Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Answering The Call

This is the picture of an article about Edgar Bergen, on the inside cover page of SAG/AFTRA Magazine written by Valerie Yaros.  It is a very interesting article.  I learned something new about someone I thought I knew a lot about.  
I am not a fan of the lead line "Edgar Bergen was NO DUMMY". Hackneyed and Lame. Given that elegant evening wear picture of Edgar and Charlie I would have called it:
"Edgar Bergen Answers the Call"
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy
In the mid thirties several movie actors risk their careers to form the Screen Actors Guild to negotiate better conditions at the studios.  The studios resisted but a year after Irving Thalberg, who was squarely against the union, died the Studios recognized SAG. 
In that same year of 1937 Edgar Bergen, radio's most popular actor at the time became Member #11 in the newly formed American Federation of Radio Artist.  He was immediately appointed  to the first national board of directors.  
To encourage new membership in AFRA the first issue of the bulletin contained articles and letters from Charlie McCarthy refusing to join the union.  Bergen eventually persuades him through open letters to Charlie expounding the virtues of AFRA membership. Charlie finally accepts the offer of an Honorary Membership.   Edgar Bergen was a major force behind the union that Sandi and I have worked with for our entire California career. 
Twenty years after Bergen's recruitment campaign,  AFRA accepted television actors and it became AFTRA and 2012...yep just last year... SAG and AFTRA merged to become SAG/AFTRA.
In October of 1978 AFTRA was set to give Edgar Bergen the "Life Time Acheivement" Award at their fall ceremony.  Edgar Bergen passed away on September 30, 1978 at Ceasears Palace where he was performing.  The award was postponed until it could be received by Frances Bergen and son Christopher Bergen in 1979.
So there you have it. 
The creator and star of the the most popular radio show of the day was there to help the union and missed out on the celebration to say thanks years later. 
Thank you Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy when my union needed you - You guys "Answered the Call".
As you were,


Pete Biro said...

Bergen was a genius

Bob Conrad said...

Thanks Jay, if possible I now respect Edgar even more.