Saturday, September 20, 2014

RIP Polly Bergen

Actress, activist and businesswoman Polly Bergen has died at 84. 

Bergen played an enlightened mother who bakes pot brownies for her cancer-stricken daughter on Desperate Housewives. During Episode 3, Season 4 of Desperate Housewives ("The Game"), Lynette (played by Felicity Huffman) gets seriously stoned on her mom Stella's baked goods. Spongebob Squarepants epiphanies, charades and platitudes follow. The show originally aired on October 14, 2007.

Not quite the square she often played, Bergen experimented with LSD along with Cary Grant and Esther Williams, as an aid to psychotherapy back when it was legal. 

According to film critic Rex Reed, Bergen was a women's rights advocate. “She and Gloria Steinem teamed up to raise money and educate people as to the needs of women,” Reed told the LA Times. “She went many times to the White House and spoke before the Senate and at other other functions. She encouraged people to vote -- that was important to her.” She knocked on doors for Hillary Clinton, and Planned Parenthood was a cause particularly close to her heart. Bergen had three adopted children. 

The brunette beauty is known for her role as a wife terrorized by Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear; she later appeared as Mitchum's wife in the miniseries "War and Remembrance." She was the first woman to play a US President, in 1964's Kisses for My President. When Geena Davis portrayed a woman president in the 2005 TV drama "Commander in Chief," Bergen was cast as her mother.

Bergen suffered from emphysema due to heavy cigarette smoking, which interfered with her singing career. She wrote books about beauty and fashion, and started a cosmetic company that she later sold to Faberg√©. 

(I misreported here that Bergen played Johnny Depp's grandmother in Cry Baby. Instead, she played the square grandmother who gets corrupted by the "evil influences" of her town. Apologies to Susan Tyrrell, who played Ramona Ricketts so well.)

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