FICTION

Star from Stockholm

She refused to change her name, refused to change her face—and she’s made Hollywood sit up and say uncle

HOWARD SHARPE November 1 1943
FICTION

Star from Stockholm

She refused to change her name, refused to change her face—and she’s made Hollywood sit up and say uncle

HOWARD SHARPE November 1 1943

Star from Stockholm

HOWARD SHARPE

INGRID RERGMAN is one of the most civilized women regularly employed in and by Hollywood today. The Swedish movie star, the screen’s new first lady, is cultivated, witty, emotionally normal, physically healthy, ambitious, shrewd and pleasantly intelligent.

These adjectives are not lightly used. It is apparent that she knows where she is going. Miss Bergman is untouched by the so-called “Inescapable Hollywood Touch.” Her good taste on the screen is irreproachable and her good name in private life is equally unassailable.

Ingrid Bergman’s awareness of her personal responsibility to the job she has to do and to the community in which she lives is attested by the fact that in four years not one of the 300 normally sourtongued press correspondents has ever written a nasty, or even an insinuating word about her. Furthermore, it is impossible to hear at first hand (even from Hollywood inhabitants who enjoy using a stiletto now and again) so much as a sentence suggesting that Bergman isn’t all she’s cracked up to be.

Here is a phenomenon, unique in a town normally given to back-biting and jealous conjecture.

Miss Bergman's performance in “For Whom The Bell Tolls” moved critics out of their dour chairs into flights of adulation unsurpassed since Garbo first electrified Hollywood. She had. of course, considered herself suited to the role of “Maria” because Ernest Hemingway himself had inscribed a copy of his tragic novel to her, in this fashion: “To Ingrid Bergman, the Maria of this story.” Without doubt her acting in this film will receive serious consideration for Academy awards.

She refused to change her name, refused to change her face—and she’s made Hollywood sit up and say uncle

This genuine talent, rare not only in Hollywood but anywhere in the world, is by no means something which pours unaided and unembarrassed from a natural fountain within the girl. She works at her art as if it were a cold-blooded business, realizing that indeed it is both.

“You watch Bergman for a while,” says a wellknown character actress, “and you begin to realize that she is master of a craft, that she uses techniques that are prearranged and practiced. Maybe up until now you’ve been working at two thirds your own speed, enough to earn your money and turn in a creditable performance. After a day or two with Bergman you decide to tromp all the way down on the accelerator. She makes you believe the picture’s worth it. She even reminds you that you owe it to yourself.”

Sam Wood, who directed her in both “The Bell” and “Saratoga Trunk,” recalls his mystification when she first appeared on the “Trunk” set and forthwith rattled off a number of script paragraphs which variously called for subtle variations of Parisian French as well as Creole French. The language experts on hand pronounced her accent perfect in each case. ('ont in tied on page 56

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“I know Ingrid had an excellent command of the language,” Wood says, “hut not that excellent.” Later Bergman remarked casually that she had already finished recording a third of the “Trunk” dialogue. She had bought a recording outfit, read her lines into it, and then had begun playing them back; when her ear told her an inflection was wrong, she had recorded the scene again and again.

Father Was Artist

She was always a solemn little girl, taking life seriously and asking a lot out of it. This was probably because she had so little. Her father was an artist, a painter; at least he believed he was, and so did the better critics and the better galleries. The former praised his work; the latter hung it against walls, with discreet tags. However, Justus Bergman found a form of beauty in things normally adjudged by those who buy paintings as ugly and revolting. He was therefore poor, supporting his child (whose mother had died when the baby was two) and an Aunt Ellen, in a Stockholm apartment, by running a store on the side.

Ingrid’s father had been one of 14 children so she had no less than five cousins with whom to play; she was an awkward, supersensitive child, however, and preferred to amuse herself with invented playmates—who, unfortunately, made her feel just as shy and unhappy as the real article. She was more at home in her father’s store, where he sold photographic equipment (and, on occasion, portraits) and where she could pose endlessly before his camera. Any good psychiatrist would probably draw important conclusions concerning Miss Bergman from this circumstance, as well as from the fact that Mr. Bergman dressed his daughter up in her aunt’s clothes and encouraged her to pretend she was something—anything—other than a butterfingered, hypersensitive baby.

She recalls that she imagined stories, acting them in detail; that she danced before her mirror; that she quoted endless poems, to the delight of her relatives, who knew she could not yet read. She went to the opera with her father, liked it, and did not protest when he sent her to music and singing masters. She was wordless in school, however, frightened of her teacher and her classmates.

