Photograph of Edgar Bergen and Charlie
wearing top hats. (1903-1978) World-famous ventriloquist - early vintage 5 x 7 matte-finish photo, signed in fountain pen, small punchole above Charlie's head, some minor creasing and soiling, still a neat photo. This item has the signatures of Edgar Bergen.
Edgar John Bergen (February 16, 1903 – September 30, 1978) was an American actor and radio performer, best known as a ventriloquist.
Bergen was born Edgar John Bergren in Chicago, Illinois to a Swedish family and grew up in Decatur, Michigan. He taught himself ventriloquism from a pamphlet when he was 11. A few years later he commissioned Chicago woodcarver Theodore Mack to sculpt a likeness of a rascally Irish newspaperboy he knew. The head went on a puppet named Charlie McCarthy, who became Bergen's lifelong sidekick. At age 16, he came to Chicago, where he attended Lake View High School and worked at a silent movie house.
His first performances were in vaudeville and one-reel movie shorts, but his real success was on the radio. He and Charlie were seen at a New York party by Elsa Maxwell for Noel Coward, who recommended them for an engagement at the famous Rainbow Room. It was there that two producers saw Bergen and Charlie perform. They then recommended them for a guest appearance on Rudy Vallee's program. The appearance was so successful that the next year they were given their own show. Under various sponsors, they were on the air from December 17, 1937 to July 1, 1956. The popularity of a ventriloquist on radio, when one could see neither the dummies nor his skill, surprised and puzzled many critics, then and now. However, it was Bergen's skill as an entertainer and vocal performer, and especially his characterization of Charlie, that carried the show over. Luckily, many of the shows have survived and are available for audiences today to experience the phenomenon firsthand. Bergen's success on radio was paralleled in the UK by Peter Brough and his dummy Archie Andrews.
For the radio program, Bergen developed other characters, notably the slow-witted Mortimer Snerd and the man-hungry Effie Klinker. The star, however, was Charlie, who was always presented as a child (albeit in top hat, cape, and monocle)—a debonair, girl-crazy, child-about-town. As a child, and a wooden one at that, Charlie could get away with double entendre that adult humans could not under broadcast standards of the day.
Charlie: "May I have a kiss good-bye?"
Dale Evans: "Well, I can't see any harm in that!"
Charlie: "Oh. I wish you could. A harmless kiss doesn't sound very thrilling."
Similar lines given to Mae West in a sketch on the show broadcast December 12, 1937, resulted in her 15-year broadcasting ban. "Charles, I remember our date and have the splinters to prove it."
Charlie's feud with W. C. Fields was a regular feature of the show.
W.C. Fields: "Well, Charlie McCarthy, the woodpecker's pinup boy."
W.C. Fields: "I love children. I can remember when, with my own little unsteady legs, I toddled from room to room."
Charlie: "When was that? Last night?"
W.C. Fields: "Quiet, Wormwood, or I'll whittle you down to a coathanger."
W.C. Fields: "Tell me, Charles, is it true that your father was a gate-leg table?"
Charlie: "If it is, your father was under it."
W.C. Fields: "Why, you stunted spruce, I'll throw a japanese beetle on you."
Charlie: "Why, you bar-fly you, I'll stick a wick in your mouth, and use you for an alcohol lamp!"
Charlie: "Pink elephants take aspirin to get rid of W. C. Fields."
A scene from the film Stage Door Canteen (1943)Bergen was not the most technically skilled ventriloquist—Charlie McCarthy frequently twitted him for moving his lips—but Bergen's sense of comedic timing was superb, and he handled Charlie's snappy dialogue with aplomb. Bergen's wit in creating McCarthy's striking personality and that of his other characters was the making of the show. The fact that Bergen was widely popular for a ventriloquism act on radio (where the trick of "throwing his voice" was not visible) indicates that his appeal was primarily the personality he applied to his characters.
