Constance Bergen: Short But Sweet in (Comedy) Shorts

Constance Bergen (1912-79) started out as a singer in her native Chicago, presumably with the approval of her parents, who had named her Constance Talmadge Bergen in honor of the movie star. (She was apparently no relation to Edgar Bergen, whose real last name in any case was Berggren.)  Constance was only 22 when she went into films, and not yet 30 when she retired, despite the fact that she was 2nd or 3rd billed in many classic comedy shorts and B movies, and had some decent supporting parts in major films. She seems to have taken a sort of smorgasbord approach to her career, working for over half a dozen major and minor studios.

For Hal Roach she was in Maid in Hollywood (1934) with Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly; and was Charley Chase’s leading lady in four comedies: Okay Toots!, Poker at Eight, Southern Exposure, and The Four-Star Boarder (all 1935). At Educational she was in Super Stupid (1934) with Billy Gilbert, Nifty Nurses (1935) with Johnny Downs, and Two Lame Ducks (1936) with Gilbert and Vince Barnett. For RKO she was in the Clark and McCullough shorts Flying Down to Zero and Alibi Bye Bye (both 1935) as well as So and Sew (1936) Gilbert and Lucille Ball; and False Rumors (1938) with Edgar Kennedy. She also had a bit part in Follow the Fleet (1936) with Fred and Ginger. At Universal she supported Zasu Pitts in She Gets Her Man and The Affair of Susan (both 1935). At Paramount, she was in Rhythm on the Range (1936) with Bing Crosby, and Wives Never Know (1936) and Turn Off the Moon (1937), both with Charles Ruggles. She returned to her roots by singing a song in Paramount’s High Wide and Handsome (1937) with Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne. At Warner Brothers, she had a chorus part in Miss Pacific Fleet (1935) with Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell. She had apparently also shot scenes in The Petrified Forest (1936) which wound up on the cutting room floor.

For smaller independent studios Bergen co-starred in B movie westerns like Big Boy Rides Again (1936) with Big Boy Williams and Too Much Beef (1936) with Rex Bell. With Ralph Graves she appeared in the 1936 serial The Black Coin. Her last co-starring part was in the low budget drama It’s All in Your Mind (1938).

Bergen seems to have thrown in the towel after a mere 5 years, around the very same time that studios were ceasing to make comedy shorts, which had supplied her with some of her best work. She returned for a supporting role in just one more film, Universal’s Man Made Monster (1941) with Lionel Atwill and Lon Chaney Jr. 

For more on classic comedy film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.