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Edgar Bergen
Biographical Information

Birth Date:February 16, 1903
Astrology Sign:Aquarius
Chinese Sign:Rabbit - Yin
Birth Name:Edgar John Berggren
Birth Place:Chicago, IL
Died Date:September 30, 1978


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Edgar Bergen

Biography:Edgar Bergen (February 16, 1903 - September 30, 1978) was an American actor and radio performer, best known as a ventriloquist.

He was born in Decatur, Michigan to a Swedish family. At age 16 he came to Chicago, where he attended Lake View High School and worked at a silent movie house. He taught himself ventriloquism from a pamphlet when he was 11. A few years later he commissioned a woodcarver to make a likeness of a rascally Irish newspaperboy he knew. The head went on a puppet named Charlie McCarthy, who became Bergen's lifelong sidekick.

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 Hollywood party by Noel Coward, who recommended them for an 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 first hand.

For the radio program, Bergen developed other characters, notably the slow-witted Mortimer Snerd (who bore a strong resemblance to the then-generic cartoon character now known as Alfred E. Neuman) 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.

Charlie's feud with W. C. Fields was a regular feature of the show.

Charlie (to Fields): "If I had a wick I'd stick it in your mouth and rent you out for an alcohol lamp!" W.C. Fields: "Is it true that your father was a gate-leg table?" Charlie: "If it is, your father was under it." 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?" Charlie: "Pink elephants take aspirin to get rid of W. C. Fields." Bergen was not the most technically skilled ventriloquist - Charlie McCarthy frequently twitted him for moving his lips; but his 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 he 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 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. 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).

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.

Other film roles for the team include: Look Who's Laughing (1941) and Here We Go Again (1942), both with "Fibber McGee and Molly." Later they were featured in Fun and Fancy Free (1947), and much later in The Muppet Movie (released in 1979, after Bergen's death). The Muppet film was Bergen's last appearance, and 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.

He attended Northwestern University, but did not graduate. Later the school gave him an honorary degree as Master of Innuendo and Snappy Comeback.

Edgar Bergen died of kidney disease in Las Vegas, Nevada at age 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.

Bergen was the father of actress Candice Bergen, whose first performances were on the radio show. She came to be weary of being called "Charlie's little sister".

In 1940 he was grand marshall of the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Bergen's surname is cognate to the word borough, which has cognates in words and place names in virtually every Indo-European and Semitic language, as well as others. For a fuller explanation, see under borough.

Chinese Horoscope for Edgar Bergen
Includes characteristics and Vices
Edgar Bergen's Chinese Horoscope
Chinese Year: January 29, 1903 - February 15, 1904
Birthday: February 16, 1903

The Rabbit is a Yin,
and is the Fourth sign of the Chinese horoscope.


Personality and Character Cards:
Personality and character cards are identical!

Edgar Bergen's Personality Tarot Card The Emperor - Personality Card

Birthday: February 16, 1903

Material success, stability, authority and ambition.

This year's Growth Tarot Card
Based on this year's birthday

Edgar Bergen's Growth Tarot Card Justice

Birthday: February 16, 2018

Balance, wisdom and a need for rational, logical solutions.




Portions of famous people database was used with permission from Russell Grant from his book The Book of Birthdays Copyright © 1999, All rights reserved. Certain biographical material and photos licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, from Wikipedia, which is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

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