Book Review: Ingrid Bergman My Story

Book Review: Ingrid Bergman My Story

Author: Ingrid Bergman with Alan Burgess

Date: 1980

Publisher: Delacorte

ISBN: none, but click here to see it on Amazon

Length: 477 pages plus index

Illustrations: black-and-white photo inserts

Quote: “I will go on acting…After all, they always need an old witch in some production or other.”

Once upon a time there was a shy little Swedish orphan who had embarrassed her parents, while they were living, by “always being something else; a bird, or a lamppost…I remember the day I decided to be a small dog. I was quite disconcerted when my father refused absolutely to put a leash around my neck…I still trotted at his heels woofing.” This love of play-acting stayed with little Ingrid as she grew up.In some small way, acting helped her endure the loss of her parents, the aunt who adopted her, and finally her home country.

Bergman was a successful actress in Sweden, married to Petter Lindstrom, in 1937. By 1938, “if you were anybody at all in films,you had to be a member of the Nazi Party,” and “If you get an invitation from Dr. Josef Goebbels to tea—and you’re pretty certain to get one—you just say ‘Yes.’ You don’t argue or have a headache. You go! He likes young actresses.” The manner in which the devoted bride reports hearing this advice could have been calculated to turn any woman against Goebbels.

So she decided she wanted to come to America, with or without Lindstrom, but she encountered more subtle kinds of censorship here. “It never occurred to me that I shouldn’t have a child, or that it would interfere with my career…that everybody should be shocked that I had had a baby…‘And please, please don’t have any photographs taken with your child’…The movie stars of Hollywood adopted children if they wanted them.” In Berlin Bergman had refused to learn the Nazi salute; in Hollywood she gave an interview to a representative of David Selznick during which she knitted baby clothes. In her first few films she also refused to wear makeup, although she came to agree that the filming process made makeup necessary.

American audiences, of course, loved her anyway. In some ways it was mutual. “Americans laugh because the joke is against them. And they have nothing against success.” In other ways she clung to Swedish customs. In her early theatre training “You played old people, young people, nasty people, good people, but you rarely played what you looked like or what you were. You got inside somebody else’s skin.” She refused to play “Hollywood peaches-and-cream-girl” parts unless she could alternate them with more challenging parts: barmaids, hags, martyred saints, anything but pretty young girls. She played a Protestant missionary lady who was not a romantic heroine but an action hero. She played a nun. Audiences were delighted.

Then, as Bergman approached age thirty, Snow White drifted. She and Lindstrom quarrelled; she left him for Roberto Rossellini. It couldn’t have been his looks, it seems unlikely to have been his manners, it probably was’t money, and if it was a publicity stunt it wasn’t a helpful one…but the relationship didn’t last long. Rossellini’s next companion was also divorced, and before that divorce was final Bergman had found her third husband…and this book tells us more about the soap opera of all those family-blendings than I for one was interested in knowing.

Anyway, here are lots of memoirs and pictures from one of Hollywood’s greatest actresses. Movie buffs should enjoy this book.

Ingrid Bergman didn’t outlive this book by long, so it’s not a Fair Trade Book. To buy it here, send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.

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