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Ingrid Bergman - Goddesses of the Silver Screen
1549    Dibyendu Banerjee    29/02/2020

Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish actress, who won three Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards and a BAFTA Award, was born on 29 August 1915 in Stockholm, to a Swedish father and his German wife and was named after Princess Ingrid of Sweden. She lost her mother when she was only two and her father, an artist and photographer, died when she was 13. After the death of her father, she was sent to live with his sister, Aunt Ellen Bergman, who also died of heart disease only six months later. The poor girl was then moved in with her Aunt Hulda and Uncle Otto, who had five children.

Though she was shy, Ingrid always wanted to be an actress and while attending a private school, she enthusiastically took part in many plays. In the early 1930s, she enrolled in the state-sponsored Royal Dramatic Theater School in Stockholm, where she was awarded a scholarship, like Greta Garbo. However, she had to leave the Institution during her first summer break, as she was hired by a Swedish film studio. After reportedly working as an extra in Landskamp(1932), she was given a small role in Munkbrogreven (The Count of the Old Town 1935), which was followed by a dozen of Swedish films, including Intermezo (1936) and En kvinnas ansikte (1938), which was later remade in Hollywood as ‘A Woman’s Face’(1941) with Joan Crawford as the leading lady and a German film Die vier Gesellen (The Four Companions 1938).

ingrid bergman

After completing Intermezo, Ingrid married Petter Aron Lindström, a dentist, in 1937 and the couple had a daughter, Fridel Pia, born on 20 September 1938.In the meantime, American film producer David O. Selznick hired her to star in the English language remake of Intermezo(1939), which ultimately changed her life. However, Ingrid was skeptical about her acceptance by the American audience, as she could not speak in English and thought to go back to her family in Sweden, after completing the film. However, the film proved to be an enormous success and Ingrid became an international star.

ingrid bergman

After her final film (Juninatten 1940) in Sweden and appearing in three moderately successful films in Hollywood, namely Adam Had Four Sons, Rage in Heaven and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1941) in the United States, Ingrid was offered the leading female role in the iconic film Casablanca (1942), which made her famous. In the film she played the role of Ilsa Lund, a beautiful Norwegian woman torn between two men, played by Humphrey Bogart and Paul Henreid, during World War II. Though Bergman did not consider it as one of her favourite performances, it opened her floodgates of ultimate success in the film world, as she became the most sought after female actor of the day. After the paramount success of Casablanca, she appeared in a series of critical and commercial successes that included For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), based on Ernest Hemingway’s much acclaimed novel of the same title. It was Ingrid’s first colour film and she received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, for her wonderful performance in the film. During the following year, she won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for Gaslight(1943), in which she starred as a confused wife, whose husband, played by Charles Boyer, was always trying to convince her that she is going mad, hoping to have her institutionalized. She next played the role of a nun, Sister Benedict, in The Bells of St Mary’s (1945) and was again rewarded with the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and her third consecutive nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

ingrid bergman
In Casablanca
ingrid bergman
With Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca

During this period, Ingrid Bergman also appeared in two popular thrillers directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Spellbound(1945) and Notorious(1946). In the first film, she played a psychiatrist attempting to help an amnesiac patient, played by Gregory Peck, while in the second one, she was asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. She was especially praised for her portrayal of the spy in Notorious, which is considered one of her greatest performances.

However, as she wanted to diversify her work, Ingmar took the Broadway stage and appeared in ‘Joan of Lorraine’ and also accepted a challenging role on the silver screen, when she played the title role in Joan of Arc(1948). Unfortunately, the film failed to make any positive impact on the audience and the critics. Under Capricorn(1949), her last collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, was also considered as an unworthy movie. At that stage of life, Bergman wrote a letter to Italian director Roberto Rossellini, in an attempt to revive her career, expressing her desire to work with him. This resulted in her appearance in Stromboli(1950), her first film with Rossellini.

ingrid bergman

Rossellini completed five films starring Ingrid Bergman, which included, apart from Stromboli, Europa 51 (1952), Viaggio in Italia (Voyage to Italy 1954), Joan of Arc at the Stake(1954) and La Paura(Fear 1954), which were proved to commercial disappointments.

During the making of Stromboli, Bergman fell in love with Rossellini and became pregnant. When she asked her husband for a divorce, he initially refused. However, she got the much wanted divorce, just days before she gave birth to her son, Renato Roberto, on 2 February 1950. The couple married on 24 May 1950, but by that time, the damage to her career was already done. Later, on 18 June 1952, she gave birth to their twin daughters Isotta and Isabella.

However, their affair caused a huge scandal in the United States. Ingrid Bergman was harshly condemned on the floor of the US Senate. The religious groups began a campaign to ban her films on the grounds that, despite of being a wife and a mother, she became pregnant by a man, who was not her husband. She was openly described as a horrible example of womanhood and a powerful influence for evil. As a result of the scandal, Bergman returned to Italy, where the pair was followed everywhere by paparazzi and almost became their companions for the rest of their tumultuous life together.

As he was invited by the then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Rossellini visited India in December 1956, to make documentaries on India for the Films Division of India. There he met Sonali Dasgupta, through her husband, the talented documentary filmmaker Harisadhan Dasgupta and consequently eloped with the tall, dark Bengali beauty. Ingrid and Rossellini were officially divorced on 7 November 1957.

ingrid bergman

Nevertheless, Bergman made a triumphant Hollywood comeback with Anastasia(1956), which was filmed in England. It won her second Academy Award and she was described by Anatole Litvak, the director of the film, as one of the greatest actresses in the world. On 21December 1958, she married Swedish producer Lars Schmidt and the marriage ended in divorce in 1975.In 1958, she starred in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness and in 1974, won her third Oscar for best supporting actress for her significant role in the highly successful film Murder on the Orient Express. However, probably her greatest performance in her later years was in the Swedish film Autumn Sonata(1978), directed by Ingmar Berman. In the film, she played a celebrity pianist who travels to Norway to visit her neglected daughter, played by Liv Ullmann. She received her seventh and final Academy Award nomination for her performance in the film.

ingrid bergman

Around that time, Bergman was diagnosed with breast cancer. However, despite her battle with the disease, she continued to work. She gave her final performance in a television mini-series, A Woman Called Golda(1982), as Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, for which she was posthumously awarded an Emmy Award.

Ingrid Bergman died on her 67th birthday, 29 August 1982, in London. After cremation, her ashes were taken to Sweden and were mostly scattered in the sea. She was one of the greatest actresses from Hollywood's lamented Golden Era. She could speak in five languages, Swedish, German, French, Italian and English and acted in each of these languages at various times. Through all her troubles she held to her conviction, which made her quite a person. Her cool and unpretentious beauty, mixed with her capability to go deep into a character and the immense talent to give it life in acting, made her one of the most celebrated actors in the history of European and American cinema.

Vivien Leigh Rita Hayworth
Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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