Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
Search Index Here

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday Glamour Starter --- Ingrid Bergman --- Part One

I’ve touched (and retouched!) on Ingrid Bergman before, and it was inevitable, I suppose, that she’d make a Glamour Starter eventually, but here’s a question I’d not considered until this moment --- Is Ingrid our tallest G.S. so far? I’m informed she was five foot nine. Now my mind races back to that dance floor in Casablanca, and the fact she and Bogart engaged in such a restricted box-step suddenly makes clearer sense to me. Can this account for his distance on the set? I’ll save that debate for another post, for today’s concern is an actress who surely achieved heights and depths undreamt of by such puny specimen as we now call celebrities. Furors and worldwide scandals are things best understood when we ourselves experience them. Those passed down by history seem remote and even unlikely. So Ingrid Bergman ran off with an Italian film director and had an illegitimate child by him. Why so much excitement over that? Granted the cultural landscape was different five-six decades ago, but to denounce a movie actress on the floor of the Senate? Did such a thing happen before or since? Trying to imagine what got so many people in such an uproar brought me to one conclusion --- they felt betrayed. Those who’d invested emotion in a saintly image for ten years had for all impression been played for fools. Never mind she was just an actress and owed them no such fealty in her private life, the woman had been Joan Of Arc, for heaven's sake. Were we easier hoodwinked back then, or does cynicism offer us a protective shell now? No pre-49 Ingrid Bergman could survive long in our present culture, though plenty of post-49 Bergmans thrive. Perhaps we’re better off for the more open discourse we enjoy with our celebrities (whether they like it or not), but each and all who bask in the people’s warm embrace should heed the warning of Ingrid Bergman and know that a public’s kiss one day may become its slap the next.

Bergman was a major name back home in Sweden, but what’s that? Their movies were like all the rest in Europe, auditions from which moneyed Hollywood interests could pick and choose the best and most promising. The nine films on home soil included a rough draft of Intermezzo, and it’s plain enough how she attracted the attention of Selznick talent scouts. Whatever concept we had of a fresh, unspoiled Swedish girl, she was it in the unblemished flesh. German interests came calling when UFA signed her to a pair of starring vehicles in 1938, but that contract was abrogated after the first was completed. Publicity dubbing her a Daughter of Germany might well have boomeranged on US ambitions, were it not for good will she’d quickly accumulate on our shores, and the fact her UFA association was one virtually unknown to stateside media. The $2,500 a week starting wage at Selznick acknowledged her Euro status, and the American Intermezzo was a near-photostat of the Swedish original. Selznick’s idea was to sell us something new in a movie actress --- none of  phony make-up (translation: less of it than customary), eyebrows left intact, and a stated determination to preserve her natural qualities (that word was beaten like a drum to describe Bergman). She was the real-life rescue of Esther Blodgett from that cosmetic torture chamber D.O.S. depicted so vividly in A Star Is Born, and it paid off with immediate critical and public acclaim. Glamour was an unwelcome distraction from her kind of talent, and Selznick didn’t want it spoiled in a photographer’s hothouse of swimsuits and bear rugs. This is where a pristine image got its start, but casting would not be so easy as her overnight popularity would suggest. There was a husband, acquired in the old country, with ideas of representing her in business matters. Petter Lindstrom didn’t trust anyone in Hollywood, least of all Selznick, but his dogged negotiations did at least have the immediate benefit of getting his wife more money than most newcomers to the US could have wangled out of that tight-fisted town.

Selznick wisely gave her latitude in developing stagecraft. There was an LA production of Liliom and a travelling Anna Christie. Both merely increased her prestige, as the vast majority of movie lights would have been dimmed by legit exposure. Movies were a matter of Selznick loans at considerable profit to him. The $125,000 he got for her services in Casablanca translated to $35,000 for Bergman, plus a show she had little interest in making. The one she wanted was For Whom The Bell Tolls, itself the very definition of prestige filmmaking in literary-conscious Hollywood. Her campaign for that lead was relentless, as was Selznick’s, but Paramount was stubbornly committed to its own Vera Zorina. As an actress, she was a great ballet dancer, as star Gary Cooper and director Sam Wood discovered after a few unproductive weeks on location. Now Paramount was ready to do business with Selznick for Bergman. Getting the call on a Casablanca soundstage, Bergman let out a whoop. Had she but known history’s ultimate verdict on these two. For Whom The Bell Tolls would sink beneath the weight of its tedium and over-length, while Casablanca followed Bergman like grim death as the sole one everybody asked about. Her love/hate relationship with Casablanca points up the irony of lives spent on celluloid. You do fifty, or even a hundred, and in the end, they all remember you for a single performance. For Janet Leigh, it was Psycho. For Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca. Both must have grown sick of those broken records.

Against the drug- fueled industry we’ve observed over the past four decades, the idea of an actress imperiling her career with overdoses of cookies and ice cream seems quaint, if not refreshing. Bergman’s big appetites (she was a corn-fed, Scandinavian milk-maid, after all) was frequently her undoing when it came time to squeeze into period costumes for things like Saratoga Trunk and Gaslight. She could play at being vixens, but her adoring public knew better. This was setting Bergman up for a big fall, especially since her marriage had long been in name only. A could-be affair with Gary Cooper was not remarked upon at the time, but considering they did two pictures in succession together, and being this was Gary Cooper, can one imagine a consummation not taking place? Bergman’s happiest collaboration, like a lot of other people’s, was with Alfred Hitchcock. I looked at Spellbound and Under Capricorn again before writing this. It’s true ... Hitchcock’s weakest is better than anybody else’s best. There’s little mystery to how Spellbound triumphed at ticket windows. Psychology was an exotic hot button in 1945, what with sexual underpinnings and the fact analysis had been tried on shell-shocked combatants. What could be more topical that year? Small wonder that Hitchcock became infatuated with Bergman. It occurs to me that if you stripped her of Casablanca and Notorious, you might have --- Vera Zorina? For all good fortune in landing those two, there was also Adam Had Four Sons, A Rage In Heaven, Saratoga Trunk (though I like that one), Arch Of Triumph, etc. These haven’t traveled well into the new century, while the scandal that enveloped Bergman in 1949 has survived as potent drama and cautionary fable for all who imagine stardom to be a stable, if not permanent, thing. More about that in tomorrow’s Part Two.

Photo Captions

Poster for the 1936 Swedish version of Intermezzo
Ingrid Bergman with Leslie Howard in Selznick's remake of Intermezzo
With Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Euro Poster for Casablanca
Color Portrait --- For Whom The Bell Tolls
With Gary Cooper in For Whom The Bell Tolls
Insert Poster for Gaslight
With Charles Boyer in Gaslight
Color Publicity for Selznick
With Gary Cooper in Saratoga Trunk
The Bells Of St. Mary's
Half-Sheet Poster for Spellbound


Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

Wow- perhaps one of my favorite Glamour starters ever. Thanks

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In reference to the "cookies and ice cream" line:

I love classic Hollywood and current gossip (what can I say, I'm a product of my era) and it's so refreshing to see these beautiful pictures of Ingrid Bergman. She looked so healthy and so beautiful in them, unlike the twigs that are running around "Hollywood" today.

Great website! I love coming here and seeing all the old promo ads and rare pictures. Keep up the excellent work!

5:39 PM  

wonderful.... just wonderful

10:27 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021
  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021