Bergman, Ingrid (1915-1982)

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Bergman, Ingrid (1915-1982)

A star in Swedish, French, German, Italian, and British films before emigrating to the United States to star in Intermezzo in 1939, Ingrid Bergman, with her Nordic freshness and vitality, coupled with her beauty and intelligence, quickly became the ideal of American womanhood and one of Hollywood's most popular stars. A love affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini during the filming of Stromboli in 1950 created a scandal that forced her to return to Europe, but she made a successful Hollywood comeback in 1956, winning her second Academy Award for the title role in Anastasia.

Born in Stockholm to a tragedy-prone family, she suffered at age two the death of her mother. Her father died when she was twelve, a few months before the spinster aunt who had raised her also died. She was sent to live with her uncle and later used her inheritance to study acting at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. With the encouragement of her friend Dr. Peter Lindstrom, who became her first husband in 1937, she turned to the cinema, playing a hotel maid in her debut film Monkbrogreven (1934). The turning point in her career came in 1937, when the Swedish director Gustaf Molander chose her as the lead in the romantic drama Intermezzo, about a famous violinist who has an adulterous affair with a young pianist.

When David Selznick saw a print of Bergman in the Swedish film, he was unimpressed, but he was persuaded by Katharine Brown, his story-buyer, that the proposed American remake of Intermezzo would only be successful with Ingrid in the role of the pianist. He signed her to a contract for the one film, with an option for seven years. When Intermezzo, A Love Story, also starring Leslie Howard, was released in 1939, Hollywood saw an actress who was completely natural in style as well as lack of makeup. Film critic James Agee wrote that "Miss Bergman not only bears a startling resemblance to an imaginable human being; she really knows how to act, in a blend of poetic grace with quiet realism." Selznick exercised his option for the extended contract and recalled her from Sweden.

While waiting for Selznick to develop roles for her, Bergman played on Broadway in Liliom and was loaned out to MGM for two dramatic roles, as the governess in love with Warner Baxter in Adam Had Four Sons (1941) and as Robert Montgomery's ill-fated wife in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941). MGM offered her the role of the ingenue in the latter film, but Bergman, always willing to take chances, begged for the role of the floozy and exchanged parts with Lana Turner. Theodore Strauss, writing in the New York Times, praised Bergman's "shining talent" in making something of a small part. He added that Turner and the rest of the cast moved "like well-behaved puppets."

In 1942 Warner Brothers, desperate for a continental heroine after being turned down by Hedy Lamarr, borrowed Bergman from Selznick to play opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942). The role made Bergman a surefire box-office star and led to her appearing opposite Gary Cooper the following year in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943). Selznick's Swedish import was now in demand for major roles by several studios, and in 1944 MGM signed her for her Academy Award winning role as the manipulated wife in Gaslight. Her talent and popularity attracted Alfred Hitchcock, who gave her leads in two of his finest suspense thrillers, Spellbound (1945) and Notorious (1946). Then occurred a succession of ill-chosen parts, along with a shocking scandal, and the film Notorious became her last successful film for a decade.

Her affair with Roberto Rossellini, which erupted during the shooting of Stromboli on location in Italy in 1950, resulted in the birth of a daughter and a barrage of international criticism. Although she married Rossellini as soon as possible after her divorce, her fans, and particularly those in America, were unwilling to forgive her. Stromboli was boycotted by most of the movie-going public. Rossellini directed her in Europa '51 in 1952, with the same dismal response.

In 1957 the Fox studios offered her $200,000 for the title role in Anastasia. She agreed to the terms, the film was shot in Britain, and it became a world-wide hit, earning Ingrid her second Oscar as well as the forgiveness of her fans. In 1958 two more films shot in Britain were released with great success: Indiscreet, with Cary Grant, and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, based on the true story of a missionary in China. She continued to make films in Europe, but most of them received no bookings in the United States. Columbia lured her back to Hollywood for a two-picture deal, however, and she made the popular Cactus Flower (1969), co-starring Walter Matthau, and A Walk in theSpring Rain (1970) with Anthony Quinn. Her last role was that of Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, in a drama made for television, A Woman Called Golda (1981). She made her home in France for the last 32 years of her life and died in London on August 29, 1982.

—Benjamin Griffith

Further Reading:

Bergman, Ingrid, and Alan Burgess. Ingrid Bergman: My Story. New York, Delacorte, 1980.

Leamer, Laurence. As Time Goes By: The Life of Ingrid Bergman. New York, Harper & Row, 1986.

Quirk, Lawrence J. The Complete Films of Ingrid Bergman. New York, Carol Communications, 1989.

Spoto, Donald. Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman. New York, Harper Collins, 1997.

Taylor, John Russell. Ingrid Bergman. New York, St. Martin's Press, 1983.

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Bergman, Ingrid (1915-1982)

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