Ingrid Bergman: A Life of No Regrets

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August of 2012.

Her luminous beauty and the powerful sincerity of her craftwork caused this Stockholm native to take Hollywood by storm in the ’40s, and carried her through four decades of acclaimed and memorable performances. Born on August 29, 1915 and orphaned by the time she was 13, Ingrid Bergman was thereafter raised by a succession of aunts and uncles, her camera merchant father having left her enough to study at the city’s Royal Dramatic Theater.

Bergman obtained her first speaking screen role in 1935’s Munkbrovregen. Within the course of two years, Ingrid appeared in a series of successful Swedish films, becoming her homeland’s fastest rising movie actress, and producer David O. Selznick brought her to Hollywood in 1938 to remake her 1936 European vehicle Intermezzo, this time opposite Leslie Howard.

CASABLANCA 6The stateside response to Bergman was enthusiastic and immediate. She co-starred with Robert Montgomery in Rage in Heaven (1941) and, after appearing opposite Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner that same year in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, she crafted her signature part as Ilsa Lund, the woman who must bargain with abandoned lover Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) for the safe passage of resistance fighter husband Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid) in 1942’s Casablanca. Thirty years later, with Casablanca still a film favorite, Ingrid said, “I made so many films which were more important, but the only one people ever want to talk about is that one with Humphrey Bogart.”

The following year would see her obtain her first Best Actress Oscar for the woman driven to the brink of madness by calculating spouse Charles Boyer in Gaslight. Bergman would obtain three more nominations in the ’40s: for the Hemingway-penned war tale For Whom the Bell Tolls with Gary Cooper; opposite jovial priest Bing Crosby as Sister Mary Benedict in the sequel to Going My Way, The Bells of St. Mary’s, possibly Bergman’s most underrated accomplishment; and as the doomed title heorine of 1948’s Joan of Arc.

NOTORIOUSOther memorable performances in the course of the decaded included 1945’s Spellbound, her first of three films for director Alfred Hitchcock; a reunion with Cooper in a sprawling tale of New Orleans society, Saratoga Trunk (also ’45); the 1946 Hitchcock espionage tale Notorious with Cary Grant and Claude Rains,  followed by Arch of Triumph (1948) with fellow European Charles Boyer; and Under Capricorn (1949), another Hitchcock thriller, with Joseph Cotton.

The actress’ roll came to an abrupt end when her professional intrigue with Italian neorealist filmmaker Roberto Rossellini became personal. In the course of her performing the lead in his 1950 drama Stromboli, the two fell in love; pregnant with the director’s child, Bergman left her family. The American public was sufficiently scandalized that Bergman would work exclusively in Europe through the mid-’50s. In 1954, under Rossellini’s direction, she repeated her former success in Joan of Arc at the Stake.

However, 1956 brought her the opportunity to portray an amnesiac trumped up to portray a young woman who may be the last of the Russian royals in Anastasia, and she obtained a second Best Actress Oscar — along with filmgoers’ forgiveness as a result. Always good-naturedly honest about herself, years later she would remark, “I’ve gone from saint to whore and back to saint again, all in one lifetime.”

Following up with Cary Grant in the delightful drawing room comedy Indiscreet in 1958, and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness that same year, Bergman’s screen appearances became increasingly intermittent. In 1963, she joined a distinguished British cast playing the title role in the powerful adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play Hedda Gabler, and the following year she was seen in MGM’s episodic The Yellow Rolls Royce and alongside Anthony Quinn in The Visit. With 1969’s Cactus Flower with Walter Matthau, she actually returned to America for a Hollywood studio production.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESSHighlights from the balance of her career include A Walk in the Spring Rain (1970), in which Ingrid rediscovers the joys of life with former co-star Quinn amid Tennessee’s Smokey Mountains. In 1974, she was a missionary and one of Hercule Poirot’s suspects in a case of Murder on the Orient Express, where her efforts amongst the all-star ensemble garnered the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, her last prize from the Academy. 1976 brought Bergman together with Liza Minnelli and old friend Charles Boyer in the musical/drama A Matter of Time; two years later, with Autumn Sonata, she had her one collaboration with countryman Ingmar Bergman. Her final appearance was the 1982 made-for-TV biofilm, A Woman Called Golda, in which her turn as Israeli prime minister Golda Meir earned a posthumous Emmy. Miss Bergman, who died of breast cancer on her 67th birthday, had arranged for her ashes to be spread along the coast of her native Sweden.

Besides an unforgettable legacy of classic performances, Ingrid Bergman left behind her philosophy of life when she reported, “I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say.”

INGRID BERGMAN STAMPEditor’s Update: Last week the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp of Bergman, the 19th person to be so honored in their Legends of Hollywood series, to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth.   

  • Joel

    Ah! Bergman!!  A wonderful actress who always embodied the great lady personna to her roles.
    It is not generally known, but she mentored Susan Hayward in their film “Adam Had Four Sons”.
    A generosity Hayward, as a ingenue,  benefited from and always acknowledged.

    • Costnerfan25

       Ingrid Bergman & Susan Hayward in the same film,how could it be anything but good,good,good.

  • Tony Payne

    A great actress indeed and particularly good in her debut film Intermezzo with Leslie Howard. It’s available on DVD so if you haven’t seen it yet add it to your collection. My favourite is Notorious just marginally ahead of the immortal Casablanca.

