Monday, February 11, 2013

A Lover's Scandal! Ingrid Bergman: Influence of Evil

Welcome to 2013 - a year of scandals at A Person in the Dark. Yes, I love movies, but I confess I am a sucker for those juicy Hollywood scandals of old.

February's Scandal: Ingrid Bergman - from Saint to Whore

It is hard to believe that this woman was once denounced on the US Senate floor as an "influence of evil." Her sin: falling in love and running off with a man not her husband. 

Now, this is Hollywood we are talking about. Let's look back: in the 1920s, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, both married to others, engaged in a hot extra-marital affair that tore both their marriages apart. They subsequently became the king and queen of Hollywood. Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier began their epic love affair when married to others and Humphrey Bogart was still married when he fell for the 19-year old Lauren Bacall. All three couples were much beloved. Their romances were seen as proof of the triumph of true love against all odds (even though 2 of the 3 divorced).

Enter Ingrid Bergman in 1939, the year the Swedish beauty was introduced to American audiences in "Intermezzo: A Love Story." Her natural, healthy beauty that radiated purity was an immediate hit with the public and soon her husband, Dr. Petter Lindstrom and infant daughter, Pia, joined her in a permanent residence in Hollywood. Ingrid could do no wrong. Her career was in high gear and her image was spotless.

The Ingrid Bergman the world fell in love with in "Intermezzo"
 Like most stars, Ingrid's image was at odds with her reality. Though she was portrayed as a happily married wife and mother, the truth was that Ingrid was one lusty lass and the good doctor did not like being known as Mr. Ingrid Bergman. At some point he made a decision to spend a great deal of his professional time in San Francisco and Ingrid was free to engage in affairs with Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler and photographer Robert Capa (to name just a few). Life was a breeze for Ingrid: she was a 100% Ivory Soap Pure Saint to her public (even though she was equally adept at playing bad girls), her career was on fire and she easily managed her husband, child and extra curricular affairs. 
Ingrid in 1948's "Joan of Arc" - her last appearance as a saint
In 1949, the new "It Boy" of cinema was Italian filmmaker, Roberto Rossellini. Rossellini, a notorious playboy, was riding high on the universal acclaim of his neo-realist classics "Open City" and "Paisan." Ingrid, like so many, was enthralled with Rossellini's bold new style. She was so taken with him that she penned a fan letter and offered her services:

If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is not very understandable in French and who in Italian knows only "ti amo," I am ready to come make a film with you.

And so she did. Rossellini promptly dropped the 5 women he was seeing at the time (including his "Open City" star actress Anna Magnani) and fell for Ingrid's charms. For her part, Ingrid fell madly, passionately in love and left her husband. And she got pregnant. All the while they worked together to film "Stromboli."
Roberto Rossellini directs Ingrid Bergman
Meanwhile, back in the USA a firestorm of criticism erupted over the actions of a Hollywood actress. Returning to Hollywood after filming "Stromboli" (and 3 months pregnant at the time), Ingrid refused to confirm her pregnancy to the vituperative gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper. When rival Louella Parson scooped Hopper on the out-of-wedlock bambino in the oven, Hopper trashed Saint Ingrid without mercy.
Hedda Hopper: cross her and she destroys
Before she knew what hit her, Ingrid Bergman went from saint to slut. Outrage over her infidelity made the papers, church pulpits and even the floor of the US senate. Incredibly, politicians took the time out of their busy schedule to weigh in on Ingrid Bergman. Senator Edwin C. Johnson of Colorado condemned her as a "free-love cultist" and "a horrible example of womanhood and a powerful influence of evil." Yikes! No doubt her sainted image worked against the real woman, and Ingrid had no choice but to high-tail it back to Italy. Because a nasty divorce and custody battle ensued while Ingrid was pregnant, her son, Robertino Rossellini, was born a week before the divorce became final and Ingrid and Rossellini finally married. During that same month "Stromboli" was released internationally, where, banned and boycotted, it bombed.

Like many great love affairs, this one, too, petered out. Ingrid and her Italian made 2 more children (twins Isabella and Isotta) and five more unsuccessful films before they called it quits in 1957. Ingrid said that the Swedish and Italian temperaments were not a good match.

But Hollywood loves a happy ending, and, in 1956 Bergman won her second Academy Award for her performance in "Anastasia." The award was accepted by her good friend, Cary Grant. Ingrid made an appearance at the Oscars in in 1958, where she presented the award for Best Picture. When introduced to the audience by Grant, she received a standing ovation. The love affair with the public was back on again. In 1972 a formal apology was entered into the Congressional Record.

Much ado about nothing, don't you think?

Ingrid and one of her friends who always stood by her
in one of my favorite films, "Notorious"


DorianTB said...

Brilliant blog post, Chick, as always! When I read about Ingrid Bergman and similar scandals in Hollywood, it's sometimes hard to decide whether to laugh or cry when a reputation is shredded, or perhaps we should simply laugh at the hypocrisy of these scandals. I bet for every Hollywood scandal we film buffs hear about, there are plenty more that are hushed-up better! Talk about a tempest in a teapot! I wonder if sisters Isabella Rossellini and Pia Lindstrom, now famous for their acting and newscasting, sit around and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

The Lady Eve said...

