Ingrid Bergman was a truly exceptional person who was simply adored by both the audience and her colleagues: she acted in five languages, won three Oscars, two Emmy’s, four Golden Globes, the Tony Theater Award and numerous other world award’s. The American Film Institute declared her the fourth best actress in the history of cinema, and although the public perceived her as a heroine for a while, and then, when she left her first husband because of the Italian director Roberto Rossellini, she was crucified as a prostitute, she received praise calmly. And she endured condemnations stoically, always remaining firm and consistent with herself.
“Perhaps people saw in me the ideal of a wife and mother, but I am not a saint but just an ordinary human being, and I do not allow anyone to determine what I will do with my life,” she explained in the 1950s, when women’s voices were still very quiet and mostly ignored.
This is a life story of Ingrid Bergman.
An ambitious girl
The unit of the Swedish photographer Justus Bergman and the German Frida Adler, was born on August 29, 1915, in Stockholm. The girl was named Ingrid after the then five-year-old Swedish princess, the aunt of today’s Swedish King Carl Gustav XVI. From the very beginning of her life, Ingrid Bergman showed that she did not intend to caress her. In 1917, her mother died, whom she could not even remember, and when she was thirteen, her father also passed away. In her biography, the actress described her father as a caring parent, who tried to convince her that she would be a great opera singer, and even enrolled her in singing lessons. But Ingrid was already stubborn as a girl and did not pay attention to her father’s ambitions. She loved to wear her mother’s dresses and high-heeled shoes, so she was so well-groomed, “acting” in her father’s empty photo studio for hours.
The cruel fate of a child without parents was tried to alleviate by her mother’s sister Hulda, with whom she lived until adulthood. After high school, Ingrid still obsessively wanted to become an actress, and her aunt wholeheartedly supported her in the preparations for the audition announced in 1932 by the Stockholm Royal Drama Theater.
Although she was convinced after the audition that she was the worst of all the candidates, the members of the commission did not have a dilemma regarding her talent. She was unanimously granted a scholarship, and only a few months later, she was offered her first role – which was a precedent in the history of that prestigious theater, because young actresses, as a rule, could only act in it after three years of study. Ingrid Bergman’s talent and her sensual Nordic beauty soon caught the eye of Swedish filmmakers, who hired her in a dozen successful films, in which she gained a solid acting experience by 1938.
Bergman fell in love for the first time at that time, and in 1937 she married dentist Peter Aron Lindström and in 1938, she gave birth to a daughter, Friedel Pia Lindström. And while she was taking care of the baby, one of her films was, by chance, seen by a powerful Hollywood producer, David O. Selznick. He, literally enchanted by her beauty, immediately invited her to Hollywood. The producer’s son, David Selznick Jr., who was about ten years old at the time, recalled what his father said about the beautiful Swedish actress.
“Dad used to say that she’s worth her weight in gold, even though she has a few big downsides: her name sounds too German, she’s too tall, she has too thick eyebrows and she doesn’t know English well.”
Ingrid Bergman admitted only one of those disadvantages, but she quickly eliminated it because she had mastered English in a few months, and she didn’t even want to talk about changing her name. Selznick was fascinated by the steadfastness of the young woman, especially because the contenders for film careers at the time were ready in advance for everything that was required of them, even when the demands were completely insane.
Going to Hollywood
She drove to her first Hollywood shoot, on May 6, 1939, on a bicycle and with sunglasses, so at the entrance to the studio she had to explain to the doorman that she was an actress, in order to let her inside. The film “Intermezzo”, in which she appeared alongside the already famous Leslie Howard, was a great success and was nominated for two Oscars, and Ingrid Bergman became a star. Directors and producers showered her with offers, but she turned them all down because her husband enrolled in medical school in Rochester near New York, so the family settled there.
Ingrid immediately got several engagements in theaters on Broadway, but after a while, she returned to Hollywood, so she spent part of the year with her husband and daughter, and part in California on set.
The films in which she acted achieved fantastic success – “Casablanca” from 1942 has long been a Hollywood classic, and in 1944 she won the first Oscar for her role in the film “Gas Light”. Due to her seemingly idyllic family life with a Swedish doctor and her daughter, who has just started school, she gained the image of a perfect wife living a fairytale life in public.
