Love Has Blue Eyes and the most Beautiful Smile: Ingrid Bergman in For Whom the Bell Tolls


On August 29, 2016 (in two days), Ingrid Bergman, the best actress in movie history, would have been 101 years old. Sadly, this date also marks her death anniversary. But, for both reasons, I’ve decided to honour her by hosting The 2nd Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon. To host is a big entertainment, but the real fun always is to participate.


When came the time to choose a topic for this blogathon, at first, I wasn’t very sure what to pick. Because when I host my own blogathon, I always like to talk about a special or precise subject. Last year, I wrote a tribute to her in honour of what would have been her 100th birthday (celebrations were big last years all around the world), but I couldn’t repeat myself again. Should I write about her and Hitchcock? About her and Cary Grant? About her Oscar winning performances? None of these ideas satisfied me. Then, I thought: why not writing about her first Oscar nomination? Something that proves you that you’ve been acclaimed by the world of cinema. As much as we can sometimes hate the Academy for their decisions, to gain an Oscar nomination is always a big step in the life of a star.


So, Ingrid Bergman’s received her first Oscar nomination for her most touching performances in From Whom the Bell Tolls, a film directed by Sam Wood and written by Dudley Nichols. The film was based on the novel of the same name by the famous American novelist Ernest Hemingway.


Interestingly, this film also was Ingrid’s first colour feature, the first film that allowed us to see the blue of her eyes. Oh, we’ll talk a lot about those beautiful blue eyes! And since the remake of Intermezzo in 1939, it also was her 6th film made in the United States. Remember, Ingrid was born in Sweden and first starred in Swedish and German movies before going to Hollywood. The year before, in 1942, she starred in Casablanca, the film that made her an international star. Even if it’s not her best film (some will disagree with me, but don’t get me wrong: I LOVE this film), it remains, and will always be her most iconic film.

Anyway, Ingrid didn’t win the Oscar this year. No, Jennifer Jones did for her performance in The Song of Bernadette. I can’t say if Ingrid should have won instead of Jones because I haven’t seen The Song of Bernadette. But there this cute thing that happened when Ingrid Bergman congratulated Jennifer Jones on the Oscar Night. Jennifer told her: “Ingrid, you should have won.”, to what she answered, “No, Jennifer, your Bernadette was better than my Maria.”. I think she was very humble, but most of all could recognize other one’s talents and not only hers, which is a great human quality.

Ingrid and Jennifer

But the most important thing is to understand by ourselves how great and professional Ingrid was in From Whom the Bell Tolls, and this without according any importance to the fact that she has won the Oscar or not.


Today I really want to concentrate on Ingrid’s performance because there’s much to say. I have a tendency to talk about the other elements of a film (the music, the script, the cinematography). But this time, those will be put aside so I could use all my energy on our beloved Ingrid unless there is an important connection to do with her and the other film elements. For example, her connection with the other actors is a subject not to neglect, as for the way her face was filmed too, and some of the memorable things her character, Maria, says.

But before going further, lets remind us what For Whom the Bell Tolls is mainly about.

Hemingway’s story takes place in Spain in 1937 during the civil war. The American Robert “Roberto” Jordan  (Gary Cooper) has come to Spain to fight on the Republican side. En Castilla, he has for mission to make a bridge explode, so the enemies, the Nationalists led by the dictator Franco, could continue the road. Jordan makes a union with the local guerrilla fighter who are established in the mountains. At the head of the group, there is Pablo (Akim Tamiroff), a drunk coward, and his strong wife Pilar (Katina Paxinou). Ingrid Bergman’s plays Maria, a young 19-years-old girl, who have been “adopted” by the clan after her parents’ execution by the Falangist during the war. When she sees this tall and handsome American arriving at her “home”, she falls in love with him. and that’s how this film becomes not only a war movie, but also a romantic one.

Annex - Cooper, Gary (For Whom the Bell Tolls)_01


It’s curious how life is made of coincidences. I was thinking about this, and that’s actually a very interesting subject I’ve chosen. Why? Because the last book I read was Jessica Mitford’s autobiography Hons and Rebels in which she told us how this thrilling Mitford girl ran away from her home in England with her cousin Esmond Roomily at the age of 19 (same age as Maria) to go help in the Spanish War (on the Republican side). Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting continuity to what kept me entertain these days.