Chick, Weren't Ingrid and Pia estranged for quite a while? I don't think Liz was ever denounced by Congress for her wanton ways (and it's a good thing, since one of her later husbands was a Senator) - I'm wondering if Ingrid is the only film actress to have accomplished that.


Oh, Ingrids story made me sooo mad!
I see how bitchy Hedda Hopper was, and this is the only reason why Ingrid's affair was so condemned and the others cited weren't.
Everybody was a little hypocrit accepting her back as the wedding was over, but nevertheless I had to say how much I admire Ingrid for pursuing her happiness, no matter what.I bet she didn't regret anything.

Samantha said...

I loved Ingrid Bergman so very much and your blog was just fabulous. The beauty and the scandals and well Hollywood. Hedda was quite the bitchy woman. Oh how I love all of your blogs.

Kimberly J.M. Wilson said...

Have to say I know why she was so condemned--don't agree, but I know why. This is the woman who played a beloved nun and Joan of Ark--and then she turned out to be anything but saintly. Catholics around the world had a stroke. Ah, but she had the last laugh, didn't she? Loved reading this!

ClassicBecky said...

Definitely big scandal material, Chick. The 50's were not kind to women who stepped out of the mold. And then, there's always the phenomenon of audiences who confuse the role with the person.

I have to say I never thought all the marriage break-ups and infidelities were romantic at all, except when I was 13 and didn't know anything. However, I think the word evil is really overstating it! Lust and selfishness are more apropos. Actors are people, and nobody likes to remember that, especially back then. Loved your post, and look forward to more juicy stuff!

FlickChick said...

Dorian - thank you so much for your very kind words. I hope her children can shrug their shoulders and laugh at the idiocy of it all.

FlickChick said...

Lady Eve - yes - INdrid and Pia were estranged for a very long time. Pia was used in the divorce and custody proceedings and , of course, living with her dad, her testimony favored him. At point she told the court "I do not like my mother." Ouch.

FlickChick said...

Le - isn't it amaing how hypocritcal people can be? I'll bet all of the congreemen & senators had their own secrets. It is always the ones who are so holier than thou that are the biggest sinners.

FlickChick said...

Sam - yes - that Hedda was one queen BITCH!

FlickChick said...

Thank you Kim! Yes, poor Ingrid suggered for her spotless image. Rita Hayworth ran off with Aly Kahn and no one complained.

FlickChick said...

Well, Becky, as Woody Allen said - the heart wants what the heart wants. As I say - until the heart doesn't want it anymore!

Unknown said...

Chick, I really enjoyed reading your post. I had forgotten about Ingrid's troubled love life.

I'm glad that the actors and actress today, don't have to worry about a Hedda Hopper, making trouble for them.

Anonymous said...

This was a great post - and I am so glad to finally read about this whole thing. I vaguely knew about Ingrid's -- shall we say -- indiscretions, but your post sheds light on the whole affair (no pun intended). It's amazing that she was vilified -- I think about people like Loretta Young -- I guess as long as you keep your stuff undercover, it's okay. (No disrespect to Loretta.) Anyway, I really enjoyed your post.

FlickChick said...

Dawn - if Hedda Hopper was around today she would be writing about so much bad behavior she wouldn't have time to breathe!

FlickChick said...

shadwosand satin - isn't it amazing that some stars (Loretta Young, Rita Hayworth, etc.)either were ignored or just written about, but Ingrid really had to pay such a high price.

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Larry said...

That was a big scandal. I think one major reason is that Hollywood was totally shocked that their biggest and most bankable star just totally abandoned Hollywood for a foreign director and went to live in Italy. Ingrid starred in the #1 and 6 box office hit in 1943 and the #1, 2 and 6 in 1945. She had tens of millions of fans all over the world. She was one of the very few actresses who were adored by the public, liked by her peers and respected by the usually fickle film critics. Hollywood thought hey we gave you the career and now you turned your back totally to us?

Larry said...

In hindsight, she fell in love with Rossellini for his artistic talent. She reached the top and was the queen of Hollywood. She had 5 films nominated for BP Oscar in three years, won an Oscar and many nominations. She wanted to do something different. Even if her films with Rossellini was not commercially successful at that time, they are now highly regarded in th cinephile circles. Journey to Italy is considered the first modern film and was a major influence of the French new wave and Antonioni. Bazan; Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Scorsese all considered it a major masterpiece of world cinema and was ranked high in the 2012 Sight and Sound poll.

So in the end Ingrid had the truly classics like Casablanca and Notorious, and as well as a series of films considered to be pioneer of modern cinema. She was the only genuine Hollywood superstar who is also a truly international star and a great actress. And she has worked with Hitch, Cukor, Renoir, Lumet, Bergman and of course Rosselini, really some of the best directors of the last century. She had three oscars two Emmys four Golden Globes along with many major critics awards. She is truly a legend and a remarkable woman.