The first time in paperback, this book is a personal biography of the beloved star of Casablanca. Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982) was perhaps best known for her roles in Casablanca and Notorious, but she won three Oscars for Gaslight, Anastasia, and Murder on the Orient Express, and was a seven-time nominee. She also won two Emmy Awards and a Tony. In 1949, though married and a mother, she fell in love with director Roberto Rossellini and conceived a child with him. Her fans were shocked and she was denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Chandler interviewed Bergman, Roberto Rossellini, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Cary Grant, Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, and Gregory Peck for the book, which contains synopses of all her films, including the Swedish ones.
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Charlotte Chandler is the author of several biographies of actors and directors, including Groucho Marx, Federico Fellini, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, and Mae West, all of whom she interviewed extensively. She is a member of the board of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and lives in New York City.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I'll be Mother," Ingrid Bergman said. She picked up the ornate silver teapot and poured.
I was having tea at director George Cukor's Cordell Drive home in Hollywood with Cukor and Ingrid Bergman. Cukor had directed such films as The Philadelphia Story, A Star Is Born, My Fair Lady, and Gaslight, the film he did with Ingrid Bergman. There was a plate of rich butter cookies on the tea table, which indicated Cukor knew Ingrid well.
Cukor said, "The girl always likes to make herself useful. She has such good manners. Usually. I remember once, when we first met, she talked back to me."
"Oh, George," Ingrid pouted, "I never, never would have been rude to you."
"I had my way of chatting with actors between takes, giving them little bits of advice, perhaps a bit of encouragement to help them stay involved. On Gaslight, I offered some tidbit of un-thought-out wisdom to Miss Bergman here, and she gave me such a look. What a look! Then, quite unemotionally, she said to me, 'You already told me that.'
"I said, 'So I did.'
"'Well, I must be more careful with this young Swedish girl,' I thought.
"Then, I rethought it.
"No, she'll have to be more careful with me. She'll have to get used to the way I work. She did. And we became the greatest friends."
Ingrid said, "Yes, that's true, except I never said what you said."
"You see?" he said to us. "She hasn't changed a bit.
"Ingrid was not overawed by me, then or now. No reason why she should have been. But some were. I suppose because I was their director."
Cukor said it to me, "Can you imagine that our girl here made films in five languages?"
"And I spoke a bit of Chinese, too, in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness."
He asked her how she managed to speak so many languages so well.
She laughed. "By not speaking them so well. I admit I am very fluent in Swedish. I believe I have been able to speak the other languages as well as I do because I have such a fervent desire to communicate."
I asked her in what language she thought. She answered, "I think in the language I am speaking in. It's the only way."
"And when you are alone and thinking by yourself?" I asked.
"English. It seems strange. Everyone would expect me to think in Swedish, my first language, but from the time I learned English, it became my thinking language. I just found it worked better for me."
Cukor said he could never learn a foreign language because he was too shy. Ingrid was astounded.
"You, George? I would have said you never had a shy moment in your life. As for shyness, I am the shyest person in the world. When I was a girl, I was famous for my blushes. If anyone spoke to me or even just looked at me, I changed color. But that was when they looked at Ingrid. Acting, I could be someone else. That someone else had no need to blush. That character was thrilled to have an entire audience watching, even millions."
"I can understand that, my dear. Even as director, I have to play a part, and going into the part of the director allows me to say things that, as George, I would be too self-conscious to say. My public person and my private person are always both there."
"Mine, too," Ingrid agreed. "My private self and my public self are one and the same. They both love being an actress. I feel most like myself when I am playing someone else.
"But sometimes my private self gets in the way by being so very much concerned with finding and holding on to love."
"Looking for love is tricky business," Cukor concluded, "like whipping a carousel horse."
Ingrid said, "The way I see myself in my personal life was best expressed for me by Jean Cocteau: 'The dreamer is the guest of his dreams.'"
Ingrid mentioned to Cukor that he had influenced the choice of a name for one of her twin daughters. "I don't think I ever told you, but I remembered that you had said you liked the name of the French actress Annabella. Do you remember, George?"
He did not appear to remember.
"I was trying to think of a name that began with an I, and the name Isabella popped into my mind. That was how my Isabella got her name."
Cukor, obviously pleased, said, "Well, that makes me rather a godfather. Even if Annabella didn't start with an I, I take full credit."
"You were a godfather to all your actors," Ingrid said. "You always loved actors."
Cukor corrected her. "Not every one of them."
"Roberto [Rossellini] did not like actors," Ingrid continued. "At the beginning, I didn't know that. When he first told me, I didn't believe him. Later, I found out it was true."
"I'm sure that it wasn't true about you," Cukor said.
