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November 09, 2015

A Fine Romance: A Memoir

A Fine RomanceA Fine Romance: A Memoir

By: Candice Bergen

For those of a certain age, Candice Bergen’s fictional alter-ego of Murphy Brown supersedes the woman herself. For those of an elevated certain age, Bergen is better known as the daughter of Charles Bergen, being the flesh-and-blood sister to his Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy. This relationship was addressed in her earlier autobiography Knock Wood. Bergen is quite a marvel in her own right; I enjoyed learning about her on a more personal level by exploring the love relationships she has experienced during her unique and privileged life. This facet of Bergen’s life is the focus of her recent memoir, A Fine Romance.

Though Bergen was precocious in many ways, she had not encountered true love until the age of 34 when she met and married French director Louis Malle. Malle was 14 years her senior and had children from two previous relationships. Their life together was complicated by two busy careers, blended families, and the geographic challenges of living in France, Los Angeles, New York, and other locales while Malle directed films. In addition, Bergen’s opportunity to star in the Murphy Brown television series came early in their marriage, making Candice Bergen a household name – a blessing and a curse. Finding time together was often a struggle but frequent letters, phone calls and occasional visits and shared holidays kept the flame of romance alive.

After five years and much soul-searching, Bergen overcame her ambivalence about having a child, deciding to embrace motherhood at the age of 39. The writers of Murphy Brown worked a pregnancy into the script for Murphy as well – resulting in a firestorm of controversy when Vice-President Dan Quayle accused the show of denigrating family values by portraying a single mother in a compassionate light. When little Chloe Malle made her debut, mother and daughter forged an immediate bond; Chloe became the center of Bergen’s universe and their relationship remains close to this day.

When Louis died on Thanksgiving Day of 1995 – at the age of 63 – from an inflammation of the brain, his wife and daughter were devastated. Their 15-year marriage had been Bergen’s touch-point and now she and Chloe were set adrift. The two drew even closer and sojourned through their grief together.

After three years, friends convinced Bergen that it was time to seek a new relationship. She had enjoyed the single life before Louis came along, but now she knew what she had been missing. Bergen craved a companion with whom to share her life. An arranged dinner with real estate developer and philanthropist Marshall Rose, also a three-year widower went surprisingly well, “My reaction surprised me; parts of me woke up. Huh. I’m not dead.” Both were cautious about bringing someone new into their lives, having loved their respective spouses deeply. But after dating exclusively for a couple of years, and carefully integrating their respective families,  Bergen and Rose took the leap and married. At times, their relationship has been bumpy – being quite different from the lives they shared with their previous partners – but the two allowed for the growing pains of a new partnership and have found happiness together, which continues to endure.

Bergen is amazingly honest about her relationships, including those with her mother Frances, younger brother Kris, and many well-known personalities from the large and small screen and political sphere. She brings the reader behind the scenes for a true insider’s view of a privileged life, where she has rubbed elbows with presidents, Hollywood stars, producers and directors, as well as top-level journalists. Bergen is as brash and engaging a writer, as Murphy Brown once was, revealing the good, the bad, and the ugly about the loves of her life. She is also transparent in revealing her own personal foibles and shortcomings – never taking herself too seriously – and graciously sharing the lessons she has gleaned during her exceptional life. All-in-all, an engagingly good read!

Review By: Pam Lamberger