Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Ingrid Bergman’s early life was marked by the tragic deaths of her parents. Ingrid was largely raised by her uncle, who allowed her to enter a scholarship competition for the Royal Dramatic Theatre School on the condition that if she did not get the scholarship, she would give up her ambition to act.
After only a year at the school, Ingrid got her first film role, in Edvin Adolphson’s “Mulkbrogreven (The Count of the Old Monk’s Bridge).” Critics derided her performance thus: “Ingrid Bergman doesn’t give any strong impression.” However, she continued working in Swedish films, and her sixth, “Intermezzo,” brought her international acclaim and caught the eye of David O. Selznick. Said Selznick, “The minute I looked at her, I knew I had something. She had an extraordinary quality of purity and nobility and a definite star personality that is very rare.”
Selznick was not so impressed with her purity that he didn’t want to tinker with it, however. He tried repeatedly to find a new name for her, but she refused all of his suggestions. Her first U.S. film for Selznick was a remake of “Intermezzo,” and her star rose brightly over America now, too. Over the next several years, she starred in “Casablanca,” which she didn’t like, and “Gaslight,” for which she won the first of her three Academy Awards.
In 1949, Ingrid left the U.S. for Italy to begin filming Roberto Rossellini’s “Stromboli.” Her marriage to Petter Lindstrom, a romance which had begun during her year at the Royal Dramatic Theatre School, was in trouble. Ingrid fell in love with Rossellini and they wound up between the scandal sheets. Her career in America was over, as was her marriage when she gave birth to Rossellini’s son.
Her films with Rossellini were commercial failures, and in 1956 they were separated. Her first post-Rossellini film was “Anastasia,” and she won her second Oscar for her role. She was back in America’s good graces, and allowed back in America. Her career included a third Academy Award, for her small role in “Murder on the Orient Express,” and continued through her final film, “Autumn Sonata,” the story of dying woman’s attempt to come to terms with her estranged daughter, directed by Ingmar Bergman. During the filming, Bergman learned that the breast cancer she thought she had conquered in the early 1970’s had returned. She made only one more film in her last few years, a television portrayal of Israel’s Golda Meir, which she did in part to atone for her acquiescence to Nazi Germany in her youth.
Shortly after celebrating her 67th birthday on August 29, 1982, Ingrid Bergman died in her London apartment. She had asked that her epitaph read: “She acted to the last day of her life. Here rests a good actress.”