Oscar Actors: Bergman, Ingrid–Centennial of Great Actress (Cannes Film Fest Poster)

Ingrid Bergman, poster of 2015 Cannes Film Fest

Ingrid Bergman, poster of 2015 Cannes Film Fest

This year marks the centennial of Ingrid Bergman, one of the most talented actresses and beloved movie star to have worked in Hollywood.

The upcoming Cannes Film Fest (May 13-24) has chosen Bergman’s photograph for its official poster (see image), where there will be special events in her honor, including the showing of a new documentary.  Her daughter, actress Isabella Rossellini, is the president of the jury of Un Certain Regard.

To honor this distiguished and versatile actress, we will run reviews of all of her American pictures.

casablanca_4_bogart_bergmanIn her four decade career, Bergman had won three Oscar Awards (two Best Actress and one Supporting Actress), two Emmy Awards, one Tony award and several Golden Globes.

She is ranked as the fourth greatest female star of American cinema of all time by the American Film Institute (AFI). She is best remembered for her roles as Ilsa in Casablanca (1942), and as Alicia Huberman in Notorious, Hitchcock’s 1946 thriller, co-starring Cary Grant.

Before becoming a major American star, Ingrid Bergman had been a leading actress in Swedish films. Her first introduction to U.S. audiences was in the English-language remake of Intermezzo in 1939.

Though she was beautiful–and photogenic–she brought to the screen other unique attributes– freshness, naturalness and vitality–elements that are not readily associated with other glossy and glitzy Hollywood stars.

Lonely Childhood

Autumn_Sonata_3_bergmanBergman, named after Princess Ingrid of Sweden, was born August 1915, 1982 in Stockholm, to a Swedish father, Justus Samuel Bergman, and a German mother, Frieda Henrietta “Friedel” (née Adler) Bergman.

She lost both of her parents at young age, her mother when she was three, and her father (an artist) at 13. Wishing her to become an opera star, her father arranged for voice lessons, but, as she later claimed, she always knew she wanted to be an actress.  After her father’s death, she lived with several aunts, and in 1932 entered an acting competition at the Royal Dramatic Theatre, earning a scholarship (at the same place where Garbo had studied).

She left the Dramatic Theatre after one year to appear in Swedish films, making a strong impression in the 1935’s Munkbrogreven. She then appeared in other Swedish films, including En Kvinas ansikte (later remade as A Woman’s Face, with Joan Crawford) and a German film, The Four Companions (1938).

American Debut

Noted Hollywood producer David O. Selznick (Gone with the Wind) brought her to America to star in Intermezzo: A Love Story, an English language remake of her 1936 Swedish film, Intermezzo. Unable to speak English, she expected to complete this one film and return home, where her husband, Dr. Petter Lindström, raised their daughter, Pia (born 1938).  In Intermezzo, she played a young piano accompanist opposite Leslie Howard as a famous, married violin virtuoso.

Bergman, taller than most female stars, was accepted without having to modify her looks or “strange” name.  Intermezzo was a huge success, making Bergman an instant star, though of a different kind that Garbo or Dietrich had been.  Garbo retired two years after Bergman’s debut, and Diterich was already in decline, after a most successful decade during which she collaborated with von Sternberg. Time magazine described her as a “tall (5 ft. 9 in.) girl, with light brown hair and blue eyes who was painfully shy but friendly, with a warm, straight, quick smile.”

After completing one more film in Sweden, she appeared in three indifferent, moderately successful films, Adam Had Four Sons, Rage in Heaven, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, all in one year, 1941.

After her performance in Fleming’s 1941 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, she was signed by producer David O. Selznick, first on a one-film contract (then four-film contract) rather than the more prevalent seven-year acting contracts.  (In later years, Selznick described her as “the most completely conscientious actress” he had ever met).

Casablanca: Turning Point

The turning point of Bergman’s career occurred  when she co-starred with Bogart in Casablanca, the 1943 Oscar-winner, which remains her best-known role, a sentimental cult film that still defies critical scrutiny.  Bergman played Ilsa, the beautiful wife of Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), an anti-Nazi underground hero.

She did not consider Casablanca to be one of her favorite performances: “I made so many films which were more important, but the only one people ever want to talk about is that one with Bogart.”  Later, she elaborated, “I feel about Casablanca that it has a life of its own. There is something mystical about it. It seems to have filled a need, a need that was there before the film, a need that the film filled.”

Most Popular American Star

Bergman’s other starring roles include For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), opposite Gary Cooper, which brought her first Best Actress Oscar nomination, George Cukor’s masterful suspenser, Gaslight (1944), with Charles Boyer, for which she won her first lead Academy Award, The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), as a nun with Bing Crosby, Hitchcock’s Freudian thriller, Spellbound (1945), with Gregory Peck, Notorious (1946), opposite Cary Grant, and the independent production Joan of Arc (1948), directed by Victor Fleming, in which she reprised a role that she had played to great acclaim on Broadway in 1946.

Blacklisted in Hollywood

In 1950, after a decade of stardom, she appeared in the Italian film, Stromboli, which led to a love affair with its famous director, Roberto Rossellini, while they were both already married. The affair and marriage with Rossellini created a scandal and blacklisting, forcing her to remain in Europe for seven years.

I have documented in great detail Bergman’s blacklisting and triumphant comeback in my book, All About Oscar: History and Politics of the Academy Awards.

She made a splashy comeback in 1956, in the romantic melodrama, Anastasia, for which she won her second Academy Award as Best Actress, as well as the forgiveness of Hollywood executive and casting directors.

The films of the late 1950s and 1960s were of varying quality, but she worked steadily, despite battling with breast cancer.

In 1974, Bergman received her third Oscar, this time in the Supporting Actress category, for s tiny role in Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Her big-screen career ended on a hight note in 1978, when she collaborated for the first time with her compatriot, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman in Autumn Sonata, in which she played a semi-autobiographical part of a world renowned pianist who has neglected her two daughters, the eldest of whom played by Liv Ullmann.  For her powerful performance, she was was honored by the  N.Y. Film Critics Circle and received her last Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Her very last appearance was in the TV miniseries Golda, as the famous Israeli prime minister, for which she earned a well deserved Emmy, which became her final honor.

Bergman died on her birthday, August 29, 1982, at the age of 67.