In a six-decade-plus career (she started out as a radio performer at age 14), there are very few facets of entertainment that lovely singer/actress Polly Bergen has not conquered or, at the very least, touched upon. A nightclub and Columbia recording artist of the 50s and 60s, she is just as well known for her film and Emmy-winning dramatic performances as she is for her wry comedic gifts. In the leaner times, she has maintained quite well with her various businesses. Truly one for the ages, Polly has, at age 70+, nabbed a Tony nomination for her gutsy I'm Still Here entertainer Carlotta in Stephen Sondheim's Follies, and is still dishing out the barbs as she recently demonstrated as Felicity Huffman's earthy mom on Desperate Housewives (2004).
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee as Nellie Burgin on July 14, 1930, her family, which included father William, mother Lucy and sister Barbra, eventually moved to Los Angeles. By the time she was 14 Polly was singing professionally on radio and managed to scrape up singing gigs with smaller bands around and about the Southern California area. She attended Compton Junior College before Paramount mogul Hal B. Wallis caught sight of her and signed her up with his studio. Having made an isolated film debut (as Polly Burgin) a year earlier in the Monogram western Across the Rio Grande (1949), Wallis showcased her as a decorative love interest in the slapstick vehicles of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, the (then) hottest comedy team in Hollywood. But At War with the Army (1950), That's My Boy (1951) and The Stooge (1952) did little for Polly although she presented herself well. MGM and Universal had the idea to cast her in a more serious vein with co-starring roles in their dramas Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), Arena (1953) and Cry of the Hunted (1953), but again she was overlooked. Disasppointed, she decided to abandon her lucrative film contract and seek work elsewhere.