Memorable Facts About Ingrid Bergman, The Exiled Starlet

Mathew Burke

To her fans, she was the image of international sophistication and elegance, but what set Ingrid Bergman apart from the other actresses of her day was just how ordinary she was. She wouldn’t change her name, she didn’t wear much makeup, and she wasn’t interested in demanding the spotlight. Bergman wasn’t a glamorous diva: she was naturally charming.

Bergman’s down-to-earth style is a breath of fresh air to modern readers, but her life story shows how challenging it was to balance global superstardom with a low-key lifestyle in old-world Hollywood. Exiled from the industry at the height of her fame, Bergman was the victim of puritanical morality and vicious gossip. For better or for worse, Bergman lit up the silver screen and the film world never forgot her. Here are 42 memorable facts about Ingrid Bergman.

Ingrid Bergman Facts

1. How Swede it is

Ingrid Bergman was born on August 29, 1915 in Stockholm, Sweden. Her father was Swedish but her mother was German, and the Bergmans spent their summers in Germany. Already honing her distinctive accent, Ingrid grew up speaking German as well as Swedish.

2. A Woman of Many Tongues

Bergman spoke five languages. She had grown up speaking Swedish and German, learned French at school, and made films in English and Italian.

3. The College Dropout

As a teenager, Bergman won a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Dramatic Theatre School in Stockholm. Bergman began getting offers to appear in plays and movies right away, but the school had a policy that students had to complete three years of training before taking any professional roles. Bergman had a choice to make: stay in school and complete training or accept those tempting offers. As you could probably guess, Bergman quit school and the rest is history.

4. The Camera Loves You

While still only a teenager, Bergman landed her first professional role in the play Ett Brot (A Crime) by Sigfrid Siwertz. While she continued to act in plays, Bergman found that she was happier making films, and appeared in more than a dozen movies in her native Sweden.

5. Betterlater

Already a perfectionist, the newcomer Bergman earned a reputation among Swedish filmmakers for being overly hard on herself. They called her “Betterlater” because of her compulsive promise to “do it better later.”

6. Separate Rooms

In 1937, the 21-year-old Bergman married neurosurgeon Petter Lindstrom. Unfortunately, the pairing of actress and doctor made for some conflict. Lindstrom struggled to accept Bergman’s cinematic career. He just did not care for the limelight, leading the couple to often live apart while Bergman filmed her movies on location or at faraway studios. She would travel to live with Lindstrom in between jobs.

7. What Does That Stand For?

Bergman and Lindstrom had one child together, a daughter named Pia. This sweet name actually held a secret meaning: Pia was an acronym of “Petter and Ingrid, Always.”

8. Rising Star

Bergman eventually caught the attention of the American studios, but not without a little help from an elevator operator. The elevator operator, a chatty Swede, enjoyed making small talk with his tenants. He was particularly well-versed on the subject of movies and would go on and on about his favorite actress, Ingrid Bergman. It just so happened that two of the tenants in his building were casting directors for Hollywood producer David O. Selznick.

9. I Gotta Be Me

Following the lift operator’s advice, Selznick was eager to bring the Bergman to America, but the stunning Swede was not about to be pushed around. When Selznick suggested that she undergo a full Hollywood makeover—including capped teeth, eyebrow waxing, and a name change—she was unimpressed and even threatened to go home to Sweden. In the end, of course, Bergman kept her name and her looks as they were.

10. Deja Vu

Bergman’s first American movie was Intermezzo, a remake of a film she had made in Sweden just a few years prior.

11. Confusing Credits

Ingrid Bergman bears no relation to Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman, though, coincidentally the director was once married to a different Swedish actress named Ingrid Bergman.

12. A Sigh is Just a Sigh

Despite its commercial success, critical acclaim, and enduring popularity, Casablanca never really appealed to Ingrid Bergman. According to her daughter, when people would compliment Bergman on the film, she would just stare at them “like she didn’t know what they were talking about.”

13. Hot Streak

Bergman starred in five Best Picture nominees, all released in a four-year span. Only Casablanca won.

14. A Giant Star

At 5’10” tall, Bergman was taller than the typical Hollywood leading lady. At 5’6″ and 5’8″, her Casablanca co-stars Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart were a little on the shorter side. Because it’s easier to make someone appear to be taller than shorter, the gentlemen had to wear lifts in their shoes during filming. We guess that when Bogey said, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” he had to crane his neck.

