Frances Bergen (née Westerman; September 14, 1922 – October 2, 2006) was an American actress and fashion model. She was the wife of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the mother of actress Candice Bergen and film and television editor Kris Bergen.
Bergen at the 62nd Academy Awards, March 1990
September 14, 1922
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
|Died||October 2, 2006 (aged 84)|
|Occupation||Film, television actress, model|
(m. 1945; died 1978)
|Children||2, including Candice Bergen|
Bergen was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the daughter of Lille Mabel (née Howell) and William Westerman. Her paternal grandparents were both from German families. In 1932, her father died of tuberculosis, when Frances was ten years old. Shortly after, her mother moved the family to Los Angeles. In 1936, she suffered a skull fracture in an auto accident, at age 14. While recuperating, she was given a Charlie McCarthy doll to cheer her up.
While in New York City, she became a successful John Robert Powers model. She was "the Chesterfield Girl" and "the Ipana Girl" in magazines and on billboards. She was thereafter professionally known as Frances Westcott.
As an actress, Bergen had supporting or minor roles in a number of films. She made her debut in Titanic (1953), after which she appeared in Robert Z. Leonard's Her Twelve Men (1954), and Douglas Sirk's Interlude (1957). During the 1958-1959 television season, Frances became the recurring love interest on the cult western show Yancy Derringer as Madame Francine, the strong willed but beautiful owner of a members-only gambling house in New Orleans set in 1868.
She returned to films in the 1980s, with small roles in American Gigolo (1980), The Sting II (1983), The Star Chamber (1983), The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), Hollywood Wives (1985), The Morning After (1986), and Made in America (1993). She also had a major part in Henry Jaglom's independently made film Eating (1990). She appeared on two episodes of Murphy Brown, her daughter's hit show, including Part One of the series finale in 1998.
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In 1941, Frances Westerman met Edgar Bergen after a radio program when he was 38 and she was 19. Westerman, who graduated from Los Angeles High School the year before, was in the audience of Edgar Bergen's radio program as the guest of a member of his staff. Sitting in the front row, the young fashion model's long legs caught the attention of Bergen, who asked to meet her.
The two were married in Mexico, after years of a long distance courtship, on June 28, 1945, and remained happily married until Edgar's death on September 30, 1978, at age 75. On May 9, 1946, the couple welcomed their first child Candice Bergen. It was 15 years later, on October 12, 1961, they had a son, Kris Edgar Bergen, who would later become a film and television editor.
Frances Bergen died at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of undisclosed causes following "a prolonged illness" on October 2, 2006, aged 84. She was buried beside her husband Edgar Bergen in Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California. She was survived by her daughter Candice Bergen, her son Kris, and her granddaughter Chloé Françoise Malle (b. 1985).
- Titanic (1953) – Madeleine Astor
- Her Twelve Men (1954) – Sylvia Carlin
- Interlude (1957) – Gertrude Kirk
- American Gigolo (1980) – Mrs. Laudner
- Rich and Famous (1981) – Literary Party Guest
- The Sting II (1983) – Lady Dorsett
- The Star Chamber (1983) – Mrs. Cummins
- The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) – Leonard Winesop's Receptionist
- The Morning After (1986) – Mrs. Harding
- Eating (1990) – Whitney
- Made in America (1993) – White Woman #2