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Actress/Model Frances Bergen


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'Titanic' Actress Frances Bergen

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Frances Bergen

LOS ANGELES, California -- Frances Bergen, a former model and occasional actress and singer whose show business career took a back seat to her longtime role as the wife of beloved ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the mother of their actress daughter Candice, died Monday, October 2. She was 84.

Bergen died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a prolonged illness, said family spokeswoman Heidi Schaeffer. Bergen was once described by former Times film reviewer Kevin Thomas as "one of Hollywood's enduring, elegant beauties."

Bergen was born Frances Westerman on September 14, 1922. She and her mother moved to Los Angeles after her father died when she was 10. Bergen was a graduate of Los Angeles High School and in her early 20s, she attended Edgar Bergen's popular radio show as the guest of a staff member.

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Frances and Edgar Bergen

After spotting the Birmingham, Alabama, native's long legs in the front row, Edgar Bergen, about 20 years her senior, reportedly asked to meet her. More than a year later, in 1945, they were married. By then, she was a successful Powers Model in New York City.

Bergen was seen in magazines and on billboards as "the Chesterfield Girl" and "the Ipana Girl." In the 1950s, Bergen appeared in several films, including "Titanic" and had guest roles on television in "Four Star Playhouse," "Fireside Theatre" and "The Dick Powell Show."

She also played Madame Francine on "Yancy Derringer," the short-lived 1958 series starring Jock Mahoney as a former Confederate soldier. At one point, Bergen aspired to a career as a chanteuse and had several engagements in major supper clubs.

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Frances Bergen (right) in 'Yancy Derringer'

But in a 1990 interview with The Times, she recalled reluctantly turning down a six-week singing engagement at a top club in London. "I had to go ask my husband," she said. "And his reaction to my great enthusiasm was, 'You mean you would leave me and the baby!' Candy, 'the baby,' was 10 at the time."

"He carried on so about it that I didn't take the job," Bergen added. "But I was raised by a Southern lady in a mid-Victorian manner and that's the way it was in those days. I didn't talk back to my husband. I was taught that you do have to compromise and not assert yourself as much as you might want."

Career ambitions aside, she devoted most of her time to what a 1990 Times story referred to as "playing the pretty foil" for her husband and his famously smart-aleck dummy, Charlie McCarthy.

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Frances and Candice Bergen in 1961

In her 1984 autobiography, Candice Bergen wrote that although her mother

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