Ingrid Bergman --- Retouched and Untouched
My favorite story about Ingrid Bergman is the time Hedda Hopper wrote a column excoriating the actress for her adulterous affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini and their resulting born-out–of-wedlock child. Hedda waxed eloquently about the corrupting influence Ingrid had lately exerted upon American youth, emphasizing the scandalous pregnancy that had been the capper of Ingrid’s public perfidy. The Hollywood scribe then delivered a final bon mot when she cried, "Oh Ingrid, Ingrid, Whatever has gotten into you?" Show biz wags howled. They got the joke, only Hedda didn’t. She couldn’t appreciate the fact that she’d inadvertently delivered a verbal haymaker worthy of Oscar Wilde. When a friend enlightened her, Hedda was horrified. She’d never knowingly go in for a "blue" gag like that, but the damage was done, and her enemies (their numbers being legion) laughed about it for weeks.
Here at the Greenbriar, we like Ingrid fine, having first seen her many years ago in Intermezzo, where she got her start canoodling with married men. In this case it was Leslie Howard, who got to produce this picture as reward for agreeing to play Ashley Wilkes, a role he despised. Both characters were punished in truest Code fashion when Les’s kid gets run over by a car, all because Daddy has run off to live in sin with concert pianist Ingrid. It’s interesting to see Leslie Howard paying so dearly for his moral trespasses on screen, when we know he was one of Hollywood’s (no, the world’s) epic seducers off-screen. Industry lore has it that Les’s wife popped into his dressing room during the Scarlet Pimpernel shoot to find hubby vigorously engaged on the couch with co-star Merle Oberon (lucky pup!). When ball-and-chain voiced understandable objections, Howard merely glanced up momentarily and barked We’re rehearsing! before resuming his exertions. But I do digress, and this post is about Ingrid, so let’s check these two portraits and compare ---
This first one is a typical studio retouch job. It was done as publicity for the 1941 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (the one where Spencer Tracy played both roles, and people used to make Spence mad by asking him which was which). The lab guys figured they’d make Ingrid’s pretty face even prettier with a little airbrush magic (nowadays such "improvements" are made in cosmetic surgery charnel houses, but we won’t go into that). Problem is, her features lost a little character along the way, but that’s the unfortunate nature of old-style glamour photography. Nowhere is it better emphasized than in this startling unretouched portrait of Ingrid, taken November 19, 1943, no doubt for Gaslight (wish I could like that movie more). Note the "flaws" --- some blemish, a kind of ruddy, robust complexion, and eyes that bespeak the possibility of a big night previous. Now this is an Ingrid we can warm up to --- one of those rare glimpses of a great star as she really was. No wonder old Coop fell hard for her.