  • Frankiedc

    It is interesting that  Ingrid Bergman’s career path imitated her screen life. She was seen as a saint in films like The Bells of Saint Mary, Joan of Arc, and near saintly in Spellbound and the Inn of the Sixth Happiness. Yet she also played promiscuous women in Notorious and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  The choice of movie roles was paralleled by her personal life when she changed from the respectable Mrs. Lindstrom to the disreputable mistress of Roberto Rossellini and became an outcast in Hollywood. I even remember her films after her relationship with Rossellini were condemned by the Legion of Decency because of her so called wanton behavior. We certainly have come a long way since that time.

    Whatever the judgment might be about her personal life, Ingrid Bergman was a radiant and talented actress with a great natural beauty. .Her role in Casablanca is the prototype of the the romantic female lead. She showed her ample acting abilities in such varied roles in Gaslight, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Saratoga Trunk. I loved the fact that she switched roles with Lana Turner in Dr. Jekyll so she could play the prostitute, a much more interesting role than the fiancee of the good doctor.And she was one of the few aging actresses who gave outstanding performances in A quality films towards the end of her career, Murder on the Orient Express and Autumn Sonata, being two of them.

    • Guest

      I am a great fan of her… I am glad you admit that she “was a radiant and talented actress with a natural beauty”…I add to that, she was a very sensual woman. Matters of the heart belong to the individual and shouls have nothing to do with the public. Hollywood accepted her back in a glorious way and, her first daughter,Lindstrom’s daughter, became a great defender of her mother.

  • Gemini09

    Thank you for your post on the sublime Ingrid Bergman. She played a wide variety of parts and she was excellent in all of them. LIke Tony Payne my all time favourite is Notorious with Cary Grant – a fabulous pairing. I’m sure all of her leading men must have fallen a little bit in love with her. It’s hard to believe that she was ostracized for her love life compared to the scandals of today.

  • DIRK

    CACTUS FLOWER and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS are a couple of my favorites where I forget its Ingrid Bergman because she loses herself in the roles!

  • Pacerdad

    A wonderful actress.  She could dominate any movie that she starred in.  Todays actresses could learn a thing or two from Ingrid.

  • Dave

    This retrospective would have been improved if some of Ingrid Bergman’s several Swedish films were discussed, let alone even mentioned.  She showed a flair for comedy and even sang in “Munkbrogreven” [The Count of Old Town] 1935, and serious dramatic support in “Swedenhielms”, also 1935.   Three others are available in a Kino collection, but there are even more…

  • Bobby Laguardia

    I loved Ingrid! Especially Gaslight and Bells of Saint Marys1

  • Jo

    Ingrid Bergman was in a class by herself when it came to acting.  She shined even in the most meager attempts of films made by Rosselini, but my favorite is Inn of the Sixth Happiness which I love watching even to this day on my dvd.  I have seen almost every film she made going back to Intermezzo and Adam Had Four Sons.    

  • Helen B.

    I was deeply disappointed when AFI named Audrey Hepburn as the third greatest actress and Ingrid Bergman fourth. Ingrid was way ahead of Audrey!

    • Costnerfan25

       I agree,Ingrid was right up there with Bette Davis,Stanwyck.And what a beauty.

    • Beansarelli

      I agree, Helen.  Audrey was a very talented actress but Ingrid had such range.  Just watch her falling apart in Gaslight, then turning in a delicious comedic turn in Indiscreet, and then her heartaching turn as Maria in For Whom The Bell Tolls.  She really should have been number 3.

    • l

      Ingrid Bergman wasn’t third to ANYONE.

  • Bob

    It amazes me that everyone praises all these wonderful actresses except they over look one ot the most underrated star.  simply
    A N N    S H E R I D A N …..


    • Beansarelli

      Bob, Ann Sheridan is one of my favorite actresses too.  Her career just never got the momentum she needed to make her the kind of movie star Ingrid Bergman was.  Wish Ann would get her due as well, but I’ll never regret being a huge Ingrid Bergman fan!

  • Rogerlynn

    THE INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS is my favorite performance

  • Jim

    Instead of # 3 or #4, she should had been listed as #1;
    She was the Meryl Streep of her generation;
    Bells of St. Mary’s was my 1st movie;
    wish she had never met Rossselini, since we were robbed of movies that she may had made in the early 50’s;
    speaking of Susan Hayward, I don’t remember her listed in the AFI [if so, that is a really an injustice
    to another great actress]

  • pocroc

    I wish she cared a little more about Casablanca, but I appreciate her candor.

  • Southfish

    An actress whose performances had the ability to make you feel a roller coaster of emotions…what a ride…what a beauty.

  • jorjacee

    She was always superb but what I loved about her was that she aged naturally, gracefully and beautifully. Beautiful doesn’t have to be young.

  • Jan

    Miss Bergman has always been a favorite of mine no matter what part she played. She could play any roll and pull you right into all of the emotions that went with it. I find it rather amazing that she was so blacklisted in her day and the so-called women claiming to be actresses now have numerous affairs and out of wedlock children with married and un-married men but no one ever blinks an eye. Her talent, grace, and beauty will always outshine anyone else.

  • Rex Bobinette

    Not surprised at all at the photo chosen of Miss Bergman … I fell in love with her after seeing her for the first time in For Whom The Bell Tolls … SHE LITERALLY GLOWS IN THAT FILM … her and Ginger Rogers are my all-time favorites!!!!!!!!!!!!