Before becoming a star in American films, she had been a leading actress in Swedish films. Her first introduction to U.S. audiences came with her starring role in the English-language remake of Intermezzo in 1939. In the United States, she brought to the screen a "Nordic freshness and vitality", along with exceptional beauty and intelligence, and according to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, she quickly became "the ideal of American womanhood" and one of Hollywood's greatest leading actresses.
After her performance in Victor Fleming's remake of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1941, she was noticed by her future producer David O. Selznick, who called her "the most completely conscientious actress" he had ever worked with. He gave her a seven-year acting contract, thereby supporting her continued success. A few of her other starring roles, besides Casablanca, included For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Gaslight (1944), The Bells of St. Mary's (1945), Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), and Under Capricorn (1949), and the independent production, Joan of Arc(1948).
In 1950, after a decade of stardom in American films, she starred in the Italian film Stromboli, which led to a love affair with director Roberto Rossellini while they were both already married. The affair and then marriage with Rossellini created a scandal that forced her to remain in Europe until 1956, when she made a successful Hollywood return in Anastasia, for which she won her second Academy Award, as well as the forgiveness of her fans. Many of her personal and film documents can be seen in the Wesleyan University Cinema Archives.
In 1937, at the age of 21, Bergman married dentist Petter Aron Lindström (later to become a neurosurgeon), and they had a daughter, Friedel Pia Lindström (born 20 September 1938). After returning to America in 1940, she acted on Broadway before continuing to do films in Hollywood. The following year, her husband arrived from Sweden with daughter Pia. Lindström stayed in Rochester, New York, where he studied medicine and surgery at the University of Rochester. Bergman would travel to New York and stay at their small rented stucco house between films, her visits lasting from a few days to four months.
According to an article in Life Magazine, the "doctor regards himself as the undisputed head of the family, an idea that Ingrid accepts cheerfully." He insisted she draw the line between her film and personal life, as he has a "professional dislike for being associated with the tinseled glamor of Hollywood." Lindström later moved to San Francisco, California, where he completed his internship at a private hospital, and they continued to spend time together when she could travel between filming.
Bergman strongly admired two films by Italian director Roberto Rossellini that she had seen in the United States. In 1949, Bergman wrote to Rossellini, expressing this admiration and suggesting that she make a film with him. This led to her being cast in his film Stromboli (1950). During production, Bergman fell in love with Rossellini, and they began an affair. Bergman became pregnant with their son, Renato Roberto Ranaldo Giusto Giuseppe ("Robin") Rossellini (born 2 February 1950).
This affair caused a huge scandal in the United States, where it led to Bergman being denounced on the floor of the United States Senate. Ed Sullivanchose not to have her on his show, despite a poll indicating that the public wanted her to appear. However, Steve Allen, whose show was equally popular, did have her on, later explaining "the danger of trying to judge artistic activity through the prism of one's personal life." Spoto notes that Bergman had, by virtue of her roles and screen persona, placed herself "above all that". She had played a nun in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) and a virgin saint in Joan of Arc (1948), and Bergman herself later acknowledged, "People saw me in Joan of Arc and declared me a saint. I'm not. I'm just a woman, another human being."
As a result of the scandal, Bergman returned to Italy, leaving her husband and daughter (Pia), which led to a publicized divorce and custody battle for their daughter. Bergman and Rossellini were married on 24 May 1950. In addition to Renato, they had twin daughters (born 18 June 1952): Isabella Rossellini, who became an actress and model, and Isotta Ingrid Rossellini, who became a professor of Italian literature.
In 1957 she divorced Rosselini and the next year married Lars Schmidt, a theatrical entrepreneur from a wealthy Swedish shipping family. By 1975 she was divorced again.
Death and legacy
Bergman died in 1982 on her 67th birthday in London, from breast cancer. Her body was cremated at Kensal Green Cemetery, London and her ashes taken to Sweden, where most of them were scattered in the sea around the islet of Dannholmen off the fishing village of Fjällbacka in Bohuslän, on the west coast of Sweden, where she spent most summers from 1958 to her death in 1982, and the rest placed next to her parents in Norra begravningsplatsen (Northern Cemetery), Stockholm, Sweden.
According to biographer Donald Spoto, she was "arguably the most international star in the history of entertainment." Acting in five languages, she was seen on stage, screen and television, and won three Academy Awards plus many others. After her American film debut in the 1939 film Intermezzo: A Love Story, co-starring Leslie Howard, Hollywood saw her as a unique actress who was completely natural in style and without need of makeup. Film critic James Agee wrote that she "not only bears a startling resemblance to an imaginable human being; she really knows how to act, in a blend of poetic grace with quiet realism."
Bergman was a tall, natural-looking, and intelligent Swedish actress, fluent in English. According to film historian David Thomson, she "always strove to be a 'true' woman", and many filmgoers identified with her:
- "There was a time in the early and mid-1940s when Bergman commanded a kind of love in America that has been hardly ever matched. In turn, it was the strength of that affection that animated the 'scandal' when she behaved like an impetuous and ambitious actress instead of a saint."
Writing about her first years in Hollywood, Life magazine stated that "All Bergman vehicles are blessed", and "they all go speedily and happily, with no temperament from the leading lady." She was "completely pleased" with her early career's management by David O. Selznick, who always found excellent dramatic roles for her to play, and equally satisfied with her salary, once saying, "I am an actress and I am interested in acting, not in making money." Life adds that "she has greater versatility than any actress on the American screen ... her roles have demanded an adaptability and sensitiveness of characterization to which few actresses could rise."
She continued her acting career while suffering from cancer for eight years, and won international honors for her final roles. "Her spirit triumphed with remarkable grace and courage", adds Spoto. Director George Cukor once summed up her contributions to the film media when he said to her, "Do you know what I especially love about you, Ingrid, my dear? I can sum it up as your naturalness. The camera loves your beauty, your acting, and your individuality. A star must have individuality. It makes you a great star. A great star."
For her contributions to the motion picture industry, Bergman has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6759 Hollywood Blvd.