Saturday, 29 August 2015
The 100th Birthday of Ingrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman knew from an early age she wanted to be an actress. She made her film debut in 1932 as an extra in the film Landskamp. She won a scholarship to the Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern or Dramaten (the Royal Dramatic Theatre) in Stockholm, at which Greta Garbo, among other Swedish stars, had trained in acting. It was there that she made her professional stage debut. It while she was on a break during the summer from the Royal Dramatic Theatre that she was cast in a small role in Munkbrogreven (1935).
Over the next few years Ingrid Bergman appeared in the films Bränningar (1935), Swedenhielms (1935), and Valborgsmässoafton (1935). Her breakthrough role came in 1935 with Intermezzo (1935), in which Miss Bergman played a piano teacher who has an affair with her student's father. Previously cast in supporting roles, after Intermezzo Miss Bergman played the female lead in the films Dollar (1938), Die vier Gesellen (1938), En kvinnas ansikte (1938), and En enda natt (1939).
It would be Intermezzo that would bring Ingrid Bergman to Hollywood. Producer David O. Selznick's assistant Kay Brown had seen the film and as a result Mr. Selznick sent Miss Brown to Sweden in order to secure the rights for an American remake. Once Kay Brown returned to the United States with the rights to do a remake of Intermezzo, David O. Selznick decided he also wanted to sign the film's star. Kay Brown then returned to Sweden where she talked Ingrid Bergman into signing a contract with Mr. Selznick.
This is not to say that signing Ingrid Bergman did not come off without a hitch for David O. Selznick. Ingrid Bergman would only commit to one film before deciding if she wanted to stay in Hollywood. And as incredible as it must seem today given Ingrid Bergman's status as one of the great beauties of the Golden Age of Film, Mr. Selznick wanted to give her a Hollywood makeover, including plucking her eyebrows, dyeing her hair, and capping her teeth. Ingrid Bergman refused to have herself made over, and as a result David O. Selznick decided to capitalise on her "naturalness".
In addition to making films during the Forties, Ingrid Bergman also appeared on stage. In 1940 she appeared on Broadway in Liliom. In 1947 she appeared on Broadway in Joan of Lorraine. She also appeared in the play Anna Christie.
Once her contract with David O. Selznick ended Ingrid Bergman went freelance. She appeared in the films Arch of Triumph (1948) and Joan of Arc (1948). She also sought out director Roberto Rossellini. Miss Bergman had seen Mr. Rossellini's films Roma città aperta (1945), known in English as Open City, and Paisà (1945), known in English as Paisan, and admired both of them. Miss Bergman then wrote to Mr. Rossellini and offered to work with him. In the end Ingrid Bergman travelled to Italy to appear in his film Stromboli (1950).
Fortunately Ingrid Bergman would be able to make a comeback in Hollywood with the film Anastasia (1956). In the film Miss Bergman played an amnesiac who may or not be the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. The cast included such stars as Yul Brynner, Miss Bergman won another Oscar for Best Actress in a Lead Role for the film. She did not attend the Academy Awards ceremony, so her friend Cary Grant accepted for her. Miss Bergman was a presenter at the 1958 Academy Awards ceremony, at which she received a standing ovation.
Sadly, Ingrid Bergman died from breast cancer in London on her 67th birthday, August 29 1982.
There are those stars whose primary claims to fame are that they are exceptionally beautiful or exceptionally glamorous. Ingrid Bergman was incredibly beautiful and she was also very glamorous, but her fame stems from much more than that. Quite simply, Ingrid Bergman was one of the greatest actresses to grace the silver screen. Much as she was acclaimed for her natural beauty, Ingrid Bergman's acting style was entirely natural as well. Her acting was never forced or contrived. The characters she played in her films seemed less like movie characters than they did real people. The sensitivity Miss Bergman approached her roles and her sheer versatility in the sort of roles she played could not help but endear her to the movie viewing public. Over the years Ingrid Bergman played everything from the wife of a resistance leader to a nun to an amnesiac who may be the last surviving daughter of Tsar Nicholas II.
While Ingrid Bergman was and still is loved by the general public, she was valued by the movie industry as well. She was well known for her professionalism. She was well known for her lack of temperament and was known for going into roles fully prepared. She continued to work even after she was diagnosed with cancer, even then still displaying the professionalism she had earlier in her career.
One hundred years after her birth Ingrid Bergman is still one of the most famous film stars of all time. While many once famous stars are now only known to classic movie buffs, "Ingrid Bergman" is still a name familiar to the general public. Indeed, her best known films (Casablanca, Notorious, Spellbound, and The Bells of St. Mary's) continue to be popular. One has to suspect that one hundred years from now Ingrid Bergman will still be as famous and beloved as she is now.