But let’s get back to our film. On its release in 1943, For Whom the Bell Tolls received one Oscar and was nominated for 8 others. That winning award was for Katina Paxinou for her magisterial performance as Pilar (Best Actress in a Supporting Role). The film also was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Gary Cooper), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Akim Tamiroff), Best Cinematography-color (Ray Rennahan), Best Art Direction – Color (Hans Dreier and Haldane Douglas), Best Editing (Sherman Todd, John F. Link Sr.) and Best Music (Victor Young).

Katina Paxinou and her Oscar
Katina Paxinou and her Oscar

Ironically, the film lost the Best Picture award to Casablanca (the other Ingrid Bergman’s film) that was also nominated that year. Casablanca is more known as a 1942’s film, but it was part of the 1944 ceremony, rewarding 1943’s films. The thing is, it seems it the premiere took place in 1942, but was “officially” released in the whole country in 1943. Well, that’s another story.

On its release, For Whom the Bell Tolls wasn’t only a success at the Oscars, but also at the Box Office.


Now: Ingrid. She has everything to charm us in the role of Maria. Ingrid was about 27-28 years old when she made that film and we remember, she plays the role of a 19 years-old girl. Well, don’t think she wasn’t right for the part. Even if she was tall and had large shoulders and technically didn’t really look like someone of 19, she succeeded to make us believe she was. Acting is about pretending, but watching movies too. She gave the right age to her character, not by the look, but by how she decided to behave.

Another proof that she was the right one for the part: When Hemingway wrote his novel, he had Ingrid in his mind for the role of Maria. Approved by the author himself! Even when Vera Zorina was first cast for the role of Maria, Hemingway kept insisting on having Ingrid Bergman for the role. And she got it. According to Gary Cooper’s daughter, he also was considered by the author for the role of Robert Jordan before the movie was made.

Ingrid was known as a great friend of Hemingway. She called him “papa” and he called her “daughter”. Remember, Ingrid lost her mother when she was just a small child and then her father when she still only was a young kid. Hemingway didn’t only admire her as an actress, but certainly had a certain affection for her.

Ingrid and Hemingway


Ingrid was an actress who LOVED and was passionate by her acting career. She was always giving everything she had to give the best performances. Sometimes, she even saved mediocre movies this way. I read this very interesting thing on IMDB on about how bad she wanted to be part of the film. When Hemingway told her she would have to cut her hair very short for the role, she said, without  any hesitations: “To get that part, I’d cut my head off!” That’s our Ingrid! The way we love her. She kept her promise and gave everything she had for the role, working days and nights on her role and perfecting a scene even when the director was already highly satisfied. She had the true gift of professionalism.

Annex - Bergman, Ingrid (For Whom the Bell Tolls)_NRFPT_02


The effective way in a movie to make us remember a character and his actor is the way this one is introduced to us. There are many types of entrances. In Ingrid’s case, we could qualify her entrance in From Whom the Bell Tolls as “simply adorable”. Just when she enters we know she will portray a character we will like. It’s very simple. Roberto and the other men are outside of the cave and she arrives to give them food to eat. When Maria (Ingrid) arrives, we simply saw her little head coming out of the cave like a little curious animal. She then saw Roberto and it’s, obviously, love at first sight. She’s shy with him, but always smiles when he looks at her. They eventually get acquainted and her love for him grows immensely has the story goes by.

To express the feeling of love, but most of all, the feeling of love felt by a young woman, Ingrid decided to remain very simple. Her Maria is a timid girl, but who can’t help smiling when she is happy. And she has the most wonderful smile. Our heart beats for her and Gary Cooper when they simply say “hello” to each other.


There’s this scene in the film that maybe is the most memorable one. It remains very simple. Maria is about to kiss Roberto, but it’s her first kiss. She has never kissed a man before. Before doing so, she asks him, in a very innocent way: “Where does the nose go?” WHERE DOES THE NOSE GO! I mean, that’s fantastic (in a good way).

Maria’s love for Roberto is so high that she’ll do everything for him. She’ll even be ready to fight on his side or die for him.

The way Ingrid’s expressed the feelings of joy and love could be nothing but honest. The thing is, it’s not only Maria who was in love with Roberto, but also Ingrid who felt in love with Gary Cooper during the shooting. But how could she help it? I mean, everybody would fall in love with this tall and handsome gentleman that Gary Cooper was!

