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The Times (13/Jan/1971) - Bergman in London to play Shaw's Ellen Terry role

(c) The Times (13/Jan/1971)

Bergman in London to play Shaw's Ellen Terry role

The first thing that Ingrid Bergman did when we met was to tell me a cautionary tale about journalists not doing their homework. She is in London to play Lady Cicely Waynflete in Captain Brassbound's Conversion, a part written by Shaw for Ellen Terry.

"These pressmen asked me why I should want to play it and I tried to explain that it was a very good part for an actress and so on. Then someone said: 'Why isn't Ellen Terry doing it herself?'"

Miss Bergman has been an actress of international status for 30 years and hardly anyone seems to have realized what a witty person she is. "I have always wanted to do comedies, but nobody discovered this until my old age. They think all Swedes are like Garbo. They are surprised to find that I talk all the time and laugh an awful lot — my big, roaring laughter!"

She feels that she has spent too much time on the cinema screen suffering and dying in love affairs and wishes she could have made more films like Indiscreet, with Cary Grant, or Cactus Flower, her latest, with Goldie Hawn. But her speciality is not what she calls the "fluttery" comedy of Myrna Loy or Claudette Colbert. "My sort of comedy always has to be serious underneath. In Indiscreet I am deeply in love with this man and then I discover he is lying to me, which is a very serious thing. But the comedy comes when I start teasing him."

I had done some homework. I said, and found that Alfred Hitchcock once said that the trouble with Ingrid Bergman was that she wanted to appear only in masterpieces. Roars of laughter. "He said that while we were making Under Capricorn. He was difficult to work with then because he had this idea of making the whole film without cutting. The set consisted of several rooms and as we were shooting, walls kept vanishing or tables moving about. We were going insane. No one knew where the camera was. I think he did it to show off to his other directors. I kept insisting that no one in the audience would know the difference. We had a few fights on that one."

What has been cleverly disguised on the screen more than once is that Miss Bergman, at 5ft. 8in., has been taller than her leading men. "There was Bogart and Charles Boyer and Claude Rains, all smaller than me. I always took my shoes off for them but they still had to stand on boxes.

"When I started shooting Anastasia I met Yul Brynner on the set and realized at once that he was shorter. I suggested putting a little block under him. He turned round and said to me: 'You think I want to play it standing on a box. I will show the world what a big horse you are'. Maybe some actresses would have walked out but I just laughed and laughed and I never had a complex about my height after that".

Miss Bergman once had a film lined up with her Swedish namesake Ingmar Bergman, but the project fell through. Were they temperamentally on the same wave length?" Well, I do not know. He made a comedy and I did not think it was very good, but he is a fascinating man and he gets wonderful performances out of people. These actors he uses never do as well in other people's films".

She was reluctant to say who her favourite directors were, in case she offended the ones she left out. But she did speak up for the late Victor Fleming. "He got things out of me that were different from anything I had done before. People said about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that they did not recognize me. What more can an actor want?"

Victor Fleming made Joan of Arc, a film that was successful in Europe, particularly in France. "They loved it. They did not seem to mind that I was a Swedish Protestant playing a Catholic martyr in a glossy Hollywood film. Whenever I go through the French customs, someone says, 'Hello, Joan of Arc is back again'".

I was working round to the question of sex and nudity in plays and films today, but Miss Bergman saw it coming. "Thank God for Captain Brassbound's Conversion. A man asked me the other day whether it was a play he could take his daughter to. Perhaps when they have explored every other possibility they will go back to holding hands.

"That is what we tried in A Walk in the Spring Rain, but by the time they had cut things there was not much spring rain left. No pictures are made now for older people: if you are 25 you are already too old. I played a woman of 50 in this film and thought, my God, I am not dead yet. It is marvellous. Then they said that 80 per cent of the cinema audience was between 18 and 25, and this other 20 per cent was not going to make the picture a success".

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Ingrid Bergman feels she has spent too much time on the cinema screen suffering and dying in love affairs