But one evening, when she was 12, Justus took her to a stage production of Hansel and G retel. She was transported. This was the sum of all her dreams, made real before her eyes. “That’s what 1 want to do,” she cried, pitting her small voice against those coming from the stage. “That’s where 1 want to go!”

Not long afterward Justus Bergman died. Aunt Ellen did not approve of theatres or of actresses. “It is a dreadful, dangerous life,” she said primly. Ingrid did not believe her. Six months later Aunt Ellen had a heart attack in the night; whereupon, Ingrid went to live with an uncle, an aunt and five cousins.

They frightened her to death with their easy banter and sly torture; after the life she had led, she was a made-toorder victim. In defense, she bought a secondhand phonograph, locked herself’ in her room, and with the phonograph screeching above her voice, read Shakespeare aloud. Fortunately her

uncle was an understanding man, sometimes even a wise one. He believed that if she wanted that much to be an actress she should be encouraged in her efforts.

Thus, when she was 15 he let her enter a contest conducted by the state dramatic school. On the night of the trial she was extremely nervous. Halfway through her offering she observed that her audience was laughing, turning away, chattering. She faltered, finally gave up entirely. Someone said, “You may go, dear,” and she fled into the streets.

Later one of her cousins called to tell her that she was a winning contestant. She suspected a trick. It was explained to her that her performance had been so obviously right from the beginning that the judges had chosen to cut it short in order to make room for further entries.

It was while she was a student at Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic School that Svensk Filmindustri (Sweden’s foremost studio) discovered her and gave her a good role in a picture called Munkbrogreven. During the following five years she appeared in 11 films, starring in three of them.

Sometime at the beginning of this period she met a young medical student named Peter Lindstrom, with whom she fell in love. They were eventually married when she was 21 and already the Bette Davis of Sweden’s motion picture world.

Raved About Ingrid

So far as Hollywood and Miss Bergman’s place in it are concerned, everything began on the day a certain Miss Katherine Brown, David Selznick’s story editor, sat in a New York projection room watching a print of “Intermezzo” (the Swedish version, starring Josepha Ekman, Inga Tidblad and Ingrid Bergman). This was in the spring of 1938. Miss Brown telephoned Selznick long-distance and began raving about Bergman. Selznick ordered a print of the film shipped to him forthwith.

Weeks later his answer was relayed to Miss Brown. Buy the rights to the film, he ordered, and never mind Bergman. Nonetheless, on her next scouting trip to Europe Miss Brown put through a call to Stockholm, from London, having decided at least to speak with the Bergman woman and find out if she were available. A distraught male voice answered, finally.

“Sorry,” it said, “Miss Bergman can’t speak to you. She’s very busy right now.”

Miss Brown shrugged and hung up and forgot the whole matter. But by the time she returned home Selznick had decided he wanted Bergman under contract. Miss Brown sailed for Stockholm. She met Bergman, who had apple-cheeks and looked all of 16. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t talk to you that day,” said this astonishing young woman. “But I was very busy. I was having my baby...”

She did not hesitate when Miss Brown told her the proposal was that she star in a Hollywood version of “Intermezzo,” opposite Leslie Howard. “Yes,” she said. “Leslie Howard does not make bad films.” It was 1939 by the time she had finished her Swedish commitments and could come to America.

For two weeks she stopped over in New York, conscientiously paying her way into every play and movie she could find in order to watch the latest

American methods and to improve her English, which she knew was stilted. 11 seemed, in any case, a good idea to keep very busy. Peter Lindstrom had encouraged her to come; she had made Selznick promise that the contract would call for only three mont hs of her time, after which she could go home— and she had even extracted a further promise that if she did not like Hollywood Selznick would not badger her to return.

But she missed Peter and she was lonesome for Pia—her little girl —more than ever when she reached Hollywood, where she was at once surrounded by a bsvy of make-up artists, English teachers, dramatic coaches, and hairdressers.

A committee was even assigned to consult with her about the new name she would take, since Ingrid Bergman “was undramatic and unsuitable.”

This, alone, made her angry. She faced the committee, eyes flashing, her fine mouth tight at the corners. “It’s a good name,” she told them, “and, furthermore, it is my name. I won’t change it.”

To the make-up artists, at the precise moment when they put tweezers to eyebrow, she said, simply, “The brows must stay as they are. Mr. Selznick doesn’t want my face changed at all. The same eyes, the same mouth, the same nose—please.” When the boys brandished their jars of eye-shadow, protestingly, she only smiled. “Ask Air. Selznick, then,” she advised.