"That was what I assumed," Ingrid said. "Maybe in the beginning, it was true that he didn't mean me. Later, I'm not certain.
"When I worked with my husband, I didn't wish to be thought of by him, or anyone, as his wife. I wanted to be just one of the actors. It was a problem, though, for me that there weren't many actors there. Professional actors, I mean.
"When I first saw Open City, I was so thrilled that Roberto was able to get such natural performances, not actor-like performances. I learned on Stromboli how he did it. He didn't use actors. His actors weren't actors, only people, well selected. And he had to film them quickly before he ran out of film and money, which he was always short of."
Cukor said, "You adjusted so well to your life in Italy, but there must have been something you missed...."
"Many things, George, but I'll tell you one you would never guess."
"I won't even try."
"Corn on the cob. When I first saw people in America eating it, they looked like they were playing harmonicas. It was so funny-looking, it made me laugh. Then I tried it and I learned right away how to do it. It tasted so much better that way, but it tasted best eaten in private with a bib or a towel, so I didn't ruin my clothes."
After we had tea, Cukor, knowing that Ingrid loved champagne, opened a bottle. We clicked glasses, and Ingrid said, "Here's lookin' at you, kids."
"That little film of yours was done by another Hungarian, Curtiz," Cukor said. "I'm Hungarian, you know. Anyway, my family was."
"Would you believe, George," Ingrid said, "that Bogart and Paul [Henreid] and especially me believed that Casablanca was a little picture, a waste of our time?"
"I wish someone had asked me to waste my time on Casablanca," Cukor said.
"Do you know what I especially love about you, Ingrid, my dear? I can sum it up as your naturalness. The camera loves your beauty, your acting, and your individuality. A star must have individuality. It makes you a great star. A great star."
"I think film is in my genes," Ingrid said. "I love the camera. My father had a photographic shop in Stockholm, and from the day I was born, he took pictures of me with a still camera, and movies, too. Sometimes I feel the movie camera is my friend or even a relative.
"I believe my father well might have gone into Swedish films had he lived longer. He might have become a famous cinematographer. He saw unlimited potential in those early cameras. When he used his camera, he and the camera became one.
"George, you worked with Greta Garbo. Can you tell me why she retired from films when she was so young? I could never do that. My vision of myself is very, very, very old in a film playing the oldest woman in the world, or on the stage in a children's theater, cackling in the part of an old witch. Witches are such great fun to do. You're never too old to be a witch. And no one can accuse a witch of overacting."
"In answer to your question, I don't think Miss Garbo ever retired," Cukor said. "That implies a real decision. I don't believe she did that. I think she just waited, and she waited too long. She had grown accustomed to being in great demand, but when the demands were softer, she didn't notice. She wanted the perfect part, but Ninotchkas didn't grow on trees. That's a film my friend Ernst Lubitsch made that I would like to have made. 'Garbo laughs' is how it was advertised. Well, of course, she laughed, and of course, she cried. No porcelain figure she!
"I think she was sorry she didn't make more films, but she thought she wanted a holiday. We've all been tired and thought we wanted a long vacation when all we needed was a few days off, but didn't know it.
"I think Miss Garbo wasn't hungry enough. She didn't need to work. She'd been a very poor girl in Stockholm, and she had not dreamed big. Then, everything rather came to her. Because of her natural attributes, we all adored her and wanted to help her.
"She earned a lot of money, and it was well invested for her. When she went shopping on Rodeo Drive, it wasn't for dresses or for jewelry; it was for Rodeo Drive. She owned top real estate, fine art, and jewels, too. She didn't have to spend much money because everyone wanted to pay her way. But she could be very picky. She was also a bit lazy, I suspect.
"She used to tell me she was thinking about returning to the screen, and I feel she was thinking about it. But that's where it stopped. She was doing her thinking on someone's yacht.
"I've always meant to tell you," Cukor said to Ingrid, "I think you were marvelous in A Woman's Face in Sweden. When I was making the film here with Joan Crawford, I watched your performance several times."
"George, is it true you thought of using Hedy Lamarr for my part in Gaslight?"
"No, I never did. From the moment I came to it, I never heard that. I understand Miss Lamarr thought so, but that was before I came to the project.
"I don't know if I made it clear at the time how much I thought of your performance in Gaslight. I felt certain you would receive an Oscar nomination at least, and I believed you were going to take home Oscar, which you did."
"You were always encouraging, and I loved receiving my first Oscar," Ingrid smiled, savoring the memory. "It was wonderful, and I owe it to you, and to Charles Boyer and Joe Cotten, and others. So I wouldn't want to give it back, but I do think the Oscar really goes to the part you p...
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