Polly Bergen was an Emmy-winning actress and singer who enjoyed success in theater, film and television for more than 60 years.
Born Nellie Paulina Burgin in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1930, she moved with her family to California in her youth. Driven to be a star, she began singing on radio while still in her teens and broke into movies in the late 1940s. Her early credits included three comedies starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis: At War with the Army, That's My Boy and The Stooge.
She began appearing on television in the early ’50s, the live era, with roles on programs than included Schlitz Playhouse, General Electric Theatre and Lux Playhouse. Also a stage performer, she made her Broadway debut in 1953 with a role in John Murray Anderson's Almanac, a revue featuring Harry Belafonte.
On the big screen, she is best known for the original Cape Fear, starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. Her other movies included Warpath, Move Over, Darling and Kisses for My President, Making Mr. Right and Cry-Baby.
Bergen made dozens of TV appearances over the years, and in 1957-58 she headlined her own variety program, The Polly Bergen Show. In 1958 she received the first of four Emmy nominations — and her only win — for her performance in the title role of The Helen Morgan Story, an installment of the anthology series Playhouse 90. A sampling of her other television credits included Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train, Dr. Kildare, The Red Skelton Hour, The Love Boat, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance, Baby Talk, The Sopranos, Commander in Chief and Desperate Housewives.
In addition to her work on scripted series, Bergen was a frequent guests on such game shows as To Tell the Truth, What's My Line?, The Hollywood Squares and Password All Stars.
Bergen also released more than a dozen albums as a singer and returned to Broadway many times. In 2001 she received a Tony nomination for Follies.
Beyond her achievements in entertainment, Bergen had a successful business career. In 1966 she founded the Polly Bergen Co., founded in 1966, a line of beauty products that she sold to Faberge in 1973. She also wrote three advice books.
Bergen died September 20, 2014, in Southbury, Connecticut. She was 84.