One Hundred Years of Ingrid Bergman

TIFF celebrates the work of Ingrid Bergman, luminous Hollywood angel (pictured here in Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart)

Well not exactly. But August 29th will mark the one hundredth birthday of Ingrid Bergman, if she were alive. To mark the occasion, TIFF is mounting Notorious: Celebrating the Ingrid Bergman Centenary, a program featuring many of the revered actress’s best films. From Hollywood classics like  Casablanca (1942) and Notorious (1946) to the Italian neorealism of Stromboli (1950) to the amusing later vintage of Murder on the Orient Express (1974), the great Swedish actress was beautiful, talented and always keenly intelligent.

Bergman’s Hollywood debut Intermezzo made her an instant sensation

Whenever I watch Ingrid Bergman, I’m struck by the similarity she shares with her daughter, Isabella Rossellini, the same luminous visage, the same lush contralto voice with its European lilt. But Ingrid came first, natch, and her impact on Golden Age Hollywood was significant. She began acting in her native Sweden, starring in a dozen features there in the thirties, but Tinsel Town beckoned and she made the transition with astonishing ease. Or astonishing hard work. Her first Hollywood film Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939) was a remake of one of her Swedish pictures, but considering she didn’t speak English at the time, this was a challenging do-over. The film was a hit and she became a star overnight.

Bergman won her first Oscar as a wife driven to madness in the classic thriller Gaslight

What followed were a spate of true classics. In just a few short years Bergman made the marvellous wartime romance Casablanca(1942) with the legendary Humphrey Bogart, the adaptation of the Hemingway Spanish Civil War classic For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) opposite Gary Cooper, and won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a young wife driven to madness in the brilliant George Cukor psychological thriller Gaslight (1944). She went on to do several pictures for Alfred Hitchcock. In Spellbound (1945), Bergman portrayed a reserved psychiatrist who falls for a new colleague (a very young Gregory Peck), only to discover his peculiar case of amnesia may hide a murderer. With Notorious (1946), she starred opposite Cary Grant as a hard-drinking socialite recruited by the government to spy on a suspected ring of former Nazis in Brazil. Both films abound with Hitch’s idiosyncratic thriller style, and make for unforgettable viewing. Spellbound in particular stands out for its peculiar dream sequence designed by renowned Surrealist artist Salvador Dali. Those eyeball curtains will stay with you a long time.

Bergman is great as an imposter princess who may be real in Anastasia (with Yul Brynner)

Bergman’s personal life complicated her career. An affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini during the shooting of the Italian neorealist film Stromboli (1950) led to scandal in the U.S. She was even denounced on the Senate floor, and her marriage to her Swedish husband of thirteen years dissolved. She stayed with Rossellini, having three children with him, including the wondrous Isabella. But it was several years before she could return to Hollywood and make movies there again. When she did, she was triumphant, winning her second Oscar for the role of an amnesiac recruited to impersonate a Russian princess in Anastasia (1956) with Yul Brynner. Even though she won, she did not feel comfortable to return, and Cary Grant accepted the award for her. She continued to make many movies, alternating between European and American pictures, and died of breast cancer in 1982 at the age of 67.

TIFF’s Notorious: Celebrating the Ingrid Bergman Centenary features the best of Igrid Bergman’s signature films. The program kicks off on Friday, August 21st with Casablanca, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. For more info and tickets, see here.


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