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Original Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy used by Edgar Bergen

Original Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy used by Edgar Bergen

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Description (Brief)
This Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist figure, or dummy, is the original, the first created and used by entertainer Edgar Bergen in his popular act. The dummy is made of wood and plastic, with human hair and glass eyes, and wears synthetic fabric and cotton clothing, a cardboard and fur top hat, glass monocle, and leather shoes.
In a career that spanned five decades, Bergen became one of the most popular entertainers in the United States, performing with McCarthy on the vaudeville stage and in radio, film, and television appearances. Bergen’s ventriloquist act seems a strange match for the purely aural medium of radio, but it was a remarkable success; he and Charlie starred in a series of top-rated radio programs from 1937 – 1956. Bergen acted as the straight man alongside McCarthy’s precocious and transgressive humorous banter. Despite being portrayed as a child, McCarthy was known for roasting celebrity guests (comedian W. C. Fields a particular target and returner of insults) and pursuing women, frequently flirting in provocative double entendre and innuendo that would have faced censorship if spoken by a human character.
Edgar Berggren (he later changed his name for the stage) was the son of Swedish immigrants who taught himself ventriloquism while working odd jobs to support his family following his father’s death. In 1922, Bergen asked Chicago-area woodcarver Theodore Mack to make a dummy based on a sketch of an Irish newspaper boy and named him Charlie McCarthy. Bergen first dressed McCarthy in his signature tuxedo, monocle and top hat for a performance at the Rainbow Room of the Hotel Waldorf Astoria in New York City. In 1936, the duo made their radio debut as guest stars on the Rudy Vallee Radio Show and the following year began starring in their own radio show, The Chase and Sanborn Hour, on the NBC network. Bergen was a popular film star as well, making 14 motion pictures with Charlie and receiving a special Academy Award in 1938. During World War II, they toured military hospitals in the United States and made numerous appearances overseas, touring with the USO and broadcasting from Army, Navy and Marine bases during and after the war. With the declining popularity of radio, they made the transition to television with an NBC show, Do You Trust Your Wife? (NBC, 1958-1959) and continued to perform in nightclub and television appearances.
Bergen was known for his showmanship, exceptional humor, and a daring irreverence. Bergen and McCarthy had a far-reaching influence on ventriloquism and other forms of entertainment, using novel and diverse forms of electronic media to help create a national cultural vernacular.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
puppet
Date made
1922
maker
Mack, Theodore
user
Bergen, Edgar
NBC
CBS
maker
Mack, Theodore
place made
United States: Illinois, Chicago
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
cloth, synthetic (overall material)
human hair (hair material)
glass (eyes material)
leather (shoes material)
Measurements
overall: 36 in x 12 in x 8 in; 91.44 cm x 30.48 cm x 20.32 cm
ID Number
1980.0273.01
accession number
1980.0273
catalog number
1980.0273.01
Credit Line
Gift of The Bergen Foundation (through Frances Bergen)
subject
Puppetry
Television broadcasts
Radio and television broadcasting
Motion Pictures
Theater, Vaudeville
Nightclubs
Television
World War II
Great Depression
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Entertainment
1939 exhibit
Popular Entertainment
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Comments

Hi I have a letter from 19th April 1939 from the resident manager asking my grandad if they could borrow his ventriloquist dummy for a Charlie McCarthy film that was coming to the Halifax odeon in Halifax uk.
Just an observation....Edger Bergen's Charlie McCarthy puppet, should always be displayed, with his signature top hat on. That is how most everybody, would have memories of him, and would prefer to see him. He is a priceless piece of nostalgic americana.

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