Ingrid Bergman. What is the first word that comes to your mind when you think of this name? For some, it’s “beauty”, for some it’s “talent”, for some, it’s “Casablanca”. For me, it’s all this, and more… As I wrote in my letter to Isabella Rossellini (yes, I’ve sent her a letter very recently. I hope she will answer!), the word that, to me, describes the best Ingrid Bergman is “fascinating”. Her talent, her personality, her beauty and her life are all this: fascinating. You all know that Audrey Hepburn is my favourite actress, but in a more objective point of view, Ingrid Bergman is, in my opinion, the most talented of them all. She is a model of acting, for the world of cinema, but also of theatre. Ingrid also had the talent to act in many languages: Swedish, English, German, Italian and even French! Today, we’re celebrating her 100th birthday. Sadly, Ingrid Bergman also left us on the day of her 67th birthday on August 29, 1982. She was only 67 and was suffering from a severe breast cancer.
The following article will pay a great tribute to this legendary actress. I wrote it for The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon, the very first blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema (in other words, by me). How exciting is that! I want to tell you how much I admire this actress and why.
Ingrid Bergman certainly didn’t have an easy life. Luckily, she was a strong and courageous woman. She was born in Stockholm in 1915. Her German mother died when she was only 2-years-old and her father, a Swedish photographer died when she was still quite young: 12. Being an orphan, she had to live with her aunts and her uncles. Ingrid has always been interested in the art of acting. She explains in a few interviews that, when she was young, she was pretending she was someone else and created stories with her great imagination. When she went to the theatre for the first time, she discovered that what she was doing was acting. Ingrid Bergman started her acting studies at the Royal Dramatic Theatre School of Stockholm. This led her to the world of cinema. She starred in her first film in 1935: Munkbrogreven. In 1936, she starred in the original Swedish version of Intermezzo. While she was in Sweden, she starred in a dozen of films, including A Woman’s Face and June Nights.
Even if she was a Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman’s talent was noticed by Hollywood film industry. It’s David O’Selznick who gave her her first part in an American film: Intermezzo: A Love story (1939), opposite Leslie Howard, a remake of the original Swedish Intermezzo. When she arrived in Hollywood, Ingrid had to face the challenge of not speaking English very well. Of course, she learned and how. Anyway, how can we not love her adorable accent? She also had to face the Hollywood industry who wanted her to change her name and her look (not conformed to the beauty standards of Hollywood), but Ingrid, who knew what she wanted, treated them to return to Sweden if they dared try to change her look and her name. We’re glad they didn’t because, first she was one of the most beautiful women on Earth and, second, her name became legendary. So, Ingrid started her Hollywood career with Intermezzo that led her to a series of notorious masterpieces: For Whom the Bell Tolls, Casablanca (probably her most famous film), Gaslight (for which she won her first Oscar), The Bell’s of St. Mary’s, etc. She also became one of Hitchcock’s blonde muses and acted in three of his films: Spellbound, Notorious and Under Capricorn.
In the 40’s, Ingrid Bergman was one of the most appreciated stars in Hollywood, but that was not to last…
In 1937, Ingrid married Doctor Petter Lindström with whom she had a daughter, Pia. They divorced in 1950 and their marriage ended due to one of Hollywood’s most famous love scandal. Well, you probably all know what it is. And just to let you know, before I continue, I’m on Ingrid’s side. Ingrid Bergman had noticed the work of Roberto Rossellini and desperately wanted to act in one of his films. So, she sent him a letter explaining him her interest. Luckily for her, her dream came true and she had the chance to star in Rossellini’s neorealist film Stromboli. During the shooting of this film, Roberto and Ingrid fell in love with each other and started having an affair, which created a scandal in the United States as she was married and had a daughter. We have to know that Ingrid had then already asked Petter for a divorce, but he didn’t agree to it. So, their wedding was already not very strong anymore. Because of this scandal, Ingrid was not welcomed in the United States anymore so, she returned to Italy. She finally obtained the divorce from Petter in 1950, but this one did everything so Ingrid won’t be able to meet her daughter Pia. Of course, she was very sad about that and finally had the chance to see her again many years after.
Ingrid Bergman married Roberto Rossellini in 1950. They had three children together: Roberto (born out-of-wedlock) and the twins Isabella and Ingrid Isotta. Isabella Rossellini, model, and actress, is probably Ingrid’s most famous child. And, just like her mum, she’s an extraordinary and beautiful woman. During her years in Italy, Ingrid shot five films under the direction of her husband: Stromboli, Europa ’51, Viaggio in Italia, Giovanna d’Arco al rogo and La Paura.
