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Candice Bergen: sweet success.

What is a nice girl like Candice Bergen doing in the acerbic character of Murphy Brown, a 42-year-old television journalist who is single and pregnant and refuses to marry the father, her ex-husband?

An obvious answer is that she's enjoying the success of this popular CBS series, which has survived its fourth season in the sudden-death jungle of TV sitcomes. A look behind the scenes, however, reveals Candice Bergen as a most un-Murphy-like person who is happily married and loves living quietly.

The daughter of famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, Candice grew up in the Hollywood limelight conteding not only with fame, but also with a unique sibling rivalry--her wooden "brother," Charlie McCarthy, got more attention than she did.

"Candy never knw\ew a day without Charlie, which was a bizarre relationship for a little girl," Candice's mother, Frances Bergen, says. "How do you explain why this piece of wood was as important as a live, little girl? She was photographed with Charlie in her cradle when she was an infant."

In her teen years, Bergen rebelled. She went through some pretty colorful phases beginning at age 14 when her parents sent her to a school in Switzerland. They later yanked her out upon learning that she had bleached her hair and was majoring in Bloody Marys. "When Candy was 15, I was ready to give her away," Frances says. At 17 Candice enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, but spent so much time modeling that she flunked out.

Today, her mother can laugh when asked if Candy and Murphy are one and the same person. "They are not entirely different at all," she says. "That's one reason Candy is having so much fun doing the series." Bergen herself confesses it's the kind of "flatout comedy I've been wanting to do in the movies for years and didn't get a chance to do.

"My father kept pushing me toward comedy," she says. "He would have loved this kind of show."

At 24 Bergen was referred to as the most beautiful woman on the screen. Her romances included affairs with a Brazilian radical and an Austrian count, a date with Henry Kissinger, and a more serious involvement with record producer Terry Melcher, son of Doris Day.

The real thing finally came along, however, after photographer Mary Allen Mark suggested that Candice and Louis Malle, known for directing Atlantic City and My Dinner with Andre, might be a perfect match. He was 14 years her senior, divorced with two children, and Bergen at first looked the other way. But ten years later, in the summer of 1980, she and Malle married. Currently their home is Malle's 18th century chateau in Lagagnac, France, as well as a duplex in Paris and an apartment in New York. But nine months of the year Bergen resides in Los Angeles--home of her mother and brother--where "Murphy Brown" is filmed.

Bergen is proud of her role as devoted stepmother to Malle's children--Cuote, 17, and Justine, 14--and mother to Chloe, their 6-year-old daughter. When not on the set, Bergen is at home with Chloe playing games or watching "Sesame Street." Of course, on Monday nights they settle down to watch--what else--"Murphy Brown."

The "Murphy Brown" role was not presented to Bergen on the proverbial silver platter; she lobbied hard to become this outspoken broadcast celebrity--said to look like Diane Sawyer and behave like Mike Wallace. After the first three years home with Chloe, Bergen decided she was not comfortable away from her work. And when she read the pilot script, she was hooked. Although not one of creator Diane English's original choices for the part, she arranged a dinner with English and emerged with the role. And two Emmys now prove that her talent has at last come home.

Although her father would have liked the show, complete with things like a whoopee cushion and "kick me" sign on someone's back--how would he, and perhaps millions of faithful "Murphy Brown" fans, embrace the character of a pregnant single woman who refuses to marry the baby's father? "Candice and I both went through a very long period in our early lives wheb we were just good girls," English says. "And this character has helped us get to another level. We are not afraid for everyone not to like us, either."

A hard and fast rule among compositors is to "follow the copy if it goes out the window." An actor also follows the script even though it may occasionally confilct with his or her moral principles, trusting in the writer's judgment to present an entertaining verwion of real life that will reach the audience.

Script-writer English and actress Bergen agreed that having Murphy come down with a case of pregnancy while single was worth the risk. They felt the situation to be topical, pointing out the publicity given the babies of TV personalities such as Katie Couric, Deborah Norville, and Merideth Viera. And hadn't Connie Chung taken leave to try to get pregnant? All of this Candice Bergen leaves on the set when she comes home to play with her daughter, read, and spend a quiet evening with her husband. "I can't think of anything greater than that, " she says.

Declared to be the least pretentious of Hollywood's celebrities, Candice Bergen is perhaps quietest when "giving something back."

"When I see people losing their families, their homes--even farmers--I have to find a way to do something more," she says. Se is now working with the Starlight Foundation, involved in granting wishes to dying children. Her best friends all say that she cares very deeply. So exactly what is Candice Bergen doing in the role of Murphy Brown? She's having fun, speaking out, cashing in, bettering the lives of those around her, and finding joy in the work that makes life complete.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:May 1, 1992
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