Ingrid Bergman Profile
* Films in Bold Type air on 8/6
Star Sign: Leo
Star Qualities: Scandinavian radiance, soulful sincerity, shy yet sensual smile.
Star Definition: "When she walks on screen and says 'Hello,' people ask, 'Who wrote that wonderful line of dialogue?' " Leo McCarey
Galaxy of Characters: Ilsa Lund in Casablanca (1945), Dr. Constance Petersen in Spellbound (1945), Sister Mary Benedict in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945), Alicia Huberman in Notorious (1946).
The extraordinary Ingrid Bergman, once said that she had no complaints about her life because "I have the two things one needs to be happy - good health and a poor memory." Her glowing health is something which first attracted moviegoers to her in 1939 when, 24 years old and fresh from Sweden, she was a welcome breath of fresh air in her first American-made movie Intermezzo: A Love Story. In an era when most movie queens were Max Factored to the max, she wore virtually no makeup and looked amazing. As for the bad memory, she had reason to appreciate that when ten years later she became the central figure in one of the juiciest Hollywood scandals of the decade. She had fallen in love with celebrated Italian director Roberto Rossellini, had his child while she was still married to another man, and immediately became persona non grata in the movie world. Joan of Arc had gone astray and the hostility against her went so far as having a senator from Colorado named Edwin C. Johnson condemn her on the floor of Congress as "a powerful influence for evil."
All of that faded away six years later when she made a triumphant comeback, and rates nothing more now than a footnote in Hollywood folklore. No longer do people try to paint a Scarlet A on so-called sinners. The only thing that really matters is the amazing legacy of films Ingrid Bergman left us. They include some of the film world's best, 12 of which we'll be showing this month including everybody's favorite movie about a man, a woman and a watering hole in Africa, called Casablanca, and Hitchcock's dazzler about a government man and female spy amid some uranium hidden in a wine cellar, Notorious. We'll also be screening one of the films she made for Rossellini, 1950's Stromboli (where the seeds of le scandal were sewed).
I first had the pleasure of meeting Ingrid Bergman in Beverly Hills in 1974, thanks to an early book I'd written about the Academy Awards®. She'd liked what I'd written about her and called to thank me, at which time she also said, "Please have lunch with me sometime. There are so many things I don't understand about the Academy Awards®. I'm too busy to ask you about them now but I promise I'll call you the next time I'm here, if you don't mind."
It finally happened when she came from her home in London to attend an AFI salute to Alfred Hitchcock. She called, a date was made and I showed up, as prearranged, to meet her at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. I found her in an extremely agitated mood. The AFI had just notified her she was to be, not just a guest at the Hitchcock event, but the emcee of the entire festivities, something also being taped for later exposure on television. It was a job she felt ill-prepared to assume, especially without some extensive rehearsal. "They tricked me!" she fumed. "They're dishonest. Why didn't they tell me until after I got here?" She said, "I should get right back on the plane and leave but, of course, I can't. Hitch is old and sick. I can't do that to Hitch." The more she talked, the angrier she became - it was obviously no time for a friendly chat about gold statuettes. At this point, I was clearly in the way, another unneeded obstacle, so I made a swift exit.
It turned out that was the wisest thing I could have done. Why? It seemed to put me in such good graces with the lady that not only did she later call to apologize, but ever after whenever she was in Hollywood for any reason, she always took time to invite me to a lunch, a dinner or a backstage visit. I can't say we became close friends but we did have many memorable (for me, anyway) times together and the warmth and the kindness she showed in the eight years I knew her - coupled with her hearty laugh which was always forthcoming - are forever emblazoned in my memory bank. It was a particularly stimulating era when the Bergmans, the Grants and the Garlands not only reigned in Hollywood but, bless 'em, made themselves accessible even to minor journalists and fans.
Ingrid's been gone now for nearly 28 years (she died on her 67th birthday, August. 29, 1982) but she definitely lives on - especially here on TCM where we heartily invite you to share the pleasure of her company on Friday, August 6th.
by Robert Osborne