Even forty years after her death, Ingrid Bergman is still a Hollywood legend. She was tall, she was beautiful and she was a great actor. Although she was born into a humble family in Sweden, she was propitiously named after a princess, Princess Ingrid of Sweden. But she was destined to become much more famous than her royal namesake and even much more famous than her compatriot Greta Garbo and more controversial too. She commendably performed in many timeless movies and often acted alongside several Hollywood greats. However, throughout her glittering career, the wilfully independent Swedish actress repeatedly made front-page headlines for scandal and success in equal measure. In the early days of Hollywood, the public was pretty intolerant of scandal and at least once, her career was almost ruined by her personal life. Contrary to the popular belief that she was as pure as the driven snow, Ingrid enjoyed men, was physically attracted to most of her leading men and slept with many of them.
Born on 29 August 1915, in Stockholm, to a Swedish father and his German wife, Ingrid began her acting career in her home country. After completing Intermezzo (1936), she married Petter Aron Lindström, a dentist, in 1937, whom she met a year earlier and the couple had a daughter, Fridel Pia, born on 20 September 1938. At the same time, American film producer David O. Selznick offered her to star in the English language remake of Intermezzo, which she accepted and her decision ultimately changed the course of her life. However, she was sceptical about her acceptance by the American audience, as she was too tall, her name sounded too German, her eyebrows were too thick by Hollywood standard, and even she could not speak in English. But she refused to alter her appearance and eventually, her natural beauty became her selling point. The film, A Woman’s Face (1941) proved to be an enormous success and Ingrid became an international star. It is said that Ingrid was involved in an affair with David O Selznick, but whether it occurred in 1938 or when she returned to Hollywood with her family in 1940, is still debated. But according to many, it was a fact.
After her success in the film, Ingrid starred in several major Hollywood films, including Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1941), directed by Victor Fleming, in which she shared the screen with Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner. During filming, she fell heavily for director Victor Fleming and although Tracy tried hard to get her, she only had eyes for Fleming. But eventually, she and Tracy would have an affair and it would grate on Katharine Hepburn’s mind for years. There were even stories of Kate staking out a hotel brandishing a shotgun, convinced that Tracy and Bergman were having sex in their room. However, Victor Fleming was not spared and Ingrid dated him later, from 1945 until their final breakup in 1948.
Although Bergman did not consider Casablanca (1942) as one of her favourite performances, it is considered by the critics as one of her most remarkable works to this day, which opened her floodgates of ultimate success in the film world. After the paramount success of the film, she appeared in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), based on Ernest Hemingway’s much acclaimed novel of the same title, opposite Gary Cooper. The result of their on-screen chemistry was enormous and she won her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her wonderful performance in the film.
Later, Ingrid confessed that during the filming, she fell for Cooper, but nothing more happened, as both of them were married. However, Gary Cooper was shocked and surprised about how his romance with Ingrid ended abruptly, just after the making of the film. According to him, he never had a woman so much in love with him as Ingrid Bergman was, but the day after the picture ended, he could not get her on the phone.
After that, Ingrid played the role of a psychiatrist in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945), attempting to help an amnesiac patient, played by Gregory Peck. However, during the filming, she discreetly had an extramarital affair with Gregory Peck. Much later, in an interview Gregory Peck also admitted to having romanced Ingrid in his younger days, when they worked together on Spellbound.
By the late 1940s, Bergman won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Gaslight (1944) and became famous in the States. The public loved and adored her for her natural charm and it seemed to them that she has a secret of her own and that knowledge of secrecy illuminates her from the inside, as she glances directly at the camera or smiles with a palpable warmth. It seemed that she has the body of a goddess with spotless porcelain skin, lips, cheeks and eyes that takes one’s breath away, while she seems to be completely unselfconscious about that.
She was even more beautiful when she was away from the studio cameras, according to Gregory Peck, her co-star in Spellbound. She was beautiful like many other actresses, but her indifferent attitude towards her looks, her clothes and everything except her art, made her special. Bergman formed a lifelong friendship with Cary Grant, her co-star in Notorious (1946), who also found that he liked Ingrid Bergman a great deal. She also formed a sustained relationship with Alfred Hitchcock out of mutual admiration.
The incredible affair between Ingmar Bergman and the famous war photographer Robert Capa began in June 1945, when she was on her way to Berlin to entertain the American soldiers. They met in Paris at an invited dinner and had a wonderful evening. During that time, Robert Capa was a man with nothing but his combat helmet, cameras and a boyish charm. Bergman easily trapped him and they began their reckless and torrid fling in those giddy summer evenings in liberated Paris. Distressed over her marriage to Lindström, Ingmar desperately fell for Capa and wished to leave her husband. On his part, it was hard for Capa to resist a screen goddess fallen like a mortal woman for him, a battle-weary photographer, who was not at all accustomed to having anything so luminous in the viewfinder. During their stay in Berlin, Capa made enough money to follow Bergman back to Hollywood. In addition, Life magazine also assigned him to cover Bergman. But he was unhappy with the shallowness of Hollywood and both of them had to opt for painful choices. Later, he was killed by a land mine in Vietnam in 1954.
It was rumoured that before her involvement with Robert Capa, Ingrid had another sleeping partner, American General Simon Bolivar Buckland, in 1944. But the possibility of their serious attachment was cut short when he was killed on Okinawa in June 1945.
Bergman admired the works of Italian Film director Roberto Rossellini and in 1949, she wrote to him, expressing her desire to work with him. Her letter resulted in her appearance in Stromboli (1950), her first film with Rossellini. However, before filming, Ingrid had invited him to her place to discuss the script. It is believed that their illicit affair began while he was a houseguest at her Lindstrom home in America. She was impregnated by Rossellini during the filming of Stromboli and gave birth to a boy in the same month the film was released. A week after her son was born, she divorced Lindström and married Rossellini by proxy on 24 May 1950, according to Mexican law.
However, as the scandal received extraordinary media attention, Bergman was harshly treated by the conservative Swedish press, claiming that she had destroyed the international reputation of Sweden. Her American fans, who gave her the place of a saintly nun after she appeared as Joan of Arc on the screen, felt bitterly betrayed. Although she received letters in support from Cary Grant, Helen Hayes, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and other celebrities, the public scandal created history as a major sex scandal of 20th century Hollywood. Even the quick divorce in Mexico and marriage to Rossellini did nothing to assuage the public and media indignation. Senator Edwin Johnson of Colorado labelled her a free-love cultist and a powerful influence for evil in March 1950, during an extraordinary tirade delivered on the floor of the Senate. Bergman's enormous international popularity nosedived due to the scandal and she had to spend most of the 1950s away from the States, marrying Rossellini in 1950 before divorcing him 1957, after he got involved with Sonali Das Gupta while filming in India.
Nevertheless, Bergman made a triumphant Hollywood comeback with Anastasia (1956), filmed in England and won her second Academy Award. It was maintained by many that Yul Brynner was briefly servicing Ingrid when they made Anastasia together in 1956. However, she married Swedish film producer Lars Schmidt, her last husband, in 1958 and they owned the island of Danholmen, off the coast of Sweden. They divorced in 1978, but remained friends until Ingrid’s death four years late.
Although Anthony Quinn and Ingrid knew each other for a long time, they began a lengthy and torrid romance while filming The Visit in 1963. In his memoirs, Anthony delightedly revealed that he met Pia Lindstrom while he was seeing her mother and also served her, leading to a strange competition between mother and daughter. He also hilariously described how both the women constantly urged him to open up about the other’s performance in bed. The relationship between Anthony and Ingrid was renewed in 1970, when they starred together again for filming A Walk in the Spring Rain, although by that time Pia had moved on.
It is said that Omar Sharif also got involved with Ingrid in 1964 on the set of The Yellow Rolls Royce, when she was approaching 50 years of age. However, the list of lovers of Ingrid Bergman does not end there. Like most of the major stars, many other names have been linked to Ingrid Bergman, which include writer John Steinbeck, actor Joseph Cotten, producer and director Howard Hughes, actor Marlon Brando, actor Paul Henreid, actor and singer Bing Crosby and many more.