Saturday, August 29, 2015

The 100th Birthday of Ingrid Bergman

It was 100 years ago today that Ingrid Bergman was born in Stockholm, Sweden. To this day she remains one of the most famous stars from the Golden Age of Cinema and one of those who is still recognised by the general public. She won three Academy Awards, making her tied for second place in number of Oscar wins with Walter Brennan, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, and Daniel Day Lewis as far as actors are concerned. Miss Bergman also won two Emmy Awards and one Tony Award. In the American Film Institute's list of the 25 top female stars, Ingrid Bergman ranked fourth.

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".

The American remake of Intermezzo Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939), proved to be a success. David O. Selznick then signed Miss Bergman to a seven year contract. The years immediately following the release of Intermezzo: A Love Story would prove to be the height of Ingrid Bergman's career. She appeared in Rage in Heaven (1941) and MGM's version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) before appearing in what remains her best known film, Casablanca (1942). She was nominated for the first time for an Oscar for the film For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) and won her first Oscar for Gaslight (1944). Miss Bergman was nominated for two more Oscars for The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) and Joan of Arc (1948). During this period Ingrid Bergman worked three times with director Alfred Hitchcock, appearing in three of her best known films: Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), and Under Capricorn (1949).  The two developed a close and long lasting friendship. In fact, while Miss Bergman valued Mr. Hitchcock as a friend and nothing more, the great director fell in love with her.

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).

Ultimately Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini fell in love with each other. Miss Bergman left her husband, Petter Lindström, for Mr. Rossellini, and she was not yet divorced when she was pregnant with their first child, Robertino Rossellini. Unfortunately the affair would cause a scandal in the overly conservative United States of the 1950s, with the end result being that Miss Bergman's career would suffer in America. She was widely denounced in the American press and even on the floor of the Senate by Senator Edwin C. Johnson. At the time individuals such as Steve Allen, who had Ingrid Bergman as a guest on his show during the ensuing scandal, seemed increasingly rare in the United States. Having gone from one of Hollywood's top stars to persona non grata almost overnight, Ingrid Bergman moved to Italy. There she made such films as Europa '51 (1951), Viaggio in Italia (1954), and Elena et les hommes (1956). As to Stromboli, it would come to be regarded as one of Ingrid Bergman's greatest films. Despite the scandal that ensued in the United States, she won the Italian Syndicate of Film Journalists' award for Best Foreign Actress in Italian Film and Roberto Rossellini was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

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.

Following Anastasia Ingrid Bergman appeared in several films, as well as television. She won her first Emmy in 1959 for an adaptation of Turn of the Screw that aired on the anthology series Startime. She won a second Emmy for her role in the mini-series A Woman Called Golda, which would also be her final acting role. She won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Höstsonaten (1978). Over the years she appeared in such films as Indiscreet (1958), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), and Cactus Flower (1969). The United States Senate would even make amends for the attack on her because of her affair with Roberto Rossellini in 1950. In 1972 Senator Charles H. Percy entered an apology into the Congressional Record for the earlier attack.

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.

1 comment:


What a beautiful post (especially the conclusion, it almost made me cry!). I'm sure you had a lot of work to spell all those Swedish titles!
And, oh, I would love to see Ingrid in the theater, either in Liliom or Anna Christie. Her stage presence must have been amazing.
Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)