Steely and funny, sensual and tough, classy yet down-to-earth. It's these contradictions that have made Candice Bergen fascinating to watch for so many years
by David Hutchings
Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark
Brilliant, blond and blue-eyed, with a distinctively chiseled nose, Candice Bergen is the quintessential American beauty. From the beginning she had the patrician good looks that could inspire extreme reactions: Men found her seductive yet unapproachable; women worshipped her or were green with envy. She could wear anything-a caftan, a power suit, a cowboy hat-or go braless and still make the Best Dressed list. Even now, at 59, she's got the ice princess thing down pat as Shirley Schmidt on Boston Legal, a lawyer who can deliver a brief as quickly as she can dispense style pointers to a clueless associate. That's Bergen's charm: being in the know and one step ahead when it comes to clothes, politics, photography even tackling single motherhood in 1992 on her hit TV show Murphy Brown. (Eat your heart out, Dan Quayle.) "Bergen became the personification of the smart, sharp, sardonic, sophisticated, glass-ceiling-be-damned modern American woman," says In Style fashion director Hal Rubenstein. Recently she sat down to reflect on more than o years of being Candy and displayed the self-deprecating humor she patented in roles starting with, well, Starting Over. "Oh my gosh, look at me! What a twit!" she says with a cackle, eyeing an early ad. Twit? Hardly.
1 1946, with parents Edgar (the tamed ventriloquist) and Frances Bergen and her "brother," Charlie McCarthy "I was hard-pressed to get my father's attention because I had to compete with Charlie. He was like a head of state in my house; he even had a bedroom next to mine full of little furniture. So if my initial performances in movies were called wooden, it's no accident."
2 1956, her 10th birthday, with her father "I grew up in Beverly Hills so I had very nice parties, and the children of Jimmy Stewart and Dorothy Lamour and Ray Milland came over. It was a fantastical childhood where I'd ride on Walt Disney's train in his backyard, and Fred Astaire would dance at my parents' parties, and Rex Harrison would sing. But I was basically a solitary child who liked to play with my dogs and chickens and donkey."
3 1964, college days "I was a 17‑year‑old freshman when I was voted Miss University of Pennsylvania. I rode around the football field in a convertible during halftime of the Penn‑Princeton game while the band played 'A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody.' I'm in my tailored black sheath, and somehow this tiara seems oddly hip for those days."
4 1966, The Group "This is the first movie I ever did, and it almost gave my mother a heart attack. I played a lesbian, and back then the L‑word was never mentioned. My mother said, 'Couldn't you play an ingenue?' but I thought playing a lesbian was the most fabulous thing in the world."
5 1967, The Day the Fish Came Out "Over the years there is nothing I was not a fashion victim of. But I can't believe I ever let anyone put me in something like this. I look like I'm in a uniform for a dental hygienist in the next millennium. It looks like I'm wearing a hair dryer on my head."
6 1968, The Magus "I was terrible in the movie. Again the word 'wooden' comes to mind. I was so intensely self‑conscious back then. But I loved working with Michael Caine, a smart, talented actor on top of his game, with a great sense of humor."
7 1970, at the Oscars with Dean Paul Martin "This is when the Oscars were fun, and everyone who attended was a walking fashion faux pas. I'm in my Oscar hippie gear. Arnold Scaasi did the gorgeous outfit. I still have those amber beads I got in Morocco, and the turquoise necklace I got from New Mexico. The hippie period was so colorful and so much fun. We wore fabulous sari fabrics and Indian robes made from cotton bed fabrics with sandals. We dressed larger than life, and you got to see true fashion sense at the Oscars back then, even though it looked pretty tragic. These days at the Oscars everyone is a gorgeous clone, and one person looks better dressed than the next. That's no fun!"
8 1970, with Jack Nicholson "This is me being Charlie McCarthy to Jack. I shared a house with Jack and Art Garfunkel during Carnal Knowledge, and I got the room in the basement with the spiders! Jack is one of the few people I know who is a huge celebrity and is really healthy about it. He enjoys it in exactly the right way."
9 1970, Life cover "To show we were serious‑minded we dressed down and looked more natural. The costume era was over."
