Dummy: Charlie McCarthy
The irrepressible Charlie McCarthy was born at the age of 11. More specifically, he was carved from a block of pine by an Illinois carpenter named Theodore Mack, then sold to aspiring teenage ventriloquist Edgar Bergen for 35 dollars. Created in the image of a Chicago newsboy named -- what else? -- Charlie, the little wooden head joined Bergen for a series of private parties, touring shows, and one-night stands, finally finding steady work on vaudeville. At first dressed as a street urchin, Charlie eventually adopted the tuxedo, top hat, and monocle that would one day become world famous. The story goes that one evening, while Bergen's act was bombing in front of a bored night club audience, Charlie suddenly turned to his partner and ad-libbed, "Who the hell ever told you you were a ventriloquist!" He then proceeded to insult each and every member of the audience, while Bergen, who up to this point had been suffering without complaint, sat by in helpless silence (except for his ever-moving lips). The "new," irreverent Charlie McCarthy scored an immediate hit with the audience, inspiring Bergen to continue venting his frustrations through his dummy in a similarly hilarious but better scripted fashion. In 1930, Charlie made his screen debut in a Vitaphone one-reeler, and within a few years was receiving billing over his mentor Bergen. Officially discovered for radio by Rudy Vallee in 1936, Bergen and McCarthy went on to star on the top-rated Chase and Sanborn Hour, later retitled The Charlie McCarthy Show. The duo made their first feature film appearance in The Goldwyn Follies (1938), then went on to star in a series of breezy comedies opposite such film and radio favorites as W.C. Fields, Lucille Ball, and Fibber McGee and Molly. After co-starring in the Disney feature Fun and Fancy Free (1947), Charlie and his fellow dummies Mortimer Snerd and Effie Klinker (together with Bergen, of course) moved into TV, where in the mid-'50s they co-hosted the comedy quiz program Do You Trust Your Wife? Even when his fortunes waned in the 1960s, Charlie continued to live in lavish splendor with the Bergen family, occupying a bedroom that was even larger than that of his "sister" Candice Bergen. Not long after making a cameo appearance in The Muppet Movie, Bergen and McCarthy made a spectacularly successful comeback appearance in Las Vegas -- a comeback cut short by Bergen's fatal heart attack at the age of 75. For all intents and purposes, Charlie McCarthy died right along with Bergen: Since retiring to the Smithsonian Institution in 1978, Charlie has uttered not one, single, solitary word.