15. Napoleon Complex

Bergman’s Anastasia co-star Yul Brenner was just 5’8″ tall but unlike Bogart and Rains, he refused to use stage tricks that would make him look taller than his leading lady. When asked, he responded, “Why should I act on a box—I’ll show the world what a big horse you are!”

16. The Right Fit

Bergman later said she enjoyed acting alongside the 6’3″ tall Gary Cooper because she didn’t have to take off her shoes.

17. A Notorious Kiss

While starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense masterpiece Notorious (1946), Bergman became entangled in a scandalous cinematic kiss. Kisses longer than three seconds were banned at the time, but Hitchcock was determined to push the envelope. In a famous scene, Bergman and Cary Grant kiss for over two minutes, but because they break apart every three seconds, the scene was allowed to stay.

18. Prime Time

After Casablanca, Bergman could do no wrong. Between 1943 and 1948, she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar four times. Her first nomination came for playing Maria in the Ernest Hemingway adaptation For Whom the Bell Tolls. She won her first Best Actress Oscar the following year for playing a tormented wife in 1944’s chilling psychological drama Gaslight.

19. Cut From the Same Cloth

As we noted above, Bergman earned her first Oscar nomination for her role in For Whom the Bell Tolls. After she read the script, she desperately wanted the part of Maria, a traumatized young Spanish woman. The feeling was mutual: Ernest Hemingway, who wrote the original novel, wanted Bergman for the part too, but told her that she would have to cut her hair. Bergman replied that, to get the part, she’d gladly cut her head off.

20. Chek Mate

While in America, Bergman took acting lessons from Michael Chekov. Chekov was a trusted teacher who had given lessons to icons like Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood, but ironically, his own acting career wasn’t flowering. But this wasn’t an ordinary case of “Those who can’t do, teach” for long. Bergman helped him secure a role in one of her movies, Spellbound. The role got Chekov nominated for an Oscar.

21. Siren Song

Even political-minded folksinger Woody Guthrie wrote a song about Bergman. Guthrie died before he could record the song, but British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg performed a cover on his Woody Guthrie tribute album, Mermaid Avenue.

22. Making a Federal Case of it

Bergman’s affair with director Roberto Rossellini caused such a scandal that the Senate got involved. Citing the Bergman-Rossellini scandal as his inspiration, Senator Edwin C. Johnson proposed a law requiring movies to be rated not only for content but for the “moral standing” of their stars. Johnson lamented that he had been “deceived” by Bergman, who, up to that point, had been his favorite actress. Johnson’s proposal went nowhere and in 1972, the Senate formally apologized to Bergman.

23. Based on a True Story

The affair with Rossellini was not Bergman’s first. She had also had brief, intense romances with her Spellbound co-star Gregory Peck and photographer Robert Capa. The latter supposedly helped inspire Hitchcock’s film Rear Window, which saw Jimmy Stewart (another Bergman admirer) play an injured photographer who passes the time by watching his neighbors, only to witness a violent crime.

24. This Isn’t Working

No longer welcome in America, Bergman turned her attention to Italian cinema. Her husband, Roberto Rossellini, forbid her from working with other directors (with one notable exception—1956’s Elena and her Men, directed by Jean Renoir). Bergman’s pictures with Rossellini were not especially successful, which put a strain on their marriage. They divorced in 1956.

25. Radio Free Europe

Bergman made her comeback to American film in 1956 with Anastasia. Bergman quickly made up for lost time by winning the Oscar for Best Actress. However, she chose not to attend the ceremony. Listening in via radio from her home in Paris, Bergman was treated to a standing ovation when the award was announced. Her friend Cary Grant accepted the award on her behalf.

26. In Exile

Despite the success of Anastasia, Bergman remained indifferent about a return to Hollywood. While she would continue to appear in American movies if they were shot in Europe, she spent the rest of her career concentrating on European films, as well as stage and television plays.

27. Islands in the Stream

Bergman married Swedish film producer Lars Schmidt in 1958 and the two bought an island together off the coast of Sweden. While this marriage seemed to be less tempestuous than Bergman’s earlier relationships, the couple still divorced in 1978.

28. Coming to America

In 1969, Bergman appeared in the comedy Cactus Flower alongside Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn. The film was a modest success, but more importantly, it was the first time she had shot a film in America since 1949, when news of her affair with Rossellini broke and she fled to Europe.

