“I’m the only Jewish Southern Baptist in the United States,” she once told me. Born Nellie Pauline Burgin in Knoxville, Tennessee, as the granddaughter of a Baptist minister, she converted when she married one of Hollywood’s top super agents, Freddie Fields, in 1957, the second of her three husbands. She converted because “the more I was exposed to Freddie’s faith, the more I was convinced it was a religion that made sense to me.” She played Rhoda Henry, wife of Robert Mitchum’s character, in the ABC miniseries The Winds of War, 1983, and its sequel War and Remembrance, 1988-89, for which she was nominated for an Emmy both times. She also played opposite Mitchum in the 1962 film Cape Fear, in which he was a psychopathic convict threatening the wife (Bergen) of a lawyer (Gregory Peck).
I made this photograph at a party Bergen gave on April 4, 1974, at Orsini’s in New York to celebrate her second of three beauty books, Polly’s Principles (Bantam), an event that benefitted her pet project Unicef. Among her special guests were Carroll O’Connor of All in the Family, Richard Thomas of The Waltons, Tammy Grimes, Joan Hackett and Skitch Henderson. She died at 84 on September 21, 2014, at home in Southbury, Conn.