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Birmingham Post (07/Apr/2007) - The body of a goddess with talent to match: Ingrid Bergman

(c) Birmingham Post

BOOK REVIEWS: The body of a goddess with talent to match ; Ingrid A Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

Scandal has become the fuel for so many so-called celebrities fame these days.

Emotions have become currency, to be sold to the highest-bidding glossy magazine which is only too happy to reveal all the tawdry details of every break up and make up of a relationship.

Scandal seems to have become a source of pride.

It is a situation that would seem extraordinary to actress Ingrid Bergman, who was at the centre of one the most infamous love affairs of last century.

At the time she was probably the biggest actress in Hollywood, admired as a devoted wife and mother and, in what was her most famous role as lisa in Casablanca, a symbol of noble sacrifice, giving up her true love in order to do her bit to help save the free world.

But she forfeited it all in order to follow her heart and be with director Roberto Rossellini, the pioneer of neorealism, whose films she so admired she engineered their working together on Stromboli.

When she travelled to Italy she left behind her husband Petter Lindstrom, whom she had long since realised she was no longer in love with, and also her daughter Pia Lindstrom.

She had always planned to return when filming was completed, although she was already set on obtaining the divorce she had been contemplating for some time. But by then she was pregnant with her son Robertino - she and Rossellini went on to have twin daughters Isabella and Isotta Ingrid - and it seemed the world was outraged by the couple's adultery, to the extent Ingrid was practically banished from America and didn't see Pia for the next six years.

She was castigated by the Lutheran Church in her native Sweden, the head of the Production Code - the group that upheld moral standards in films - wrote to her asking her to deny the rumours of an affair and most shockingly, she was denounced on the floor of the US Senate.

It was an horrific price for Ingrid to pay as she had always been a very correct person and one who, when she was first married had been the obedient wife who acquiesced to her husband's wishes.

She was determined to make her first love last because she had already lost so much of her family. Her mother Friedel died of a liver condition when she was two and her father Justus of stomach cancer when she was 12.

Her father was a photographer who was convinced that one of his subjects would one day become famous, and gave his daughter the confidence to be that one.

Ingrid was raised by relatives after she was orphaned. A former governess Greta, who had a relationship with the widowed Justus, was working as a film extra and persuaded the 15-year-old Ingrid to come and play a girl who looked frozen to death. Ingrid wore her sickly yellow make-up home like a badge of honour and knew she had found her world.

She studied at the Royal Dramatic Theatre School in Stockholm but left to pursue a career in film after being cast as a maid in The Count of Monk's Bridge. Fearless when performing, she quickly became one of Europe's premier actresses.

She came to Hollywood after David O. Selznick bought the rights to the film Intermezzo and asked her to recreate her role in the America version.

She continued to work in Europe until the worsening political situation, coupled with attractive movie offers, prompted the Lindstroms to make their home in the States.

Ever the practical Swede, Ingrid resisted any attempts to make her over. Tall and strapping with a healthy appetite for ice cream and butter cookies, something she had to conceal from her fanatically disciplined husband, she had flawless skin and a beauty that was entirely natural. She hated make-up, refused to have her eyebrows plucked and did her own hair.

Danny Selznick commented: "There is no one I have ever met that took one's breath at every meeting the way she did. The complexion, the lips, the cheeks, the ears, the nose, the eyes, the body of a goddess. And she was completely unselfconscious."

Success came swiftly to Ingrid. who had the talent to match her beauty.

However, she was not pleased when Selznick loaned her out to Warner Brothers to make Casablanca as the script was incomplete, no-one knew whether she would end up with Humphrey Bogart or Paul Heinreid and she had little rapport with Bogart.

But as Alfred Hitchcock found out to his cost when she persuaded him to direct her in the poorly received Under Capricorn, she didn't always make the best choices for herself.

She was one of the few blondes who had a comfortable relationship on and off screen with the horror master, and she adored Cary Grant whom he cast her opposite in Notorious. It was Cary who picked up her Best Actress Oscar for Anastasia on her behalf while she remained exiled in Europe.

There were very few people who would have had a bad word to say against Ingrid, who was regarded as being almost as pure as Joan of Arc, a character she was fascinated by and played a number of times.

It was because of her perceived wholesomeness that her relationship with Rossellini came as such a shock to her fans. But Ingrid was no plaster saint, with her marriage on the rocks she had already had an affair with the photographer Robert Capa.

Long separations due to work commitments and financial struggles distanced the Rossellinis and their marriage was annulled after Roberto had an affair with a woman in India and she became pregnant.

Ingrid was married for a third time soon after, to Swedish theatrical producer Lars Schmidt. Although this relationship too ended in divorce after Lars also had an affair and made a woman pregnant, they remained friends and confidants until her death from cancer in 1982. It was her 67th birthday, a fact that would have appealed to the orderly Ingrid.

For a woman who had such grand passions in her life and who sacrificed so much, Ingrid's romantic affairs are dealt with by the author in a rather perfunctory way.

Though Chandler appears well acquainted with the actress and her contemporaries, the book is more efficient than emotional, giving detailed synopses of her films alongside the record of her life.

Maybe Chandler felt that as a friend of Bergman's it was not up to her to criticise or pass judgement, but the result is a rather bland read that doesn't truly reveal the complexities of the woman and what made her one of the greatest actresses of her generation and, for a while, the most notorious.

Ever the practical Swede, Ingrid resisted any attempts to make her over. Tall and strapping with a healthy appetite for ice cream and butter cookies, she had flawless skin and a beauty that was entirely natural