Frances Bergen, the widow of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and mother of Boston Legal star Candice Bergen, died Monday at Los Angeles’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a prolonged illness, her daughter’s rep tells the Los Angeles Times. She was 84.
No cause of death was disclosed.
So strikingly attractive was Bergen, a former model and actress as well as a pillar of Beverly Hills society, that in 1991, when she was approaching 70, PEOPLE named her one of the most beautiful people in the world.
Born Frances Westerman in Birmingham, Ala., she moved to Los Angeles with her mother after her father died of tuberculosis. She met Edgar Bergen when she was 19 and attended a taping of his Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy Show. She and Edgar, 20 years her senior, married nearly a year later in 1945.
As Candice often said, everyone in the Bergen household lived in the long shadow of her star father – and his outspoken dummy in a top hat, Charlie McCarthy.
In a 1990 interview with the L.A. Times, Frances Bergen said, “The (public) reaction to my husband was astounding. We’d be out to dinner or dancing and people would come up and tap him on the shoulder and ask, ‘Where’s Charlie? Where’s Charlie?’ I must admit at one point I thought, ‘If I hear the name Charlie one more time, I’ll ‘ I was proud of my husband, he was so talented, but selfishly, once in a while you do feel, ‘What about me?’ ”
As a model, Bergen became the iconic “Chesterfield Girl” and “Ipana Girl” in magazine ads and on billboards.
Baby Candice, born in 1946, got into the act too, making her first public appearance in a magazine advertisement with her parents.
And, like her husband (who died in 1978), Frances Bergen appeared in several movies: She had minor roles in the 1953 version of Titanic and, in the late ’70s, American Gigolo and The Muppets Take Manhattan. She also appeared on Candice’s sitcom, Murphy Brown.
In addition to Candice, Bergen is survived by her son Kris and her granddaughter Chloe, 20, Candice’s daughter with her late husband, French film director Louis Malle.
In memory of Bergen, the family suggests donations in her name be made to the American Heart Association or the Arthritis Foundation, the Times reports.