Polly Bergen (born Nellie Paulina Burgin; July 14, 1930 - September 20, 2014) was an American actress, singer, and entrepreneur.
Bergen was born in Knoxville in eastern Tennessee, the daughter of Lucy (née Lawhorn) and William Hugh Burgin, a construction engineer. "Bill Bergen," as he was later known, had singing talent and appeared with his daughter in several episodes of her 18-episode NBC comedy/variety show, The Polly Bergen Show, which aired in the 1957-1958 television season.
A radio performer from the age of 14, Polly Bergen went the summer stock-nightclub route before heading for Hollywood in 1949. During her first months in the entertainment capitol, Bergen married actor Jerome Courtland, a union that was over virtually before it began; her later marriage to agent Freddie Fields endured for nearly 20 years. Though she could take some pride in having survived three Martin and Lewis films (At War With the Army, That's My Boy and The Stooge), Bergen chafed at the nondescript movie parts being offered her, and in 1953 walked out of a very lucrative studio contract.
Here's Polly's cover of "The Wayward Wind" from 1956
She headed for New York, where, while headlining in the Broadway revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac, she strained her voice and was forced to undergo a painful throat operation. Bergen received an Emmy award for her portrayal of singer Helen Morgan in a May 1957 episode of the television series Playhouse 90 on CBS. Sylvia Sidney played her mother on the episode. Signed to Columbia Records, she also enjoyed a successful recording career during this era. Another serious career set-back occurred in 1959 when, while starring in the musical First Impressions, she nearly lost her life during a difficult pregnancy.
Gamely surviving these and other personal travails, Bergen rose to stardom via her stage performance, her one-woman cabaret act, and her many TV appearances.She was a regular panelist on the CBS game show To Tell the Truth during its original run. She also
appeared on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood.
In 1962, she gave films a second chance when she played a North Carolina housewife threatened with rape by rampaging ex-con Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear (1962) (over 20 years later, she and Mitchum played husband and wife in the popular TV miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance). Her bravura portrayal of a mental patient in The Caretakers (1963) was quite an eye-opener for those familiar with Bergen only through her appearances on TV's To Tell the Truth. Less aesthetically successful was Kisses for My President (1964), in which Bergen starred as the first female Chief Executive. Later roles included Mrs. Vernon-Williams in Cry-Baby, a 1990 John Waters film.
Though busy with her show-business activities into the 1990s (she recently co-starred in the network sitcom Baby Talk), it is interesting to note that, in her Who's Who entry, Bergen lists herself as a business executive first, an actress second. There is certainly plenty of justification for this; over the last 40 years, she has maintained such successful business ventures as Polly Bergen Cosmetics, Polly Bergen Jewelry, and Polly Bergen Shoes; she has also been active as part-owner of and pitch person for Oil-of-the-Turtle cosmetics. Equally busy in nonprofit organizations, she has served with such concerns as the National Business Council and Freedom of Choice. Scarcely a year goes by without Bergen receiving an award or honorarium from a professional, charitable, political or civic organization. As if all this wasn't activity enough, Polly Bergen is also the author of three books: Fashion and Charm (1960), Polly's Principles (1974), and I'd Love to, but What'll I Wear? (1977).
She starred in a 2001 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies at the Belasco Theater and received a Tony Award nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She also appeared as Fran Felstein on HBO's The Sopranos, the former mistress of Tony Soprano's father, and former acquaintance of John F. Kennedy. Another of her recent appearances came in CBS' Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation Candles on Bay Street (2006), in which she played the assistant to a husband-and-wife team of veterinarians. In the 1950s, she was also known as "The Pepsi Cola Girl," having done a series of commercials for that product.
From 2007 to 2011, Bergen had a guest role in Desperate Housewives as Lynette Scavo's mother, Stella Wingfield, which earned her an Emmy Award nomination.
Bergen converted to Judaism after having married Hollywood talent agent Freddie Fields, with whom she had one biological child and two adopted children. She had previously been a Southern Baptist.
She had two other marriages that ended in divorce. When not working, Bergen lives in Connecticut. Her third marriage, to Jeffery Endervelt, ended in divorce in 1990.
Bergen died of natural causes on September 20, 2014, at her home in Southbury, Connecticut, surrounded by family and close friends. She had been diagnosed with emphysema and other ailments in the late 1990s.
(Info edited from All Rovi.com & Wikipedia)