“I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say.”—Ingrid Bergman
Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman was one of the biggest names in cinema in the last century. She received various awards throughout her illustrious career including three Academy Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Tony Award, along with four Golden Globe Awards, and a BAFTA Award. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Bergman as the fourth-greatest female screen legend of Classic Hollywood Cinema.
Bergman had to cope with the loss of both her parents as a child. She said she “knew from the beginning that [she] wanted to be an actress,” sometimes wearing her dead mother’s clothes and staging plays in her father’s empty studio. Bergman received a scholarship to the state-sponsored Royal Dramatic Theatre School and went on to act in several plays and Swedish films. Bergman’s first acting role in the United States came when Hollywood producer David O. Selznick brought her to America to star in Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939), an English language remake of her earlier Swedish film Intermezzo (1936). The rest is history.
On her 95th birth anniversary, we celebrate the life of one of the iconic talents of cinema by taking a look at her best performances.
Ingrid Bergman’s 10 Best Film Performances:
10. Cactus Flower (Gene Saks – 1969)
This 1969 romantic comedy was one of Bergman’s biggest commercial successes. Bergman appears in a rare comic role as Miss Dickinson, the loyal nurse to womanizing dentist Dr. Julian Winston (played by Walter Matthau).
She has to pretend to be his wife to support the lies that Winston has told his girlfriend Toni Simmons (played Goldie Hawn, in her Oscar-winning performance) about being married. For her performance as Miss Dickinson, Bergman received her sixth Golden Globe nomination.
9. For Whom The Bell Tolls (Sam Wood – 1943)
Based on the 1940 novel by Ernest Hemingway, Sam Wood’s 1943 film featured Bergman as Maria, a young guerrilla fighter who meets Robert Jordan (played by Gary Cooper), an American volunteer in Spain fighting the Franco forces during the Spanish Civil War.
Hemingway himself insisted that the lead roles be played by Bergman and Cooper. She earned her first Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance.
8. Murder On The Orient Express (Sidney Lumet – 1974)
Based on Agatha Christie’s famous mystery novel, Sidney Lumet’s big budget adaptation boasted of a star-studded cast, including illustrious actors like Albert Finney (as the eccentric detective Hercule Poirot), Connery as the iconic Colonel Arbuthnot and Ingrid Bergman as a shy Swedish maid. This classic whodunnit is a special one because everyone is a murder suspect on the Orient Express. Bergman won her third Academy Award and her first in the Supporting Actress category.
Lumet offered Bergman the flashy role of suspect Princess Dragomiroff, but she asked to play the much smaller role of missionary Greta Ohlsson. Richard Goodwin (the producer) recalled, “Ingrid Bergman – you couldn’t believe she’d be doing that part, such a tiny role. It was extraordinary, really. They all did it for Sidney. They loved him.”
7. Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock – 1945)
Set in a mental hospital, Hitchcock’s noir stars as Dr. Constance Petersen, a psychoanalyst who is considered to have a cold demeanour by the hospital staff.
She finds it suspicious when the hospital’s director (played by Leo G. Carroll) is forced into retirement and replaced by the much younger Dr. Anthony Edwardes (played by Gregory Peck). She is convinced that Dr. Edwardes isn’t who he claims to be and helps him work through his amnesia.
6. Joan of Arc (Victor Fleming – 1948)
Bergman was especially passionate about playing the role of the proto-feminist figure of Joan of Arc. However, she faced problems while making her dream a reality and the film was finally made by an independent studio instead of a major film studio.
Her brilliant performance earned her a fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
5. Autumn Sonata (Ingmar Bergman – 1978)
Bergman’s final film appearance also proved to be one of her finest. She plays the role of an internationally acclaimed, cold pianist who is invited by her daughter (played by Liv Ullman) to return to her village.
Ingmar Bergman conducts a beautiful exploration of the complicated relationship between a mother and a daughter. For her performance, Bergman was nominated for her seventh Academy Award and her seventh Golden Globe Award.
4. Anastasia (Anatole Litvak – 1956)
Anatole Litvak’s historical drama stars Bergman as Anna, an amnesia who looks a lot like Russia’s Grand Duchess Anastasia, who was widely rumoured to have survived the massacre of her royal family during the Russian Revolution.
A renegade Russian general uses Anna to extort £10 million inheritance from the Royal family. Bergman won her second Academy Award for Best Actress as well as her third Golden Globe Award.
3. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock – 1946)
Hitchcock’s 1946 film stars Bergman as Alicia Huberman, daughter of a Nazi spy. She is engaged by an American agent, T. R. Devlin (played by Cary Grant) to infiltrate a Nazi ring.
Hitchcock’s serious treatment of a love story is fascinating and the film lives up to the high standards of the “Master of Suspense”. Bergman and Grant’s on-screen chemistry is extremely memorable.
2. Gaslight (George Cukor – 1944)
In George Cukor’s 1944 crime drama, Bergman stars as Paula Alquist who, as a young girl, witnessed the murder of her aunt. When she is sent to Italy to train as an opera singer, she falls in love with Gregory Anton (played by Charles Boyer) who convinces her to leave her friends behind and live with him in London.
Gregory slowly manipulates Paula and makes her question her own sanity. For her brilliant performance, she won her first Best Actress Academy Award as well as her first Golden Globe Award as Best Actress.
1. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz – 1942)
Casablanca still remains one of the most beloved American films of all time and Ingrid Bergman is fantastic in the iconic role of Ilsa Lund, the wife of Czech Resistance leader Victor Laszlo. She chances upon the Casablanca Café and confronts the passions of her past when she meets American expatriate Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart), her former lover and someone who she still has feelings for.
Bergman reflected on the film, “Till the very end, they did not know what the picture was going to be. And then cutting it all together with all the difficulties and the arguments and the re-writes, here comes this absolutely beautiful movie.”