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A HAPPY ENDING FOR CANDICE BERGEN? 'YES...AND NO'

Candice Bergen admitted that she still talked to Charlie McCarthy on the phone every couple of weeks, but she managed to convince me she was anything but a dummy when I interviewed her for The New York Times one winter morning in 1977. --Guy Flatley

Giancarlo Giannini, the cinema’s most ingratiatingly unregenerate male chauvinist, will soon cast his powerful macho spell on an American female. Candice Bergen, the liberated actress and photojournalist, will join Giannini in Calabria, Italy, on Jan. 3 for the shooting of "A Night Full of Rain," the story of a lovely, vulnerable photojournalist who clicks her shutter and goes faint at the sight of an egotistical peacock of an Italian Communist. The director and writer of the film is Lina Wertmuller, the whirlwind who whipped Mr. Giannini through his bravura course in "Love and Anarchy," "The Seduction of Mimi," "Swept Away" and "Seven Beauties." This time, however, the frenzied tour will be conducted in English.

"Lina and I should get along just fine", said Miss Bergen a few mornings ago in her Central Park South duplex, dressed in a simple caftan and wearing no makeup. "There is certainly a halting quality to our communication, since Lina doesn’t speak much English and I’m just learning to order a meal in Italian, but we have a common philosophical and political background, the same value system. The film will explore 10 years of a relationship between a man and a woman. I play a feminist who marries, has a child, and abandons a lifestyle in exchange for the man she’s married."

Will there be a happy ending?

"Yes…and no."

Without the benefit of divorce?

"Yes. However…you know, in spite of the fact that I myself am not married and don’t have children, the pain of the pulse this woman feels – her conflict – is something I feel very strongly. Being a woman these days is like an induced psychosis. At best, the options facing us are exhilarating; at worst, they’re paralyzing. I truly am not rabid. I’m just stuck. I’m trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Turning 30 really affected me. For the first time, I’m starting to feel that I’m on this irreversible treadmill. I’m on my way to the grim reaper, and I’m trying to figure out how to survive, how to outwit him. Isn’t it interesting, by the way, that death is a man and nature is a woman?"

Life was simpler as a Hollywood tot, cuddling up with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, and tonight at 9 Miss Bergen can attempt to rekindle the innocent bliss of childhood by tuning in to Edgar Bergen and his fondly remembered dummies while they read the verse of Ogden Nash on Channel 13’s "Boston Pops in Hollywood."

"I still talk to Charlie on the phone every couple of weeks," she said with a childlike smile. "He and Mortimer always had a kind of amorphous identity for me. They were not quite human, but they were certainly more than dolls. And the fact that my father’s radio program was called ‘The Charlie McCarthy Show, With Edgar Bergen,’ must have meant something. Maybe Charlie was human. Who’s to say?"

Tomorrow at 11:30 P.M. on Channel 4 Miss Bergen herself will clown around on "Saturday Night Live." "I love that show. It’s like the best of what school should have been, but never was. I must admit, however, that it is beginning to creep into my consciousness that the show is Saturday, and I still haven’t the vaguest idea of what I’ll be doing."

Should she fall on her face, it won’t be the first time. "I’ve had some real humiliations along the way," she cheerfully conceded, "from ‘The Day the Fish Came Out’ to ‘The Hunting Party’ to ‘Soldier Blue’ to ‘The Adventurers.' But you don’t get humiliated without asking for it. Anyone who signs up for ‘The Adventurers’ deserves what he gets. On the other hand, I’m quite proud of some of the work I’ve done in movies like ‘Carnal Knowledge’ and ‘The Wind and the Lion.’ "

She also takes pride in her performance in "The Domino Principle," Stanley Kramer’s upcoming thriller about a Presidential assassination in which she plays Gene Hackman’s drab, uneducated, 35-year-old wife, a burnt-out woman with short, mousy brown hair and a West Virginia twang.

"Thanks to Gene, it turned out to be the best part I’ve ever done. I said, ‘I have such a long way to go before I can become that woman, Gene, I just can’t do it unless you help me.’ He was incredibly generous with his time and energy, his enthusiasm, and his outrageous skill. For the first time, I took a risk and didn’t rely on my looks."

Suddenly Candice Bergen looked astonishingly solemn, and absurdly, illegally beautiful."