10 1970, with Elliott Gould "I always dreamed of being a comic, and I loved the opportunity of being in this politically engaged comedy [Getting Straight]. As for the clothes, I had been dressing like a European artist, then I went into a hippie phase. Here it was the natural college‑kid look. I still have those Tiffany earrings."
11 1972, campaigning for George McGovern "I went through the braless look and had braless shirts made in London with two pockets in front. This is my modest version of the no‑bra shirt. Indian jewelry was big, and I wore lots of cowboy shirts at the time."
12 1974, 11 Harrowhouse "This is very much how I dressed in those days. I love this look. It had a fabulous corduroy jacket, and it was all made in England. It's an Hermes scarf, and I love this cap."
13 1978, at home "I had a room done to look like an opium den, complete with a Turkish bed and Turkish lamps. The dress was done by the wonderful Giorgio di Sant' Angelo, and I wish I still had it."
14 1980, wedding day "Louis [Malle] and I decided at the last minute to get married at our home deep in the French countryside. I wanted a simple, old-fashioned dress, and a wonderful French costume designer made a Victorian dress out of lace mixed with new silk. I tucked a handkerchief in my waist that my mother had brought me so I could have something old to wear. It was one of the most insanely happy days of my life."
15 1979, Starting Over with Burt Reynolds "Oh, look at my sheep hair! This was my first real comedy and it was so wonderful for me. I felt so lucky to be in this movie, I even let the director put me in a see‑through shirt, which is something I did not do that easily. I play an idiot ex‑wife who sings badly, and it was the first time I felt comfortable and really enjoyed acting. Finally I escaped my self‑consciousness!"
16 1982, Gandhi "I got interested in photography when I was at Penn and I saw the works of female photographers like Eve Arnold and Margaret Bourke‑White, whom I got to play in this film. It was a thrill for me to be in a film as important as this."
17 1988, Murphy Brown "This was a dream role and one of the great moments in my professional life. Women on TV at this time were not dressing to my taste, so I got very involved in the wardrobe. It was too Dynasty back then, so I went to designers like Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Isaac Mizrahi and Michael Kors and got 40 sexy power suits. I gave some of my own jewelry to Robert Lee Morris to redesign, and I also rummaged through men's closets."
18 1989, Emmy Awards "This was the first time in my life I had ever won anything, so I kept this Emmy next to my bed. I'm wearing Bill Blass. It's elegant, sexy and simple‑what I love in clothes. But I could never wear heels! Just too painful."
19 1989, the Oscars with Jacqueline Bisset "I think Jackie and I look great here! She is smart and beautiful; she hasn't done all that stupid stuff to her face that women are doing right now. Trying to hold off the inevitable is understandable, but I do very little of that because it's too weird‑looking."
20 2002, with her daughter, Chloe "I never took Chloe to sets, and I didn't take her to premiere events either until I knew she had her values in order. She has such a wonderful mind, and I wanted her to have the chance to explore other parts of life. She's wearing Marc Jacobs, and I think I'm in Galliano. There's a Mexican motif on the back of my outfit. I didn't want to look like an old stiff with my daughter.'
21 1999, with Marshall Rose "After Louis died, I didn't think there was any point to dating, much less getting married. Marshall and I were secretly set up at a dinner Don Hewitt had, and we both say we fell in love by the time dessert was served. He's romantic and funny and I feel so lucky to be with someone who is so enthusiastic for life. I love Marshall more now than when I fell in love with him seven years ago."
22 2000, Miss Congeniality "I play a witch in this movie, and it's the first in a series of shrews I played. Sandra is so professional, and I love the way she treats people. I love working with these young actresses who have taken charge of their lives. It certainly wasn't like that for actresses in my day."
23 2003, View from the Top "You can't even recognize Gwyneth Paltrow here. In the movie I play the patron saint of stewardesses. I look like a moron, but it was so much fun to do!"
24 2005, Boston Legal "I worked with the designer for my character in this wonderful show. I'm in an Armani jacket with my own antique ivory pin. I've never liked my neck, and my one request was that she cover as much of me as possible. Some people say my character is a bitch, but I like her because she's funny and sexy." •