Stig Olin, 87; Swedish Star Found Fame As an Actor

Stig Olin, a successful actor, director and composer and the father of actress Lena Olin, starred in several early Ingmar Bergman pictures. Above, Olin, at right, in Bergman's
Stig Olin, a successful actor, director and composer and the father of actress Lena Olin, starred in several early Ingmar Bergman pictures. Above, Olin, at right, in Bergman's "To Joy," a 1950 film. (Courtesy Of Photofest)
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By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 12, 2008

Stig Olin, 87, a Swedish actor, director and composer who appeared in many early Ingmar Bergman films and was the father of actress Lena Olin, died June 28 at a nursing home near Stockholm. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Olin was often cast as a boyish, brash and arrogant character -- even if, as the Swedish press reported, he was considered warm and humorous off the set.

Bergman experts viewed Mr. Olin as the famed writer-director's screen alter ego, an actor capable of portraying strains of affection and sadism often coursing within the same role.

Mr. Olin came to prominence in Arne Mattsson's "Incorrigible" (1946) as an unbearable young man sent to boarding school, where he becomes a full-fledged thug.

A New York Times film critic highlighted the actor's "droll repulsiveness" as the most absorbing feature of the film, which remains a favorite in Sweden.

During the next several years, Mr. Olin continued to earn good reviews in Bergman's initial, uneven efforts as a director.

He played a gigolo in "Crisis" (1946), Bergman's first time behind the camera; a prostitute's boss in "The Devil's Wanton" (1949); a straying newlywed in "To Joy" (1950); and the ballet master in "Illicit Interlude" (1951).

Mr. Olin developed a preference for working behind the camera and in 1953 directed and co-scripted his first feature, the comedy "I Dur Och Skur," a punning title that refers to the major music keys. The film provided the first starring role for Povel Ramel, a popular Swedish singer-songwriter.

During the next five years, Mr. Olin directed nine more films across a broad range of subjects, including the Cold War drama "The Yellow Squadron" (1954), based on a novel by Lars Widding, and "Rasmus, Pontus and Toker" (1956), from an Astrid Lindgren children's story.

Mr. Olin took supporting roles in many of his films, and in the Lindgren tale he played a suspicious antique dealer named Ernst.

Stig Högberg was born Sept. 10, 1920, in Stockholm. He was the illegitimate son of a pharmacist and was adopted into another family by school age, according to the "Ingmar Bergman Face to Face" Web site.

In 1940, he debuted onscreen and played minor roles in a dozen films while working under prominent directors including Gustaf Molander and Alf Sjöberg. Sjöberg cast him as a sadistic student in "Frenzy" (1944), based on Bergman's first original film script.

Mr. Olin also performed the song "It's a Long Way Home" in "Jens Mansson in America" (1947), a vehicle for Swedish comedian Edvard Persson.

As television's popularity challenged the Swedish film industry for ticket buyers in the late 1950s, Mr. Olin left moviemaking and spent the next three decades with Sveriges Radio, the Swedish public-broadcasting system.

He served several years as head of programming and, despite little formal training, wrote several enduringly popular songs. Among them were "På Söndag" ("On Sunday," 1953) and "Jag Tror På Sommaren" ("I Believe in the Summer," 1967).

Mr. Olin appeared with his family on radio for many years, and he and his children recorded his songs. He also staged several theatrical productions, including Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," a musical based on Bergman's "Smiles of a Summer Night" (1955).

His marriage to actresses Britta Holmberg and Helena Kallenbäck ended in divorce.

Survivors include two children from his first marriage, Mats Olin and Lena Olin, the last of whom is known to U.S. viewers as the star of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (1988) and "Enemies: A Love Story" (1989) and as Jennifer Garner's mother on the ABC drama "Alias."

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