29. There Are No Small Parts

Bergman joined a stacked ensemble cast (seriously – the movie stars Sean Connery and Lauren Bacall, among many others) for 1974’s detective thriller Murder on the Orient Express. Director Sidney Lumet wanted Bergman for the part of Princess Dragomiroff and even promised that she would win yet another Oscar if she took the role. To Lumet’s surprise, Bergman chose a much smaller part: the missionary Greta Ohlsson.

30. Staying Humble

Clearly, Bergman was onto something. After her performance in Murder on the Orient Express, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. When she accepted the award, Bergman apologized to Vanessa Cortese, who had been nominated for her role in Day and Night, and whom Bergman felt deserved the award more.

31. I’ve Lost My Voice!

Bergman’s Murder on the Orient Express character was Swedish, but at this point in her career it had been so long since Bergman had done any acting in Swedish that her accent was incredibly weak. The film even hired a dialect coach to help Bergman land the dialogue. You can take the girl out of Sweden and apparently, you can take Sweden out of the girl.

32. Bergman Meets Bergman

Ingmar Bergman did direct Ingrid Bergman’s final film, 1978’s Autumn Sonata.

Ingrid Bergman FactsAutumn Sonata, ITC Entertainment

33. A Taxing Role

Autumn Sonata was Bergman’s first Swedish-speaking role in more than a decade. But even though the film was shot in Swedish, filming was done in Norway. Bergman couldn’t return to her native country for fear of tax evasion charges.

34. A Family Matter

Two of Bergman’s three daughters became actresses. Isabella Rossellini made her debut alongside her mother in the 1976 film A Matter of Time. Isabella’s twin sister, Isotta, took an uncredited position as a makeup artist on the film. Bergman’s first daughter Pia Lindstrom became a successful news anchor. Now retired, she has won multiple Emmys for her work.

35. She Takes After Her Mother

Isabella Rossellini has portrayed her mother in a number of films and television shows, including an episode of Tales from the Crypt and My Dad is 100 Years Old, a short film about the life and work of Roberto Rossellini.

36. Ashes to Ashes

Bergman died on her 67th birthday, August 29, 1982. Her ashes were scattered off the coast of her native Sweden.

37. Lifetime Achievement

Three weeks after Bergman’s death, votes were counted for the 1982 Emmy awards. Bergman was honored posthumously, winning the Best Actress award for her final role as Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel, in the mini-series A Woman Called Golda. The award was accepted on Bergman’s behalf by her daughter, Pia Lindstrom.

38. Little Orphan Ingrid

Bergman’s idyllic childhood was cut short. In a tragic twist of fate, her mother passed away when she was just two years old. Her father perished when she was just 13. Afterwards, Bergman went to live with her father’s sister but this arrangement would not last for very long. Bergman’s aunt died only six months into her stay. After navigating so much hardship, Bergman finally settled in with another aunt and uncle, spending her teenage years with them.

39. Acting Suspicious

Bergman starred in a string of minor hits before rocketing to superstardom in 1942. That was the year she starred in Casablanca alongside Humphrey Bogart. One of the greatest onscreen romances of all time, the chemistry between Bogart and Bergman was so strong that Bogart’s wife, Mayo Methot, regularly turned up to accuse them—incorrectly—of having an affair.

40. Just Colleagues

In reality, Bergman and Bogart weren’t even friends, let alone lovers. They had lunch together once and never spoke again. Ironically, their lunchtime conversation was mostly about how little they liked Casablanca. Both actors were concerned that it wouldn’t be any good.

41. America’s Sweetheart

Beautiful, talented, and sophisticated, Bergman inevitably became the object of many men’s affections. Her director and friend Alfred Hitchcock was hopelessly in love with her. Jimmy Stewart, already a big star, wrote her fan mail. And millionaire Howard Hughes once bought every seat on a flight from New York to Los Angeles so that she would have to accept a ride on his private plane.

42. The Italian Affair

In 1949, Bergman began an affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini and soon became pregnant with Rossellini’s son. Roberto Rossellini, Jr., was born in Rome on February 2, 1950. His birth certificate lists only a father, Roberto Rossellini; under Italian law, had Bergman been acknowledged as the child’s mother, the father would have to be declared Petter Lindstrom.

43. 2 for 1

Bergman finally persuaded Lindstrom to dissolve their marriage in 1950. After her divorce, Bergman immediately married Rossellini. The couple had two more children together, twin girls Isabella and Isotta, but Lindstrom kept custody of Pia.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 111213

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