The actor said about Ingrid’s love for him: “In my whole life I’ve never had a woman so much in love with me as Ingrid Bergman was. The day after the picture [For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)] ended, I couldn’t get her on the phone.

Ingrid and Coop on the set of the film. She seems lost in her loving thoughts 😉

The two actors will find each other again for the shooting of Saratoga Trunk (1945).


Ingrid had the gift of being a versatile actress, that’s why she also was able to express sadness and fear in this film with an impressionable tact. As much as she can make our heart beat, she can also break it in pieces. How can we forget this scene when she has to be separated from Roberto? She cries, she’s panicking and desperately shouts “Roberto! Roberto!” During all the film, we witnessed the electrifying passion between Maria and Roberto, so this scene only makes us want to enter in the TV screen and console the little woman. Her emotionalism can also be felt when she talks about her parents’ death.

for whom the bell tolls- paxinou and bergman

To capture those many wonderful acting moments, the camera captured some of Ingrid Bergman’s best close-ups. Those not only make a focus on the way the feelings are simply expressed by the eyes, but also allow us to see how beautiful Ingrid Bergman was. Her white smile is perfectly placed on her round face and her blue eyes simply shine on her tan. Ingrid Bergman could never be ugly, even with a funny haircut like Maria’s one.

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 3.30.26 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 2.26.44 PM



Ingrid not only had a great onscreen chemistry with Gary Cooper, but also with Katina Paxinou (as Pilar). As a matter of fact, the two women and Gary Cooper forms the beautiful trio of the film. Pilar knows what are Roberto and Maria’s feeling for each other and makes sure they have their chance in love. She is quite a woman and, in a way, Maria has inherited from her. She has frankness, but will express it in a more delicate way than Pilar, and she is a courageous woman too. But most of all, she is a sensible one. Pilar is sensible too, but it’s less obvious as she hides many of her feelings under a tough attitude.


After all, one of For Whom the Bell Tolls‘s theme could be “how must a woman survive in a men’s world?” Here we have two different versions. The Pilar one: act like a man, or the Maria’s one: act like a complement of a man. Maria is the one the man needs to have a more sensible heart in those rough war times.


Well, Ingrid’s performance in For Whom the Bell Tolls is nothing, but an honest model of acting for any movie star. It’s not for any superfluous reasons that she won that Oscar nomination. Ingrid Bergman was a strong woman who could literally sacrifice herself for a cause. Here, she chose the wonderful art of movie acting and she did it well. Honestly, I didn’t think I would have that much to say about Ingrid in Sam Wood’s film, but while I was watching it again for this blogathon, I discovered there indeed was much to say about this flawless performance.

From left to right: Ingrid, director Sam Wood, Katina Paxinou and Gary Cooper


We haven’t finished talking about Ingrid because the blogathon still goes on with many other lovely entries! Click on the following link to read them:

The 2nd Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon

And, of course, a very happy heavenly birthday to the wonderful Ingrid Bergman!


14 thoughts on “Love Has Blue Eyes and the most Beautiful Smile: Ingrid Bergman in For Whom the Bell Tolls

  1. Thanks, great tribute Virginie!! Your great admiration for Ms. Bergman comes across in this piece. I always learn many new things in your reviews!! Kepp em coming!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really liked this film, though sadly I saw it on TV and they started running an advert over the bottom of the screen at the end which always drives me mad. Must see it again without that distraction. Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman have so much chemistry in this. Enjoyed your piece!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A L\lovely tribute to Ingrid Bergman! I saw this several months ago for the first time and the romance really stood out….and Katina Paxinou. I liked what you said about the trio forming the core of the film. Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper have to be one of the loveliest onscreen couples ever!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post with some interesting trivia from the movie history,which I didn’t know much about.Like Bergman’s reaction to losing her Oscar to Jennifer Jones and why Casablanca competed in the 1944 Oscars even when it was released first in 1942.
    Congratulations for a successful blogathon and thank you so much for your kind comments:)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This film is very good, although it dragged in my opinion in some moments. I loved the story about how Ingrid developed a good relationship with Hemingway!
    The Song of Bernadette will be very moving to you if you are religious – and believes in saints in special. Bernadette endures a lot of suffering and nay-sayers!
    Thanks for hosting this great event again!

    Liked by 1 person

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