After six years of exile apart from the United States, Ingrid Bergman made her comeback to the American film industry and starred in Anastasia (which was actually shot in England). This was a success and she won her second Oscar. She divorced Roberto Rossellini not a very long time after in 1957. Her last husband was Lars Schmidt. They remained married from 1958 to 1975. She then starred in appreciated movies like Indiscreet, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Goodbye Again, The Yellow Roll Royce, etc. In 1975, she won her third Oscar for her performance in Murder on the Orient Express. Ingrid Bergman’s last film was the TV movie A Woman Called Golda (Alan Gibson, 1982). Bergman published her autobiography in 1980: My Life, which became a best-seller. I still have to read it. She died in 1982 on the day of her 67th anniversary.
Ingrid Bergman has always been a favourite of mine since I saw her in Casablanca. However, when I watched her first films, I was always observing her acting in a very superficial way. I was loving her, but not in the way I was loving Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. But now I do, oh yes I do! So, for a long time, I hadn’t seen many of her films: Casablanca, Anastasia, Notorious and some others. She was incredible in all of these, but the film that was a revelation to me was Spellbound. In this film, Ingrid was acting with so much sincerity and love, it became my favourite movie of hers and also a turning point. I then re-watched some of her movies I had already seen and observed her acting on a completely different angle. Now I’m able to say that I don’t only admire her, but also love her.
Not a very long time ago, I also read an excellent biography about Ingrid Bergman: La véritable Ingrid Bergman written by Bertrand Meyer-Stabley. So, with this book, I was able to understand, not only what type of actress she was, but also what type of woman she was. Ingrid was brave, she was passionate by her profession, she knew what she wanted, and didn’t need others to tell her what to do. She was strong and had every quality to be a highly admired woman. After I read this book, I wanted to see all Ingrid Bergman’s films and know everything about her. Of course, I haven’t seen all her films yet, but, for the moment, I’ve seen 15 of them, which is not so bad. Of course, I have much more to watch, but I think I’ve seen some of her best films.
I never was disappointed by any of her acting performances. She was sincere in each one of them and we can feel how hard she worked to give her best. Looking at Ingrid Bergman’s acting is like looking at a Jerome Bosh’s painting. There is so much to see and analyze, so many facets and interesting details. Plus, Ingrid could do everything. Her great versatility allowed her to play many types of characters. She could cry and then be the happiest girl in the world. Ingrid Bergman’s smile and laugh are some other things I love so much about her. She can be the nastiest or the sweetest person in the world. She can be crazy or very clever. But one thing is sure: she is unique. Even if she plays two very different characters (for example, Paula in Gaslight and Gladys Aylward in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness), she has a way to act that is unique to her. And it also seems that each one of her movie roles was made for her. Ingrid was, indeed, very selective and never, or rarely, played a character she didn’t like.
Like I said at the beginning of this text, Ingrid Bergman had the ability to act in more than one language. Very recently, I bought a DVD box set with three of her early Swedish film: Intermezzo, A Woman’s Face and June Nights. I watched the first two and will watch the last one today to celebrate her birthday. I must say, it’s so interesting to see her acting in her native language. And, even if I don’t speak Swedish (don’t worry, there are English subtitles available), I think it’s just wonderful to listen to this because Ingrid’s acting is so magic and there is also something very poetic about Swedish itself. It is, actually, a very beautiful language, but it seems difficult to learn!
Being a great admirer of Ingrid Bergman, I don’t only want to see all her movies, but also know as many things as possible about her. I watched some of her interviews on YouTube. Those are so interesting. I alternated between her interviews and Isabella Rossellini’s ones, which are also very worth watching. What makes me laugh is the fact that, not in all her interviews, but in many of them, Ingrid Bergman always explains the fact that, when they were shooting Casablanca, the script wasn’t complete, so she didn’t know if she was to end with Humphrey Bogart or Paul Henreid. Because of that, she had to act considering the two options. Not an easy job, but she did great. Recently, I also bought the beautiful book: Ingrid Bergman: A Life in Pictures. A 500 pages book full of marvelous photos, edited by her daughter Isabella Rossellini and Lothar Schirmer. The book contains an introduction by Liv Ullman and a written interview with Ingrid. I just started looking at it and I have the feeling I’m going to have a good time reading it!
Ingrid Bergman spoke french (my native language), so I cannot leave you without a french interview with her! One of my favourites. Of course, some of you might not speak French, but that’s Ingrid Bergman you know, so you don’t have to understand everything to admire her. 😉
I then invite you to watch my tribute to this marvelous actress. The visual quality is not perfect and there is a little bug at the end of the video, but I hope you’ll enjoy it just the same.
Finally, this wouldn’t be a Wonderful World of Cinema’s article without a top list! So, let me present to you my top 5 Ingrid Bergman’s films:
This article was part of The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by my own blog. I invite you to read all the other great entries:
And come join my Facebook group dedicated to her: