Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Whatever Happened To...Ingrid Bergman

 "I've gone from saint to whore and back to saint again, all in one lifetime."

Ingrid Bergman’s own reflection on her, sometimes, controversial life may well have been delivered with a wry smile. The electricity between her character, Ilsa, and Humphrey’s Bogart’s Rick Blaine fired up the screen and helped to secure Casablanca’s rightful place as one of the most memorable, quoted (and misquoted) films of all time. In her five decade career, she played every type of role, from a nun and a missionary, through to a murderer and - in her final year - the Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir.

But who was Ingrid Bergman?

She was born in Stockholm, Sweden on 29th August 1915, to a German mother and Swedish father. Sadly, she lost both parents while still a child. Her mother died when Ingrid was three and her father when she was just twelve. After that, she was raised initially by an unmarried aunt who died just three months later, and then went to live with an uncle and his family.

She started to work as a film extra when she was still in her teens and studied drama at the Royal Dramatic Theater School in Stockholm. In 1935, she achieved her first speaking role in a film called Munkbrogreven, when she played a maid. The following year, she landed the part that would change her life and take her to Hollywood. She played the role of a piano teacher, having an illicit affair with her pupil’s father – a famous violinist. The film was Intermezzo and it caught the attention of legendary film producer, David O. Selznick.

In 1939, Selznick invited her to Hollywood, where Ingrid starred in the Hollywood version of Intermezzo: A Love Story. The success of this film led to a seven year contract. A series of wholesome roles, combined with her natural beauty, endeared her to film audiences, but Ingrid wanted to stretch her capabilities and tackle more challenging, less stereotypical, roles, as she demonstrated in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Then, in 1942, with war raging in Europe and around the world, came the iconic love story that would forever be associated with her – Casablanca. Surprisingly, she was not nominated for an Academy Award, although the film itself won the Oscar for Best Picture. She was, however, nominated for Best Actress for her role in For Whom The Bell Tolls, but lost out to Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette.

Ingrid’s career went from strength to strength as she appeared in two of Hitchcock’s finest films – Spellbound and Notorious – which followed hot on the heels of an Academy Award winning performance for her challenging role in Gaslight and a further nomination the following year for The Bells of St Mary’s (she lost out to Joan Crawford). On stage too, her performance in Joan of Lorraine led to a Tony.
Ingrid’s perceived settled personal life reinforced the public’s view of her as a wholesome, morally upstanding, traditional woman. By 1946, she had been married to Swedish neurosurgeon Petter Lindstrom for nine years and they had a daughter, Friedel Pia, who was now eight years old. But appearances can be deceptive. The marriage had become increasingly unhappy, and what happened next would see her ostracized for many years.

In 1949, Ingrid wrote to film director Roberto Rossellini, expressing her strong desire to work with him. He reciprocated by writing a part for her in his next film, Stromboli. Although both were married, they fell in love and Ingrid fell pregnant with their son. Roberto, who was born before they divorced their partners and married in 1950. The strong moralistic attitudes of post-war America were outraged. The couple were roundly denounced. US Senator, Edwin C. Johnson of Colorado called Ingrid, “a powerful influence for evil”.
Ingrid with her children, Isotta, Roberto Jr, Isabella and Pia
Ingrid and Rossellini lived in Italy, away from the wagging tongues and accusing fingers in the USA. Ingrid made five films with her new husband and bore him two daughters - actress and model Isabella, and Isotta. Only in 1956, when she made a film with Jean Renoir – Elena et les Hommesdid she begin to become accepted once again, outside Europe.

That same year, she returned to Hollywood to star in Anastasia, just at the time when her marriage to Rossellini was ending. She won the Academy award for her role, and her acceptance, back in the hearts of fans and the Hollywood establishment was well underway. She married again – Lars Schmidt, a Swedish theatrical producer – and enjoyed success in plays, TV and films over the ensuing years. Her accolades included an Emmy for The Turn of The Screw and another Oscar, this time for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, for Murder On The Orient Express in 1974.

Sadly, 1975 saw the beginning of the end for both her career and her health. She divorced Lars Schmidt and discovered she had breast cancer, but she fought against it and continued to work. Her final film role was in 1978 in Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata.

In 1982, she played her last part – as Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir - in the TV mini-series, A Woman Called Golda. Despite her failing health she turned in a performance that won her both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
She died that same year, on her 67th birthday.

Her ashes were mostly scattered in the sea off the Swedish coast. The rest were interred in the Norra Begravningsplatsen cemetery in Stockholm.

 Ingrid Bergman left a legacy of some fifty plus films, plays and TV roles, but, out of all of them, who can ever forget the searching eyes, the sadness and poignancy of her softly accented voice, as she looked into Humphrey Bogart’s eyes and whispered, “I wish I didn’t love you so much”.