances in movies, beginning with The Goldwyn Follies (1938) and including Charlie McCarthy Detective (1939), while television further increased their visibility. They periodically had other puppets in tow, most famously Mortimer ("How did you get to be so dumb?") Snerd. The father of actress Candice Bergen, Edgar, sans Charlie, played a few minor roles in films, but it is for his influence on the art of puppetry that he is remembered. Muppet creator Jim Henson acknowledged his debt to Bergen's skills, and it was in The Muppet Movie (1979) that he made his last appearance. Bergen bequeathed Charlie McCarthy to the Smithsonian Institute.

—Robyn Karney

Further Reading:

Katz, Ephraim. The International Film Encyclopedia. New York, Harper Collins, 1994.

Press, Skip. Candice & Edgar Bergen. Persippany, New Jersey, Crestwood House, 1995.