LOS ANGELES — Candice Bergen is producing a film about her late father, the famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, a spokeswoman said.
The big-screen project will tell the story of Bergen’s dad and his ventriloquist’s dummy that became an unlikely celebrity, spokeswoman Heidi Schaeffer said. The movie will be based on Candice Bergen’s 1984 memoir, “Knock Wood.”
In a statement, “Murphy Brown” star Bergen said her father was overshadowed by the 3-foot-long wood character named Charlie McCarthy, who got the best lines while the reserved Edgar Bergen played straight man.
“This creation took over and eclipsed the creator,” Candice Bergen said. “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.”
James Francis Trezza and Pam Widener, who are producing the film with Bergen, said they want to introduce a new generation to the early days of American show business, from vaudeville through the birth of TV, and explore how Bergen navigated its changes.
Barbara Turner, who worked with Trezza and Widener on the Oscar-winning Jackson Pollock biographical film “Pollock,” is writing the script.
Charlie “was truly Bergen’s alter ego and, perhaps more interestingly, he was America’s alter ego,” producer Widener said in a statement. “At a time when manners and standards ruled the airwaves, Charlie said the unsayable and got away with it.”
A flirtatious radio exchange between Charlie and sexy actress Mae West in 1938 drew NBC’s ire, but the popularity of Bergen and his sidekick was unaffected.
“I find it endlessly fascinating that a reserved man, a man who had difficulty expressing his feelings, fell into the profession of a ventriloquist on radio,” his daughter said. “And that the person he created was this devil-may-care, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners dummy.”
Edgar Bergen died in 1978 at the age of 75, after beginning a farewell series of performances in Las Vegas. Charlie McCarthy found a home at the Smithsonian Institution.
A release date for the film, titled “Charlie McCarthy,” was not announced.