And the eruptive Selznick is reported to have howled, “Change Bergman’s face? You idiots, do you know what it cost me to bring that face all the way from Stockholm? Leave it alone!”

Ingrid Bergman was in good hands.

Handy With Needle

During the shooting of her first Hollywood picture she did two particular things that forever endeared her t o that portion of the film capital which is down-to-earth, unglamorized, hardworking and real. The first occurred after a set accident in which she t ripped over the wheel of a camera dolly and tore a rent in her dress. Since the set was almost ready, thousands of dollars worth of studio time would be wasted unless the dress could he repaired at once. The studio dressmistress was sent for post haste, arrived on the double with two assistants in tow.

They found Miss Bergman—after scuttling about the sound stage for several frantic minutes—in her dressing room. She was sitting, the dress in her lap, intent ly sewing at the rip with a needle and thread from a shilling handysewing kit. She greeted the blowing head-seamstress with some astonishment.

“But it was my fault,” she said, “and anyway it’s nothing. I '11 have it finished in a minute.” Reading consternation in the face of the seamstress she poked the dress at her. The rent had almost disappeared; the stitches were invisible and it was the kind of job a convent nun might have done. “Not as perfect as you could do—” said Bergman sadly, with her happy sense of tact.

The dressmistress beamed, backed away. Muttering a sentence in Swedish, Bergman stuck her tongue between her teeth, bit on it, and went back to her stitching.

However, it was her other action, on the first day of production, that made the set crew Bergman-conscious.

It appears that a solicilious production

assistant, having learned that Bergman was a foreign star with Garboesque prestige floating like an aura about her, had, as a matter of course, hung a “No Visitors” sign beside the door of her dressing room.

Miss Bergman regarded the sign blankly for a second or two. Then, with a gesture of almost childish rage, she yanked it off and threw it into a corner. “That’s a rude thing to say,” she pointed out angrily. Whereupon her face relaxed. “Sorry—I’m a little

nervous.”

The grinning prop men and crew carpenters, who had been watching would forgive her. They even cheered a little. . .

The sum of an actress’ personality and of her significance to the Hollywood scene is intrinsic in all the minor anecdotes told about her to the hundreds of people with whom she daily comes in contact. There has come to be a great volume of such stories about. Bergman, some apocryphal, most of them true, all of them indicative of what she is. There is, for instance, the recollection of the property man who, ordered to provide a basketful of fresh cherries for a market place close-up next day, had searched a dozen markets in vain and then had given voice to his difficulties in her hearing.

“But I saw some at the Farmers’ Market just the other day,” said Ingrid. “Tell you what, I’ll get up half an hour early tomorrow morning and buy some on my way to the studio.” The property man emphasizes that Bergman had been working for 61 consecutive days in two pictures, wit hout a rest, and that, that half hour was time without price, since she might have spent it sleeping.

When Mrs. Peter Lindstrom, having released Selznick from his solemn promise not to try any tricks to get. her back (after all, she’d decided she liked Hollywood very much) sailed for New York again in 1940, she left her husband with the understanding that she would return to him in June. The war intervened. Instead, he came to America. During the next t hree years, while she made the enormously successful “Casablanca,” t hen “For Whom (he Bell Tolls,” then “SaratogaTrunk” he finished his medical studies at a hospital in Rochester, New York.

Today Dr. Lindstrom and Pia, the fair-haired little copy of Ingrid, share with Miss Bergman a modest apartment in Beverly Hills.

She has come to love such North American niceties as chewing gum, ice cream, hamburgers, the freedom to wear slacks when she likes, swing music, and going without a hat. She is sensibly cheerful about her financial good luck in retaining such an imposing yearly residue from her salary after taxes, remembering that her first important film role brought her $250 a week. She enjoys the fact that she is only 27, because that leaves her so many years in which to play lovely heroines, but she is quoted by one reporter as having said that she could hardly wait until she were middle-aged, since at that time whole new vistas of character acting would be opened to her.

In addition to recording her lines before starting any picture Miss Bergman brings a 16-MM camera on the set and photographs scenes containing interesting technical or directorial problems, believing that this hobby will augment her grasp of the art in which she is employed and

eventually enable her to become a better actress.

At the address in Beverly Hills, of course, she remains Mrs% Lindstrom to all callers (if you ring the apartment and ask for Miss Bergman, the maid insists that no such person lives there); and she is “Pia Lindstrom's mother” to the local Parent-Teachers Association.

But on the set—any Hollywood set whose owner can pay her price while simultaneously providing a picture big enough to hold her—Bergman is still a personality alone, indivisible from her career; a forming legend an actress newly in the great tradition.