Liz Smith: Candy Bergen’s Life on Film

main“THE ENEMY of good conversation is the person who has ‘something to say!’ Conversation is not for making a point …. There is no winning in conversation,” wrote Henry Fairlie.

Oh my! I have so many friends and acquaintances who have a distinctly opposite point of view these days.

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THAT “Living Landmark” of New York City, the actress Candice Bergen, is going into movie production. Last seen onstage by theatergoers, she was simply great as the neglected wife of a politician in the recent staging of Gore Vidal‘s “The Best Man.”

1Candy will now delve into a big screen version of her own past as the child of famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. He invented the tuxedo-ed ‘dummy’ Charlie McCarthy, a big radio and film rage of the Fifties. The ‘dummy’ became one of the surprising and unlikely celebrities of his time, with his good-looking creator (Edgar) sitting beside him in a pose of elegant innocence.

In this manner of speaking, Edgar and his beautiful wife, Frances, became the parents of Candice and her brother Kris, but Charlie became a star, landing the two true Bergens in the shade. “This creation took over and eclipsed the creator,” says Candy.

“It was the dummy that wouldn’t die. All the fan mail initially went to Charlie. And Edgar wasn’t really welcome at parties in the beginning unless Charlie was with him. It was totally surreal.” This will all be based on Candy’s 1984 memoir, “Knock Wood.”

Edgar Bergen died in 1978 at age 75. And Charlie went to the Smithsonian. Evidently Candy’s idea for this movie is not that she and Kris were so overshadowed by Charlie that they hardly mattered, but that their Swedish father never received his due. (As a child, she was irritated at being described as “Charlie McCarthy’s little sister.”) It’s an amazing story and will make a great movie. No release projection yet.

As you know, Candice Bergen herself went on to become as famous as anyone who has ever starred in a comedic hit TV show. She had to request that the Emmys stop naming her their winner year after year in “Murphy Brown.” She is often spoken of as one of the most beautiful ever film stars.

To my way of thinking she is one of the most beautiful human beings down deep inside who I’ve ever known.

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SPEAKING of movie stars! The Gloria Crest Estate was built in 1926 by the heir to the Polish throne in Englewood, New Jersey. It was later owned by none other than Gloria Swanson and it actually resembled the old Sunset Boulevard. (Do I have to tell you that the Billy Wilder movie of “Sunset Boulevard” starred the real Gloria?)

They are asking only $39 million for Gloria Crest with its full gym, spa, theater, garden, pool house, lake and a panoramic view of NYC. There is a seven car garage with elevator to all levels. Does Mitt Romney know about this property?

Want to know more about Miss Swanson? Her papers reside in splendor at the University of Texas in Austin. But you can read the real lowdown on her in the recent book about Ambassador Joseph Kennedy titled “The Patriarch.” This book is a great addition to Kennedy history.

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DOES GOV. Christie know that his state is such a repository of former screen history? The film business actually started in Fort Lee and now that city is building a three screen movie theater and museum in the 13,000 square foot Barrymore Theater, paying homage to John, the grandfather of young Drew.

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MiamiVice011BEARDS ARE out, three day scuff is in (one of the few holdovers from the 1980s — remember it was Don Johnson in “Miami Vice” who began this untidy trend.) But a full beard might make a comeback, at least among men who want to appear young, healthy and handsome.

Yes, a study from the University of Southern Queensland, found that beards block 90 to 95 percent of UV rays, slowing down facial aging, and reducing the risk of skin cancer. If you have allergies, the irritating pollen and dust will simply be caught in your beard and not travel upward, to torment you. Beardy men will also avoid ingrown hairs and acne associated with daily shaving. Full-bearded men also avoid the effects of strong winds, keeping the face baby smooth.

That’s all fine and well, but if your face is covered by a beard, how will anyone see the positive effects? Will guys ask, “I may look like an unkempt serial killer, but honestly, I’ve got the complexion of a five-year-old under this.”

For my money, there’s nothing more attractive than a freshly-shaven man.

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“HEY, GIRLIE — Wanna be in pictures?” That phrase has been used on hapless young women since the days of silent films. What usually happens is nothing but a cheap dinner, a sleazy fumble, and a phone number that is disconnected.

waydaBut sometimes the person behind the words is sincere. Such was the case of PR guy to top athletes — Hal Lifson. Hal spotted one Brenda Soleimani as she picked up her two children from school — the same school where Hal’s children go.

He was so struck by her looks that he introduced himself and suggested she try modeling. Texas-born Brenda said, “What? I’m married. I have two children. I’m forty!” But Hal is a persistent fellow. After assuring her that his intentions were honorable, he introduced Brenda to famed Playboy photographer Stephen Wayda and persuaded him to take shots of the reluctant, bemused housewife.

The pics turned out so well that Hal shopped them around and now Brenda is being seriously considered for a role in season four of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

I’m not a fan of these shows, but millions are. If you look at any magazine cover, there they are — people I have certainly never heard of, being idolized like Brad and Angie. 

Needless to say, Brenda Soleimani is now one of Hal’s clients. The only one who does’t run, jump or swim — professionally.

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220px-Deanna_Durbin_-_stillFAREWELL TO the singing star of the 1940s, Deanna Durbin, who died a few days ago at 91. Durbin was a huge star for Universal Pictures, but she almost became a huge star for MGM. She was paired with young Judy Garland in a short where both girls sang and emoted.

Louis B. Mayer was leaning toward Durbin, but others at the studio convinced him Garland was “the one.” Deanna went immediately to Universal and became an instant star, with her sweet/sexy girl-next-door looks and soprano trills. In fact, she was a bigger star than Judy for a couple of years, much to Garland’s distress. (Despite all the tales of being forced into work, Judy loved to perform and wanted to be famous.) As for Durbin, at the height of her career, she’d had enough. She retired at 26, married and never looked back.

Years later, she and Garland ran into each other in Paris, where Judy was performing. “My, God,” said Deanna, “Are you still in that awful business?!” There is no record of Judy’s response, though in final years she would often say, “This is a rotten business, except for the audiences.”

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This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 5/3/13

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