Polly Bergen, who won an Emmy for “Playhouse 90” and who was Tony-nominated for the 2001 Broadway production of the Stephen Sondheim/James Goldman musical “Follies,” has died at age 84.
Bergen played in many theatrical movies and TV shows, and was a popular Columbia recording artist in the 1950s.
Baby boomers will most likely best remember Bergen as a panelist from the popular quiz show “To Tell the Truth,” which premiered in 1956. The show was on CBS’s prime-time schedule until 1967, and Bergen was a regular panelist from the show’s debut through the 1961 season, according to Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh’s “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows.”
Bergen “died at her home in Connecticut [today] Saturday, [Sept. 20, 2014]” according to Variety. The story adds that Bergen, who was then a life-long smoker, “had battled emphysema in the late 1990s.”
The story adds: “Bergen won an Emmy in 1958 for her role as Helen Morgan on the 1950s anthology series ‘Playhouse 90.’ She was a regular in TV movies and miniseries in the 1980s, most notably in the 1983 epic ‘The Winds of War’ and its 1988 sequel, ‘War and Remembrance,’ which earned her an Emmy nom for best supporting actress. She was also the star of her own short-lived NBC variety series, ‘The Polly Bergen Show,’ which ran from 1957 to 1958.”
The Variety obituary also notes: “Most recently, she played Felicity Huffman’s mother on ‘Desperate Housewives’ and the mistress of Tony Soprano’s late father on ‘The Sopranos.’ ”
On the big screen Bergen is remembered for her roles in “Kisses for My President,” “Cape Fear,” and “Move Over Darling,” among many others.
Bergen also had a cosmetics and beauty line. “She sold the company in 1973 to Faberge, staying on for a couple of years afterward to run it as a Faberge subsidiary,” according to the Bergen obituary in the Los Angeles Times.
The Times story also says, “In 1982 she married entrepreneur Jeff Endervelt. She co-signed his loans and gave him millions to invest from her beauty company profits. She said in a 2001 New York Times interview: ‘He would come home and say, “Honey, sign this.” I wouldn’t even look at it. Because you trust your husband.’
“The stock market crash of the 1980s wiped out the investments. She divorced him in 1991, and she said he left her with so many debts that she had to sell her New York apartment and other belongings to avoid bankruptcy.”
To read more details about the life of Polly Bergen, please click on our links above, which will take you to the original stories in Variety and the Los Angeles Times.
Here’s Bergen singing “By Myself,” a torch song by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz from their 1937 show “Between the Devil.” This is a cut from Bergen’s 1958 Columbia album “All Alone by the Telephone” that we found on YouTube: