Ingrid Bergman in Indiscreet
Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and director Stanley Donen looked to the past as inspiration for Indiscreet, a glittering 1958 romantic comedy, which echoes such classic films of Hollywood's past as The Awful Truth (1937) and My Favorite Wife (1940). In doing so, they set the future course for Donen and Bergman's careers.
The impetus for Indiscreet came from a less successful film, Kiss Them for Me (1957), the first to team Grant and Donen. Although the picture did not do well, former acrobat Grant and former dancer Donen so enjoyed working together that they began looking for another chance to team up. Donen had already passed on a script by Norman Krasna that would eventually become Let's Make Love (1960), with Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand. At the time, he told Krasna that he loved the plot of his play Kind Sir, in which Charles Boyer courts Mary Martin while pretending to be a married man. On Broadway, it had been one of the biggest flops of 1953. As a result, nobody had bid on the movie rights, which Donen picked up for just $10,000. He and Grant even formed their own production company, Grandon, to make the film for Warner Bros.
Grant loved the story, provided they could land either Deborah Kerr or Ingrid Bergman for the female lead. Then he accepted Bergman's 1956 Oscar® for Anastasia -the actress was unable to attend - and was overwhelmed by the Hollywood audience's warm reception. From that point, Bergman was his only choice. The film would mark their first reunion since their huge hit in Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946). At the time, Bergman was just making a comeback from the scandal that had ended her Hollywood career when she had left her husband and child for Italian director Roberto Rossellini. After eight years of exile in Europe, however, the Bergman-Rossellini marriage was on the rocks. To make matters worse, Bergman was almost broke. Donen made a personal pitch to his prospective leading lady. To his surprise, she met him at the airport in Paris, where she was appearing in the French company of Tea and Sympathy. They went back to her apartment, where she told him, "I want to put you at ease. I'm going to do the picture." She then asked him what the film was. By the time Bergman arrived in London for location shooting in 1957, she and Rossellini had separated. The press was out in full force for a press conference when she arrived at Heathrow Airport. Grant was waiting and quickly deflected their questions about her impending divorce by shouting, "Why don't you talk to me? My problems are far more interesting."
Bergman was delighted to discover that Grant had authorized a high fashion wardrobe for her supervised by Christian Dior. He had also allowed his production company to buy the first 1958 Silver Wraith Rolls-Royce out of the factory to be used in the film. After shooting ended, he would buy it from Grandon.
Since Kind Sir had been a legendary flop on Broadway, Grant and Donen started looking for a new title. Jack Warner, who was releasing the film, wanted Irresistible, while they also suggested Better Than Married, As Good as Married, They're not Married and Mister and Mistress. The last was rejected outright by the Motion Picture Association of America as too suggestive. Given Bergman's notorious past, they also cautioned against using the word "married" in the title. Finally Grant and Donen settled on Indiscreet.
Filming in the harsh London winter meant health problems for most of the company, with Donen and cinematographer Freddie Young among those sidelined by the flu. Only Grant, who was undergoing hypnotherapy with wife Betsy Drake, stayed healthy. Then Margaret Johnson, who had been cast as Bergman's sister, quarreled with Donen and walked off the film. Phyllis Calvert signed on to replace her, but before she could re-shoot the character's scenes, her husband died. For the good of the production, she went back to work almost immediately, delivering a light comic performance that belied her personal heartbreak.
Indiscreet was a huge hit for all involved. Although some critics carped that the plot was rather thin, most were pleased to see Grant bringing back the kind of film that had made him a star in the '30s. For Bergman, the film was a revelation, cementing her comeback and displaying a hitherto unsuspected gift for comedy. It also gave Donen a new specialty. He had started directing with musicals like On the Town (1949) and Singin' in the Rain (1952) and had been at loose ends with the genre's decline. With Indiscreet, he proved himself a master of sophisticated comedy, where he would have some of his greatest hits, particularly when he re-teamed with Grant in 1963 for Charade. He also fell in love with London. After filming Indiscreet there, he made the city his home for the next 17 years.
Producer/Director: Stanley Donen
Screenplay: Norman Krasna
Based on his Play Kind Sir
Cinematography: Freddie Young
Art Direction: Don Ashton
Music: Richard Rodney Bennett, Ken Jones
Principal Cast: Cary Grant (Philip Adams), Ingrid Bergman (Anna Kalman), Cecil Parker (Alfred Munson), Phyllis Calvert (Margaret Munson), David Kossoff (Carl Banks), Megs Jenkins (Doris Banks).
C-100m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller