Bergen was born in Beverly Hills, California. Her mother, Frances Bergen (née Westerman), was a Powers model who was known professionally as Frances Westcott. Her father, Edgar Bergen (originally Berggren), was a famous ventriloquist, comedian, and actor. Her paternal grandparents were Swedish-born immigrants who anglicized their surname, which was originally Berggren ("mountain branch"). As a child, Candice was irritated at being described as "Charlie McCarthy's little sister" (referring to her father's star dummy).
She began appearing on her father's radio program at a young age, and in 1958, at age 11, with her father on Groucho Marx's quiz show You Bet Your Life, as Candy Bergen. She said that when she grew up, she wanted to design clothes. She later attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she was elected both Homecoming Queen and Miss University, but, as Bergen later acknowledged, she failed to take her education seriously and after failing two courses in art and opera, she was asked to leave at the end of her sophomore year. She ultimately received an honorary doctorate from Penn in May 1992.
She worked as a fashion model before she took up acting, featured on the covers of Vogue.
In 1966, Bergen made her screen debut playing a university student in The Group, which delicately touched on the then-forbidden subject of lesbianism. The same year, she played the role of Shirley Eckert, an assistant school teacher in The Sand Pebbles (1966) with Steve McQueen. The movie was nominated for several Academy Awards. In 1968 she played the leading female role in The Magus, a British mystery film also starring Michael Caine and Anthony Quinn, that was almost universally ridiculed on its release. She was featured in a 1970 political satire, The Adventurers, playing a frustrated socialite.
Bergen starred in the highly controversial Western Soldier Blue (1970), a worldwide hit but a failure in its homeland, perhaps because of its unflattering portrayal of the U.S. Cavalry. The film's European success led to Bergen's being voted by British exhibitors as the seventh-most popular star at the British box office in 1971. She had roles in two other Western films including The Hunting Party (1971) and Bite the Bullet (1975), both of which starred Gene Hackman.
Bergen appeared in Mike Nichols' provocative Carnal Knowledge (1971) and the Burt Reynolds romantic comedy Starting Over (1979), for which she received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for best supporting actress.
In 1975 she starred with Sean Connery in The Wind and the Lion, as a strong-willed American widow kidnapped in the Moroccan desert. She was the love interest of Ryan O'Neal in the Love Story sequel, Oliver's Story (1979), and portrayed a best-selling author in Rich and Famous (1981) with Jacqueline Bisset. In 1982, Bergen appeared in the Oscar-winning film Gandhi in which she portrayed documentary photographer Margaret Bourke-White. Bergen was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
Turning to television, Bergen appeared in the 1985 miniseries Hollywood Wives. In addition to acting, Bergen has written articles, a play, and a memoir, Knock Wood (1984). She has also studied photography and worked as a photojournalist.
In 1988, she took the lead role in the sitcom Murphy Brown, in which she played a tough television reporter. The series provided her with the opportunity to show her little-seen comic talent, and although primarily a conventional sit-com, the show did tackle important issues. Murphy Brown, a recovering alcoholic, became a single mother and later battled breast cancer. In 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle criticized prime-time TV for showing the Murphy Brown character "mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice."
Quayle's remarks were subsequently taken out of context and used for ideological purposes when written into the show, with Murphy shown watching Quayle's speech. A subsequent episode explored the subject of family values within a diverse set of families. The Brown character arranges for a truckload of potatoes to be dumped in front of Quayle's residence, an allusion to an infamous incident in which Quayle erroneously directed a school child to spell the word "potato" as "potatoe". In reality, Bergen agreed with at least some of Quayle's observations, saying that while the particular remark was "an arrogant and uninformed posture", as a whole, it was "a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being dispensable and nobody agreed with that more than I did." Bergen's run on Murphy Brown was extremely successful. The show ran for ten seasons and between 1989 and 1998, Bergen was nominated for an Emmy Award seven times and won five. After her fifth win, she declined future nominations for the role. Her five Emmy wins tie her with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mary Tyler Moore for the most wins for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Throughout the same time frame as Murphy Brown, Bergen also appeared as the main spokesperson for a Sprint telephone ad campaign.
After playing the role of Murphy Brown, Bergen was offered a chance to work as a real-life journalist. After the run of Murphy Brown ended in 1998, CBS approached her to cover stories for 60 Minutes, an offer she declined, with the conviction that she didn't personally want to blur the lines between actor and journalist at the time.
After Murphy Brown, Bergen hosted Exhale with Candice Bergen on the Oxygen network. She also appeared in character roles in films, including Miss Congeniality, where she played villainous pageant host Kathy Morningside; she also portrayed the mayor of New York in Sweet Home Alabama. In 2003, she appeared in the Gwyneth Paltrow flight-attendant comedy, View from the Top.
In January 2005, Bergen joined the cast of the television series Boston Legal as Shirley Schmidt, a founding partner in the law firm of Crane, Poole & Schmidt. She played the role for five seasons. In 2006 and 2008, she received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
A frequent host on NBC's Saturday Night Live, she was the first woman to host the show and the first host to do a second show. She was also the first woman to join the Five-Timers Club, when she hosted for the fifth time in 1990. Bergen guest-starred on The Muppet Show in its first year, appearing in several skits, an episode now available in a DVD collection. She was also featured in a long-running "Dime Lady" ad campaign for the Sprint phone company.
She has also made guest appearances on many other TV shows, including Seinfeld (as herself playing Murphy Brown), Law & Order, Family Guy, Will & Grace (playing herself), and Sex and the City, where she played Enid Frick, Carrie Bradshaw's editor at Vogue. More recently she appeared in the 2009 movie Bride Wars as Marion St. Claire, New York's most sought-after wedding planner, who also serves as the narrator of the story.
Since its launch in 2008, Candice Bergen has been a contributor for wowOwow.com, a website for women to talk culture, politics and gossip.
Bergen had an occasional role on House as Lisa Cuddy's mother, starting in Season 7, including the 2011 episodes "Larger Than Life" and "Family Practice".
In 2010, she appeared in a one-night only concert semi staged reading of Evening Primrose by Stephen Sondheim. She has also appeared on Broadway in the 2012 revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man and the 2014 revival of Love Letters.
A "political activist", Bergen accepted a date with Henry Kissinger. During her "activist" days she participated in a Yippie prank when she, Abbie Hoffman, and others threw dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in 1967, leading to its temporary shutdown. In 1972, she served as a fundraiser and organizer for George McGovern's presidential campaign.
Bergen and former boyfriend Terry Melcher lived at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, which was later occupied by Sharon Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski. Tate and four others were murdered in the home in August 9, 1969, by followers of Charles Manson. There was some initial speculation that Melcher may have been the intended victim, although Melcher, his former roommate Mark Lindsay, and Vincent Bugliosi have all indicated Manson was aware that Melcher was no longer living at that address at the time of the murders.
On September 27, 1980, she married French film director Louis Malle. They had one child, a daughter named Chloe, in 1985. The couple were married until Malle's death from cancer on Thanksgiving Day in 1995. Bergen has traveled extensively and speaks French fluently. She is now married to New York real estate magnate and philanthropist Marshall Rose.
Emmy Awards:Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for: Murphy Brown (1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995) 5 wins
Golden Globe Awards:Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Comedy/Musical for: Murphy Brown (1989, 1992) 2 wins
Television Academy Hall of Fame:Inducted in 2010