INGRID BERGMAN was born in Stockholm, Sweden on August 29, 1915, the third and only surviving child of Justus and Friedel Bergman. Her mother, Friedel, was German and came from Hamburg. On holiday in Sweden she had met the bohemian artist, Justus Bergman, and fallen in love with him. Not happy with the idea of her marrying an artist whose financial future was uncertain, the Adler family opposed the match. Justus was determined to “prove” himself worthy of the beautiful Friedel and set up a business in a photographic shop. Here he could indulge his art, by taking photographs, and lead a more settled existence. It was in the apartment above this shop that Ingrid was born.
Her beauty derived from the good looks of both her parents; her artistic talent and determination to do what she wanted in life probably came from her father. When Ingrid was three, her mother died and her father was the main influence on her life. He indulged her “play-acting” and took photographs of her in her various roles. He wanted her to become an opera singer and paid for her to have singing lessons - Ingrid, however, had other ideas. All she wanted to do was act! Ingrid’s childhood was made unhappy by the death of her father, when she was eleven, and then by that of her Aunt Ellen, when she was thirteen. At that age she went to live with another aunt and uncle, who had a big family. It was a totally different environment from the introspective one she had known, yet was not unhappy. She had a large room of her own, big enough to hold the grand piano from her old apartment.
At fifteen she had her first taste of the movies, as an extra. She was accepted as a student at the Royal Dramatic Theatre School, without even completing her audition - the adjudicators could see what potential she had. The course lasted five years, but Ingrid was offered a part in an important play, produced by the school after one year.This resulted in the first taste of professional jealousy, which was to dog her throughout her life. So excited by the chance to act in a real play, Ingrid decided to try for the movies without completing her course. She was offered a small part in a comedy THE COUNT OF OLD TOWN (1934)-- and from there on she was a star in Swedish movies.
One of these-- INTERMEZZO (1936)-- came to the attention of Kay Brown, who worked for David O. Selznick, searching for new talent. She went to Sweden and persuaded Ingrid to go to Hollywood and re-make the film. Ingrid and the film were an instant success. Ingrid’s fresh, mobile face, devoid of all guile, was so different from anything seen in Hollywood movies before. She retained her own name-- and her own eyebrows! In Hollywood she went on to make many successful films during the 1940s, playing every type of woman from a nun (in THE BELLS OF SAINT MARY'S (1945) with Bing Crosby) to a good-time girl (in Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS (1946) with Cary Grant and Claude Rains). Contrary to much that has been written of her at this time, she was NOT typecast in “goody goody” roles.
Despite this, Ingrid somehow gained the reputation of being a sort of saint. When, in 1948, she watched an amazingly “different” film, ROME: OPEN CITY directed by Roberto Rossellini, she was stunned that such realism could be depicted on the screen. She wrote to Rossellini, expressing the wish to work with him. He sent her the outline of a story, which was to become the film STROMBOLI. By the time she arrived in Italy to make the film (March 1949), Ingrid had met Rossellini in Paris and Hollywood and knew she was in love with him.
The scandal which followed was horrendous. Ingrid had no idea that she could not have a private life. She was, apparently, public property. Ingrid had been married since 1937 to Dr. Petter Lindstrom, who had come to America with her and had become an eminent brain surgeon. They had one daughter, Pia, who was ten years old when her mother left for Italy. During the filming of STROMBOLI, Ingrid became pregnant by Roberto and their son, Robertino, was born in February 1950, before Ingrid was granted a divorce from Dr. Lindstrom. Ingrid’s attempts to see her daughter were thwarted and she did not see her again until the following year, and then only on neutral territory, in the London house of her loyal friend, Ann Todd. In the meantime Ingrid had married Rossellini. She was happy in Italy, as home movies of that period show, and she and Rossellini had beautiful twin daughers-- Isabella and Ingrid Jr.-- in June 1952.
The films which Ingrid and Rossellini made together were not commercially successful, though they are now regarded as important contributions to the art of film. After STROMBOLI (1950) they made THE GREATEST LOVE (1951), VOYAGE TO ITALY (1953) and FEAR (1954). They also toured Europe with the oratorio "Joan at the Stake." In 1955 Ingrid decided to make a film with another director, Jean Renoir. A jealous Rossellini objected. This was the beginning of the end of her marriage. On the Paris stage she was a great hit in "Tea and Sympathy" and then came the offer to star in ANASTASIA (1956).
ANASTASIA won Ingrid the New York Film Critics Award and her second Oscar (her first was for GASLIGHT in 1944). Thus began a new, successful phase in Ingrid’s career. Two more films followed: INDISCREET (1958), a romantic comedy, and THE INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS (1958), based on the life story of missionary Gladys Aylward. According to eminent movie critic, Dilys Powell, this was the best piece of work Ingrid had done.
At this time Ingrid found new happiness in her private life, with fellow Swede, Lars Schmidt. They married in London in December 1958. During the 1960s they worked together in several stage and television productions (Schmidt was already a successful impressario). In 1960, in Paris, Ingrid starred in the film AIMEZ-VOUS BRAHMS? (GOODBYE AGAIN) and throughout that decade she made more films and had successful stage appearances, notably in London, where audiences were particularly appreciative.
It was while she was starring in one of these play in London, in 1973, that Ingrid discovered the first sign of the cancer that was to kill her. Not wanting to disappoint the audiences or jeopardize the play (it would have been nothing without her), she continued in “The Constant Wife” and managed to complete a cameo role in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974) with Lauren Bacall. It won her her third Oscar. Ingrid did nothing about her illness until June 1974, when she was finally admitted to a hospital in London. With courage, she continued to work and made what some regard as one of her best films, AUTUMN SONATA, directed by Ingmar Bergman, in 1977. Suffering pain from the recurrence of her illness, Ingrid starred in another play “Waters of the Moon” in London in 1978-- it was the success of the season. After the run of this play ended, Ingrid feared she would have to stop work.
Not so -- she was offered the title role of Golda Meir in “A Woman Called Golda," a television mini series. She accepted. Working in the summer heat of Israel in 1981 tried Ingrid’s stamina to the extreme. For the role of Golda, Ingrid was awarded an Emmy, America’s television equivalent of the Oscar. Her eldest daughter, Pia Lindstrom, accepted the award for her posthumously. For on her sixty-seventh birthday, August 29, 1982, Ingrid died peacefully at her home in Chelsea, London. She shares the distinction of having died on her birthday with a few great people, Shakespeare being the best-known example.
Other notable films of Bergman's career include CASABLANCA (1942) with Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains, FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (1943) with Gary Cooper, and Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND (1945) with Gregory Peck.
© October 1997 Mary Hutchings.
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