But the reality was somewhat different.
Frequent separation affected her relationship with her husband, and as he grew colder, Ingrid Bergman had several very discreet relationships with colleagues from the set – in Hollywood it was a public secret that she was close to Kerry Grant, with whom she recorded several movies. She was a little less discreet in Paris, where she had an affair with the famous photographer Robert Cap, but even after that, as always, she eventually returned to her husband.
But everything changed when she met the Italian director, Robert Rossellini.
From saint to sinner
She watched several of his films that impressed her so much that she wrote him a letter.
I didn’t know him, but I wanted to work with him. I wrote that I would like to act in his films, because I appreciate his work, and that my fee is not important at all. I also admitted that I can only say “I love you” in Italian. , she explained later.
Although she did not expect Rossellina to call her, he answered her immediately. At that time, he was preparing the film “Stromboli” and suggested that they meet in Paris, where he was staying at the time, and immediately offered her the lead role. She accepted and fell in love with him already on the set. Rossellini also fell in love with her, but for both the situation was complicated. Like the Swedish actress, the Italian director was married – to a Roman aristocrat, Marcella De Marquis. In addition, he had several mistresses, among whom the most famous was the actress Ana Manjani, which his wife tacitly tolerated.
Despite everything, Ingrid filed for divorce in 1950 so that she could marry Rossellini, which immediately triggered a wave of articles about her “debauchery”, which culminated when it became known that she was pregnant. She initially denied it, but as she could not hide her pregnancy for a long time, the chase for “immoral Ingrid”, as she was called in the American newspapers, took on monstrous proportions.
Peter Lindstrom received all this with great disbelief, and twelve-year-old Pia could not forgive her mother for leaving her father for a long time.
Ingrid Bergman gave birth to a son, Robertine, on February 2, 1950, divorced Peter Lindström discreetly, through a lawyer, and, equally discreetly in Mexico on May 25, 1950, married Rossellini. Marriage, of course, is not recognized in Catholic Italy, and America welcomed its sweetheart to the knife: for months, the press published articles about her “sinful relationship” and “problematic morals” day after day, calling her a “promiscuous person”, and some federal states were even banned from showing her films. There was no end to that either: in the American Congress, an initiative was put forward to expel her from the United States for immorality. In less than two years, the newspaper published about 38,000 articles about Ingrid Bergman and her “shameful relationship”.
Rossellini went through everything almost untouched: the public perceived their sinful relationship mainly as her burden and stain, and the merits for winning the beautiful actress only raised the price for the temperamental Italian, the “naughty Latin lover”. Only a few sided with Ingrid Bergman, and one of the loudest was the writer Ernest Hemingway, with whom the actress has been close since the time she came to audition for the film “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943), based on his novel. When he told her on that occasion that he would have to cut his hair for the role, she did not even blink.
“For the role in the film based on your novel, I would also cut off my head,” she replied and won his affection forever.
Due to the strength of media pressure in the United States, Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini settled in Rome, where the twins Isabella and Ingrid Isota were born on June 18, 1952. But the married life with three children and an unorganized husband, who was a great hedonist and spent unrestrained, was not idyllic. Apart from the fact that he liked to waste money, Roberto constantly invited various friends and acquaintances to their Roman apartment. Because of that, he fell into heavy debts, and since he did not earn enough to repay them himself, most of it was paid by his wife.
In addition to all that, she had to endure his unjustified jealousy, and then the growing envy. Blinded by the fear of leaving him, he tried to ban her from making films with other directors, and on top of that, he began to fear that his career was in decline and that the famous name Rossellini might soon be forgotten, which for him was an unbearable thought. In such circumstances, the actress bore all the burden of caring for her family, as well as the responsibility to earn enough for a lifestyle that Roberto did not give up, so in 1956 she made the film “Anastasia”, which brought her another Oscar.
Turbulent marriage with Rosellini
Rossellini went wild when she told him that she intended to make a film with another director, he threatened to kill herself, take away her children, make a scandal…
Of course, none of that happened, Ingrid Bergman made a film and received great reviews, and as she rarely went to the United States at the time, because the surrounding dust “immoral life” had not yet settled, she heard about winning an Oscar while lay in the bathtub and listened to the broadcast of the award’s ceremony over the radio. The golden statue in her name was taken over by Carrie Grant.
