Ingrid Bergman was born on August 29, 1915, in Stockholm, Sweden. Her father was a Swedish artist and photographer and her mother was German, with a reported Jewish family line. Her mother’s lineage was needed to be kept secret as the political climate in Europe was quickly changing.
Ingrid’s mother died when Ingrid was only two years old, and her father passed away when she was just thirteen. Her father had wanted Ingrid to become an opera star, and had her take voice lessons for three years, before he passed away. But Ingrid always “knew from the beginning that she wanted to be an actress,” sometimes wearing her mother’s clothes and staging plays in her father’s empty studio.
While living with an aunt and uncle, Ingrid received a scholarship to the Swedish state-sponsored Royal Dramatic Theatre School, where Greta Garbo had also earned a similar scholarship some years earlier. After several months at the Academy, Ingrid was given a part in a play, even though this was totally against the rules at the school, where girls were expected to complete three years of study before getting acting roles.
During her first summer vacation from the school, Ingrid was hired by a Swedish film studio, which led to her leave the Royal Dramatic Theatre after just one year, to work in film full-time. Her first film role was a small part in “Munkbrogreven” (1935). Between 1935 and 1939, Ingrid would go on to act in a dozen films in Sweden and make quite the name for herself there.
Then Hollywood came knocking. Ingrid’s first acting role in the US, came when famed Hollywood producer David O. Selznick brought her to America to star in “Intermezzo: A Love Story” (1939), which was an English language remake of her earlier Swedish film “Intermezzo” (1936). Ingrid did not speak English and was uncertain about her acceptance by the American audience. She actually expected to make this one film and return home to Sweden, where she had left her husband of two years and their one year old daughter behind.
Ingrid’s first film in the US, would become a huge success, but nonetheless, Ingrid returned to Sweden for a while. But in 1941, with World War II in full swing, Ingrid made one last film in Sweden and then returned to the US. She made three more films that same year, “Adam Had Four Sons”, “Rage in Heaven” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, all well received and box office successes.
In 1942, Ingrid Bergman would take on one of the most successful roles in her career when she co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in the cinematic classic “Casablanca” (1942). The film was a huge hit and won three Oscars at the 16th Academy Awards, including a statue for Best Picture.
In 1943, Ingrid played the part of Maria in the film version of the Ernest Hemingway novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, which was also her first color film. When the book rights were sold to Paramount Pictures, Hemingway stated that “Miss Bergman, and no one else should play the part of Maria” even though he had never met Ingrid in person at that point.
His opinion came from only seeing her in a single American film. A few weeks later, the two did actually meet, and after studying her, Hemingway said, “You are Maria!” The film was a huge hit with critics and movie goers alike. For the role, Ingrid received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
The following year, Ingrid appeared in the psychological thriller, “Gaslight” (1944) opposite Charles Boyer. Again it was a huge hit and Ingrid won her first Oscar statue, for Best Actress. Bergman next played a nun in “The Bells of St. Mary’s” (1945) opposite Bing Crosby, for which she received her third consecutive nomination for Best Actress.
Ingrid then made a series of films with none other than the master, Alfred Hitchcock. Ingrid starred in his films “Spellbound” (1945), “Notorious” (1946), and “Under Capricorn” (1949). In 1948, Ingrid took on the lead role in “Joan of Arc” (a role she had previously played on Broadway in 1947 and also received a Tony Award for) and earned herself another Oscar nomination for the film version role.
Next week, we’ll look at Ingrid’s continued rising star and how an Italian scandal would shake her career from Hollywood to Washington D.C.
Fred Jacobs is a full time resident of Puerto Vallarta and the author of three books.