Encyclopedia Womannica

Leading Ladies: Ingrid Bergman

Episode Summary

Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982) was an iconic actor. In her five decade career, she won three Oscars, two Emmys, a Golden Globe and a Tony Award.

Episode Notes

Every weekday, listeners explore the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of groundbreaking women throughout history who have dramatically shaped the world around us. In each 5 minute episode, we’ll dive into the story behind one woman listeners may or may not know -- but definitely should. These diverse women from across space and time are grouped into easily accessible and engaging monthly themes like Leading Ladies, Activists, STEMinists,  Hometown Heroes, and many more. Encyclopedia Womannica is hosted by WMN co-founder and award-winning journalist Jenny Kaplan. The bite-sized episodes pack painstakingly researched content into fun, entertaining, and addictive daily adventures.

Encyclopedia Womannica was created by Liz Kaplan and Jenny Kaplan, executive produced by Jenny Kaplan, and produced by Liz Smith, Cinthia Pimentel, Grace Lynch, and Maddy Foley. Special thanks to Shira Atkins, Edie Allard, and Luisa Garbowit.

We are offering free ad space on Wonder Media Network shows to organizations working towards social justice. For more information, please email Jenny at jenny@wondermedianetwork.com.

Follow Wonder Media Network:

Episode Transcription

Hello! From Wonder Media Network I’m Jenny Kaplan and this is Encyclopedia Womannica. 

Today we’re talking about one of the most iconic women in Hollywood. Her five decade career won her three Oscars, two Emmys, a Golden Globe and a Tony Award. A high-profile affair saw her public image go - as she herself once said - “from saint to whore and back to saint again”. 

Let’s talk about Ingrid Bergman. 

Ingrid Bergman was born in Stockholm, Sweden on August 29, 1915. Her early life was marked by tragedy. Her mother, Friedel Adler Bergman, died when Ingrid was just three years old. Ingrid’s father, Justus Samual Bergman, raised Ingred alone until he too passed away when she was 12. After her father’s death, Ingrid was left in the care of her unmarried aunt - who died within months. Eventually, Ingrid settled down for the remainder of her teenage years with an uncle and his family. 

As a teenager, Ingrid began working as a film extra before attending the Royal Dramatic Theater School in Stockholm. While there, she made her professional stage debut. In 1935, at the age of 20, Ingrid landed her first speaking role in a Swedish film and just a year later, in 1936, Ingrid landed the role that would change her life. 

Ingrid was cast as a piano teacher who begins an affair with a student’s father in the film Intermezzo. Her performance drew attention from Hollywood and Ingrid was cast in the American remake of the film, Intermezzo: A Love Story, which received great acclaim. 

With its success, Ingrid Bergman had officially arrived in Hollywood. 

Ingrid starred in films throughout the 1940s including Adam Had Four Sons, Rage in Heaven and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She made overtures to Broadway, making her debut in Liliom in 1940 and starring in a production of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie in 1941. 

Ingrid’s most celebrated role came in 1942, when she starred opposite Humphrey Bogard in the wartime romance, Casablanca. The film was a box office success and an enduring classic which has reserved a place for Ingrid in the hearts of fans for generations. 

While Ingrid was not nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Casablanca, she was nominated that same year for her performance Earnest Hemingway’s, For Whom The Bell Tolls. She finally won an Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of a Victorian housewife driven to insanity by her husband in the 1944 classic, Gaslight.

Ingrid’s career continued to pick up steam with another Academy nomination for The Bells of St. Mary’s and with critical acclaim for her collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock in Spellbound and Notorious

Ingrid returned to Broadway in 1946 to portray Joan in Joan of Arc -- winning her first Tony award for the performance and securing another Academy nomination for the film adaptation. 

During her rise in the Hollywood spotlight, Ingrid was portrayed as wholesome and virtuous. This was likely due to a variety of factors. Unlike many young stars, Ingrid arrived in Hollywood already married. Her first husband Peter Lindstrom, was a Swedish dentist and later neurosurgeon, with whom she had a daughter, Friedel Pia Lindstrom. Ingrid also had a natural, angelic look which she declined to over-embellish with the heavy makeup that was popular amongst movie stars of the time. The perceptions of her beauty and family life led to type casting in more “innocent” roles at the onset of her career. 

Public perception would change in 1949 when she began a relationship with Italian film director, Roberto Rossellini. 

In 1949, Ingrid wrote a letter to Rossellini, expressing her desire to be in his films. In response, Rosellini wrote a role for her in his 1949 film, Stromboli. During production for the film, Ingrid and Rossellini began an affair. Ingrid was still married to Lindstrom at the time, although the marriage had not been happy for many years. Rossellini was also technically married to another woman, although the couple had separated. Ingrid became pregnant and both she and Rossellini sought divorces. The two married in 1950 shortly after the birth of their son, Roberto. News of the affair and pregnancy shocked American fans who expressed outrage at the downfall of their former idol. United States Senator Edwin C. Johnson of Colorado even took to condemning Ingrid in public calling her, “a powerful influence for evil.” 

Rejected by American moralists, Ingrid lived in Italy with Rossellini where they made five movies together between 1950 and 1955. During this time Ingrid also gave birth to twin daughters, Isotta and Isabella. Isabella went on to become a famous model and actress herself. 

Ingrid made her return to Hollywood in 1956 with a starring role in Anastasia, which won her both a second Academy Award for Best Actress and the return of much of her former popularity. Ingrid’s high profile marriage with Rossellini ended in 1957. Soon after, she remarried Lars Schmidt, a theatrical producer from her native Sweden. 

Ingrid’s work continued over the following two decades on stage and screen. She won an Emmy for the 1959 television miniseries adaptation of Henry James’, The Turn of the Screw. In 1974 she won her third Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for, Murder on the Orient Express.

In 1975, shortly after divorcing Lars Schmidt, Ingrid discovered that she had breast cancer. Despite her declining health, Ingrid continued to work. She completed her last film, Autumn Sonata, in 1978 and her final television miniseries in 1982 in, A Woman Called Golda. Her performance in the series as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir won her both Emmy and Golden Globe awards. 

On August 29, 1982 - on the day of her 67th birthday - Ingrid died in her London home. 

Her funeral was held in the Swedish church in West London and her remains were cremated and widely scattered off the coast of Sweden. A small portion were kept and interred in the prominent Northern Cemetery in Stockholm. 

Tune in tomorrow for the story of another Leading Lady. 

For more on why we’re doing what we’re doing, check out our Encyclopedia Womannica newsletter, Womannica Weekly. 

You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram @EncyclopediaWomannica and you can follow me directly on twitter @jennymkaplan.

Special thanks to Liz Kaplan, my favorite sister and co-creator. 

Talk to you tomorrow!