How Ingrid Bergman Made her Mark

Ingrid Bergman made her Mark

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How Ingrid Bergman made her mark on the silver screen still amazes many. The career of this Swedish actress spanned five decades. She is still considered one of the leading screen figures in cinematic history. Ingrid reigned on the screen during Hollywood’s Golden Era, though it was ruled by manipulative and greedy cinema moguls.

Early Life

Ingrid’s German mother died when she was only two-years old. She was an only child; two older siblings having died before she was born. Ingrid’s father was a photographer and Ingrid was his favourite photographic subject. She enjoyed dressing up and acting in front of her father’s camera. “I was perhaps the most photographed child in Scandinavia.”

Ingrid was neither a popular nor good student. Her Swedish father died when she was 12 and she went to live with her aunt, six months later her aunt died. She was sent to live with another aunt and uncle who already had five children.

Ingrid Bergman’s Film Debut

Despite her inborn shyness Ingrid was determined to become an actress. She debuted briefly in a Swedish film and gained a small speaking role in Munbrogreven, in 1934. Bergman was described as “Hefty and sure of herself.” Little did anyone know that Ingrid would make her mark on the silver screen and become ‘Sweden’s illustrious gift to Hollywood’.

In her first leading role, in 1936, she was able to demonstrate her talent. The director, Molander, said, “I was not responsible for the film’s success. Ingrid herself made it successful.” By the time Ingrid was 25, she had appeared in eleven films in her native Sweden. Her roles were characterized by uncertainty, fear and anxiety.


On her arrival in America in 1939, Bergman could not speak English, was too tall, her eyebrows were too thick, and her name sounded too German. The director wanted to make changes, but Bergman adamantly refused. She would not be turned into someone she wouldn’t recognize.

Her natural good looks competed successfully with Hollywood’s synthetic razzle-dazzle. Her director said, “Bergman was the most completely conscientious actress with whom I have ever worked with.” Bergman’s dressing room was equipped so that she could live at the studio while filming. She lived for the world of make believe and her craft.

Ingrid Bergman Made her Mark

Ingrid Bergman made her mark in Hollywood through her luminous and provocative beauty, natural charm and sweetness, freshness, intelligence and vitality. This combined with her consideration and conscientiousness, and straightforwardness, made her a legend.

She brought a sincerity to her work that idealized womanhood. Her lack of make-up contributed to her air of nobility and the film crews and other cast members went out of their way to do things for her. She became the most versatile actress the cinematic industry had ever seen, moving seamlessly between comedy and drama.

Specifically Created Roles

Most actors fight to gain a role, but roles were specifically created for Bergman, as she made her highly distinguishable and unique mark on Hollywood. Ingrid was not afraid to stand her ground for the sake of the movie. Her honesty was cutting and direct, but she could also be amusing and fun to be with.

The New York Times noted her “Freshness and simplicity and natural dignity.” By 1938, critics cited her as an actor of great talent and confidence. They applauded her freedom from stylistic traits, with her own unique mannerisms, postures and inflections. One of her reviews said, “She displays a canny combination of charm, understanding, restraint and sheer acting ability,” in her role as a bad girl in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. When she played the role of a whore in a stage appearance, a San Francisco said. “Ingrid Bergman was as unspoiled as a fresh Swedish snowball.”

Passionate Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman cared passionately about the craft she represented and carefully chose which films she would act in. She only took roles she enjoyed. She was known for her indifference to her looks, her clothes and to everything except her art.

Ingrid continued to bounce between America and Europe making well-loved movies. In 1942, Ingrid Bergman’s most notable, well-loved role, was as Ilsa Lund in the iconic film Casablanca, where she starred with Humphrey Bogart. She followed this with the Gaslight, in 1944, which earned her an Academy Award. Throughout her career, Ingrid made her unique mark by the impressive range of roles she played, including two thrillers directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Ingrid Bergman and Scandal

Not all of Ingrid Bergman’s career went smoothly. In 1950, Bergman fell in love with Italian director Roberto Rossellini during the filming of Stromboli. They had a son before she was divorced from her first husband.

In 1950, Bergman was denounced on the floor of the United States Senate and banned from Hollywood. A senator insisted that his once-favourite actress had “Perpetrated an assault upon the institution of marriage and she was a powerful influence for evil.”

Bergman said, “People saw me in Joan of Arc and declared me a saint. I’m not. I’m just a woman, another human being.” The ensuing bad publicity and endless bad fan mail prompted her to remain in Europe.

Rossellini was described as “The immoral, highly sexed, aggressive Latin lover.”  Swedish feminists defended Bergman, causing friction in Sweden between conservative journalists and the emerging feminist movement.

Ingrid Bergman Divorced

Bergman divorced her first husband and went through a highly publicized battle for their daughter. While the films Bergman made with Rossellini were commercial failures, modern reviews of the films claim their work was pioneering and have inspired the beginning of a modern cinematic era. They were films that pondered the complex world of psychology.  

However, Bergman’s peerless talent made the way for her. Ingrid was fluent in five languages, like Audrey Hepburn and acted in all five. She returned to Hollywood in 1956, where she won her second Academy Award. Bergman received a standing ovation at the ceremony and won her third Oscar in 1958.

Bergman divorced Rossellini in 1957, and the next year she married into a wealthy Swedish shipping family. While vacationing with her husband in Portugal, Bergman was ticketed for wearing a bikini that showed too much, according to the modesty standards of conservative Portugal. After two decades of marriage, the couple divorced in 1975.

Great Stars

Ingrid Bergman stood head-to-shoulders with other great stars, tying with Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand as the most Oscar-awarded actresses. However, all three came second to Katharine Hepburn.

One of Ingrid’s twin daughters, Isabella, became an outstanding actress in her own right, the other one became a professor of Italian literature. Berman was not reunited with her son from her first marriage until 1957. Ingrid had seven Oscar Award nominations.

Dedicated to the End

In 1974, it was discovered Ingrid had breast cancer, but she continued working until shortly before her death in 1982, aged 67. Her second ex-husband was at her side. For her role as Prime Minister, Golda Meir, Ingrid Bergman posthumously won her second Emmy Award.

Ingrid Bergman made her mark by doing what she loved and passionately loved what she chose to do. She paid a high price for daring to follow her career. There were times when she had to pry her children’s arms from around her neck, as she left her children to continue her career.  Through it all she remained true to herself, yet she was a woman who belonged to the world.

Proud to be a Female

She was a woman who made others proud to be a female. On the first anniversary of her death stars, friends and family gathered at the Venice Film Festival to celebrate her life, her individuality and naturalness. Among the guests, who wined and dined for five days remembering the unique Ingrid Bergman, were names such as Gregory Peck, Walter Matthau, Audrey Hepburn, Roger Moore, Charlton Heston, Prince Albert of Monaco, Claudette Colbert and Olivia de Havilland. ‘

She was a great person besides being a remarkable star. She lived life to the fullest. Her legacy is that “Everyone should be fulfilled by following their hearts, and their passions. Be yourself and live with no regrets.”

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Wendy is a freelance writer, who enjoys researching her topics.

    Wendy is an Inspirational Freelance Writer specializing in offering encouragement to women in all walks of life.

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