Isabella Rossellini, the only one of the three children of the famous film couple who followed in her parents’ footsteps, published the book “Some of Me” in 1997, in which she spoke openly and without hesitation about her father and mother.
“Dad was grumpy, but a lot of fun,” she wrote. He is infinitely sorry that, as a man, he did not have the opportunity to experience the feeling of breastfeeding. She had a serious psychological disorder, but then it just got on my nerves”.
Compulsive cleansing and obsession with order, was probably the actress’ subconscious reaction to the disorganized life imposed by Rossellini, but the worst was yet to come. Namely, the director went to India in 1957, where he intended to shoot a documentary, and returned – with his new wife, twenty-seven-year-old Indian Sonali Das Gupta, half younger than him. Ingrid Bergman found out about the relationship from the newspapers, but her husband did not keep her in suspense for a long time. When she returned from filming in France, in her villa near Rome, Sonali had already taken on the role of landlady and told her at the front door that she was expecting Robert’s child.
Overwhelmed by her husband’s infidelity and burdened with the feeling of guilt that she neglected her first daughter, Pia, because of him, the actress ended her divorce from Rossellini three months later and had all three children by a court decision.
Roberto did not blink, but when Ingrid married a year later, on December 21, 1958, Lars Schmidt, a member of a wealthy Swedish shipowner families, who was a successful theater producer in London, temperamental Italian blood boiled and Rossellini went on appeal. He asked the court to assign the children to him and not to the “unreliable mother”. He obviously measured his own reliability by some other criteria, but Ingrid Bergman did not want to argue with him in court, so she agreed to all his requests, provided that the court allowed her to see the children whenever she wanted.
“Even when I thought I had learned everything, I realized I didn’t know much more,” she wrote in her biography. “Tolerance makes us better, and despite everything I’ve been through, I still love all my husbands and all my relationships. Everyone were, each in their own way, beautiful. If we get married for the right reasons, out of trust, love and understanding, then we can’t hate our own husband when the marriage falls apart. I don’t regret anything I’ve done other than what I could, and I didn’t”.
Return to Hollywood
After the storm around her adultery subsided, Ingrid Bergman filmed more and more in Hollywood, and she even received a public apology from some newspapers. Moreover, in 1970, she acquired American citizenship, but did not renounce Swedish. Although she was already at the age when actresses had less and less quality film roles, she still received many more offers than she managed to do, because she fell ill at that time.
Namely, in 1973, she felt a lump in her breast, but at first she did not pay attention to it and postponed her visit to the doctor. After a year, that turned out to be a big mistake: the disease flared up and she had to have surgery. But things turned out to be out of control and in 1975 doctors removed both of her breasts.
“All my life I thought of my mother as a brave woman, and I only managed to understand some of her moves when I had children myself,” told her eldest daughter Pia. She left the strongest impression, simply because she was firm and never felt sorry for herself. She looked the truth in the eye and never showed that she was thinking – why did this happen to me? Instead, she acted as if nothing had changed at all”.
Thus, in 1974, immediately after the first operation, Ingrid made the film “Murder in the Orient Express”, which brought her the third Oscar. And although, despite everything, she continued to act, in her private life she experienced another disappointment – in 1975 she divorced Lars Schmidt, with whom she remained on friendly terms until her death.
A quiet departure into eternity
Millions of fans remember Ingrid Bergman for the cult film “Casablanca”, but most critics believe that she achieved the greatest professional achievement in 1978 in the film by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, “Autumn Sonata”, in which she played her mother and Swedish actress Liv Ullmann, her daughter. . The plot of the film is very reminiscent of the real relationship between the actress and her eldest daughter Pia.
The advanced disease did not leave her much time, so Ingrid Bergman made only one more, television, film, “A Woman Called Gold” (1982). For that great portrait of the Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, she posthumously received the Emmy Award, which Pia received on her behalf. Two weeks after the end of filming, immediately after the intimate celebration of her 67th birthday in the circle of the closest friends in a London apartment, where she lived alone after her divorce from her third husband, Ingrid Bergman went to bed and quietly passed away in her sleep.
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