Bergen and McCarthy are sometimes credited with "saving the world" because, on the night of October 30, 1938 when Orson Welles performed his War of the Worlds radio play that panicked many listeners, most of the American public had instead tuned in to Bergen and McCarthy on another station and never heard Welles' play. Conversely, it has also been theorized that Bergen inadvertently contributed to the hysteria. When the musical portion of Bergen's show, The Chase and Sanborn Hour, aired approximately 12 minutes into the show, many listeners switched stations and found the War of the Worlds presentation already underway, with a realistic sounding reporter detailing terrible events.
In addition to his work as a ventriloquist, Bergen was also an actor and comic strip creator. He appeared as the shy Norwegian suitor in I Remember Mama (1948). He also appeared in Captain China (1949) and Don't Make Waves (1965). He created the syndicated comic strip Mortimer & Charlie which ran in 1939.
Bergen and his alter-ego McCarthy appeared together with top billing in several films, including the technicolor extravaganza The Goldwyn Follies (1938), opposite The Ritz Brothers. That year they also appeared inYou Can't Cheat An Honest Man, with W. C. Fields. At the height of their popularity in 1938, Bergen was presented an Honorary Oscar (in the form of a wooden Oscar stauette) for his creation of Charlie McCarthy.
In the film Stage Door Canteen (1943) with Mortimer SnerdOther film roles for the team include Look Who's Laughing (1941) and Here We Go Again (1942), both with Fibber McGee and Molly. Later Bergen and McCarthy were featured in Fun and Fancy Free (1947), and much later in The Muppet Movie. Bergen passed away shortly after completing his scenes, marking it as Bergen's last appearance; the film was dedicated to him.
In addition to his work in radio and film, Bergen also made numerous appearances on television during his career. In a Thanksgiving special sponsored by Coca-Cola in 1950, the new character Podine Puffington was introduced. This saucy southern belle was as tall as a real woman, in contrast to Bergen's other sit-on-the-knee sized characters. Bergen also hosted the television show Do You Trust Your Wife? in 1956, later to be replaced by Johnny Carson. Bergen continued to appear regularly on television in the 1960s. For example, he did a stint as one of the What's My Line? Mystery Guests on the popular Sunday night CBS TV program.
Bergen appeared as Grandpa Walton in the original The Waltons movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971). The part was played by Will Geer in the subsequent series. Throughout the run of The Waltons -- which took place in the late 1930s through the 1940s -- the voices of Bergen and Charlie McCarthy were sporadically heard from the Walton family's radio, as family members regularly tuned in that program.
Edgar Bergen died of kidney disease in Las Vegas, Nevada, aged 75. He is interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. He was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame in 1990, the same year that The Charlie McCarthy Show was selected as an honored program.
Edgar Bergen met Frances Westerman (1922-2006) during a radio program when he was 39 and she was only 19. Noticing Westerman in the audience, Bergen asked to meet the young fashion model, who was known as Frances Westcott during her modeling career. The two were married on 28 June 1945 and they remained married until Bergen's death in 1978. They were the parents of actress Candice Bergen, whose first performances were on Bergen's radio show, and Kris Bergen. Frances Bergen died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on October 2, 2006, aged 84, from undisclosed causes (see ).
Content in this section should be integrated into other appropriate areas of the article or removed, and the trivia section removed.
In 1940, Edgar Bergen was Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade.
The Bergen surname is cognate to the word borough.
Bergen attended Northwestern University, but did not graduate. The school later gave him an honorary degree as "Master of Innuendo and Snappy Comeback".
Bergen and his two sidekicks Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd appeared on
Walt Disney's One Hour In Wonderland in 1950 with Kathryn Beaumont (the voice of Alice in Disney's 1951 animated film Alice in Wonderland). This episode is featured on Disc Two of the Alice in Wonderland Special Edition.
In 1955, Edgar was the honorary Grand Marshal of the Annual Great Oregon Steam-Up in Brooks, Oregon. A yearly show which features steam traction engines.
Edgar was the boyhood idol of famous puppeteer Jim Henson.
Bergen penned the article on ventriloquism in the 1958 Encyclopedia Britannica.
History from Wikipedia and OldCompanyResearch.com.