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Ingrid Bergman - Star of the Month
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Only One Night

In the Swedish drama Only One Night (1939), Valdemar Moreaux (Edvin Adolphson) is a roustabout who's been traipsing around Sweden working a variety of odd jobs before temporarily settling down with Helga Martensson (Aino Taube), the owner of a carnival where he works as a merry-go-round attendant.

Valdemar soon discovers that the wealthy landowner Colonel von Brede (Olof Sandborg), whose property the fun-fair occupies, is his long lost father who gave up his illegitimate son when he was just a child. The aristocratic von Brede welcomes Valdemar back into the family fold, preparing him to take over the empire and even pressing him to marry his beautiful though haughty ward Eva (Ingrid Bergman), a doctoral candidate in philosophy. The couple at first resist romance, but eventually fall in love and announce their engagement to the elder von Brede. Valdemar, however, finds it difficult to adapt his rough hewn, independent ways to his father and Eva's refined, subdued new world.

In the film's most bizarre moment, Valdemar finds himself overwhelmed by love for Eva and begins passionately kissing her one night, which so thoroughly sickens her she breaks off their engagement. Bergman biographer Donald Spoto rightly observed of the film's odd, inscrutable assessment of Eva's rationale for recoiling from Valdemar's embrace:

"Decades later, it is still difficult to know just how these characters are to be assessed: is En Enda Natt a plea for premarital chastity (a gloss, as it were, on Walpurgis Night, 1935) or for psychoanalysis (a gloss on latent lesbianism or the pathology of the frigid woman)? Is Eva Beckman to be praised as the guardian of her destiny, virtue and class? Or is she to be scolded because she is not Lady Chatterley?"

Only One Night was one of the last films Ingrid Bergman made as a rising young actress in her native Sweden before emigrating to Hollywood where she became a phenomenally successful foreign star who went on to win three Academy Awards over the course of her career.

Only One Night was Bergman's eighth picture and the fifth she made under Gustaf Molander's direction. It was also a chance for Bergman to reaffirm her friendship with handsome Swedish matinee idol Adolphson with whom she had previously been romantically involved. After production on Only One Night wrapped, a poll of Swedish filmgoers found Bergman was deemed the most admired movie star of the year 1937, ahead of even Greta Garbo.

Bergman said she greatly enjoyed working with Molander, and that he offered her some succinct advice. "Gustaf especially taught me how to underplay, to be absolutely sincere and natural. 'Never try and be cute' he said. 'Always be yourself, and always learn your lines.'"

Bergman was initially reluctant to star in Molander's Only One Night calling it, "a piece of junk." But she agreed to do the picture for Swedish Films if Molander could convince studio executives to let her appear in a film that appealed to her, A Woman's Face (1938), about a young woman whose face is horribly disfigured in a fire, a distinctly unglamorous role for such a promising young beauty. Bergman received top billing on both films. Joan Crawford later starred in a 1941 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer remake with a far less ambiguous ending than the Swedish version which leaves audiences guessing as to Bergman's fate.

After completing Only One Night Bergman signed a two picture deal with the prestigious German film studio UFA, despite the escalating stranglehold on the studio's practices by the Nazis (including the banning of all Jews from the studio). But even as Bergman was preparing to shoot in Germany, negotiations were underway to lure the actress to Hollywood when talent scouts from David O. Selznick's New York office saw Bergman in Intermezzo (1939) and implored their boss to also consider the beautiful, talented actress for Hollywood.

Director: Gustaf Molander
Screenplay: Gosta Stevens based on the story "En Eneste Natt" by Harald Tandrup
Cinematography: Elner Akesson, Ferenc Zadori
Music: Eric Bengtson, Jules Sylvain
Cast: Ingrid Bergman (Eva Beckman), Edvin Adolphson (Valdemar Moreaux), Aino Taube (Helga Martensson), Olof Sandborg (Magnus von Brede), Erik `Bullen┬┐ Berglund (Hagberg), Marianne Lofgren (Rosa).
BW-90m.

by Felicia Feaster

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