Of all the hotel rooms in the cities in all the world, she has to flutter into this one. And in a cloud of stardust memories besides . . . Don't cry, Paula, you're not insane; your evil husband is adjusting the gaslight in the attic . . . Don't cry, Maria, the war will be over soon; the bell may not toll for Gary Cooper and thee . . . Don't cry, Sister Benedict, you have just a touch of tuberculosis; you'll be back at St. Mary's in on time . . . Don't cry, Ilsa. We'll always have Paris . . .
About 25 copies of Ingrid Bergman's autobiography are staring her in the face, waiting to be autographed. "How many books do you think I can sign?" she demands of a publicist. "Well, I'll sign what I can. No, I'm not going to go sit in the bookstores." It is near the end of her tour to oompah the book."I refuse to go to any more cities now," she declares, sounding like nobility, which she is.
At 65, still a temperamental beauty. When she comes into a room, there's more than a trace of that old incandescence. She laughs like newly opened champagne: hahahaha's tumble out.
Fidgeting slightly on a couch in her room at the Beverly Wilshire, puffing away at of-all-things Marlboros, dabbing now and then at the cornors of her mouth with a tissue, she retains that scrubbed, earthy, dairy-maid look. And she remains vain enough to have risen early and watched herself be interviewed, on tape, by Phil Donahue on the "Today" show.
"What I said was all right," she notes of her performance, "but I don't like the way I look. I always say, 'Where is that youth? What happened to youth?'" She smiles. "It went away. Ha ha."
"My Story," which Bergman wrote with Alan Burgess, was put down on paper, she says in her preface, so that her four children by three marriages will know "the truth" and use it as a defense against the bogeymen of Bergman's life, journalists and gossips. One might say the book is "candid" in dealing with such things as the child (Roberto) she had out of wedlock during an adulterous affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, but it's also ladylike in the old sense of the word -- polite and quaint, and not necessarily "the whole truth."
"Well it's 500 pages," sputters Bergman. "Don't you think that's enough? I think it's embarrassingly long.
"It settles the things that people cannot write about me, other things after I'm dead," she says. "They can invent a lot of things but here is what my children need to know. It's terrible the way they write about Vivien Leigh, people that never met her. Marilyn Monroe -- never met her and they write books about these people. And invent. And there is a desire to destroy an image that has grown into something beautiful. Like Joan Crawford -- her daughter destroys her! I mean, that can happen to me, too, but this book is for my children."
Perhaps being contentious helps a person stay young. Bergman seems to relish putting her foot down. The book reveals a life in which she didn't mind being pushed around, so long as she chose who did the pushing.
It was also, from this account, a life in which she didn't waste a lot of time thinking about people other than herself. Of her great costars like Humphrey Bogart ("Casablanca"), Bing Crosby ("The Bells of St. Mary's"), Gary Cooper ("For Whom the Bell Tolls") there are only fleeting references.
But there are long, long letters Bergman wrote to her daughter Pia Lindstrom, now a reporter for NBC TV, that substantiate her claims to being a devoted if absent-minded mother: "Dearest, my Pia," "Dearest Pia, sweetheart," "Darling dear daughter," and so on.
The scandal that shook the globe, sent Bergman's career into a lengthy limbo, and got her denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate -- that citadel of virture -- appears quaint now in a time when all hangs out and phrases like "out of wedlock" sound baroque. But this really was a royal scandal: it got very nasty. And yet Bergman says she is no longer bitter about it. And she never felt so lost that she had to seek psychiatric help.
"God was very good to me," she says. "He didn't give me any jealousy nor bitterness nor vengeance. I just forgot it. He gave me a bad memory."
"At the time I was terribly hurt. Of course I just didn't shake if off like a duck! I felt guilty, I was sad, I didn't want to work, I just wanted to disappear. Today I look at my beautiful handsome son and I'm very pleased.
"My strength I got from my parents I think." Both died when she was very young. "It must be in me. I was given very good health, strong and healthy, and I had a sense of humor -- that helps a lot, if you can laugh at yourself when all those problems come. And I have an awful lot of friends, friends in every country. Really, people say, 'Well how many friends do you have in your life, you can count them on one hand; well, I can count with both hands. I have very good friends which I can talk to. That's why I don't have to go to psychoanalysts. I bother my friends instead." Laughs.
In her book Bergman writes, "You see I was not very beautiful when I was young," but in fact she became a reigning exotic beauty in Hollywood's '30s, when David O. Selznick brought her over from Sweden for a remake of her Swedish picture, "Intermezzo," in English. Bergman had then, and still has, a wounded yet consoling aura, a kind of beauty far more accessible than Garbo's. She could put her cheekbones up against anybody's, you might say.
Deep down, she must know it. When her old movies -- "Anastasia," "Indiscreet" -- show up on TV, she says, "I run right at the television and stare at it. I think it's fun to see those old movies. And it brings back a lot of happy souvenirs. Many of the people that you see on the screen are gone. I saw "For Whom the Bell Tolls' not too long ago; it was very emotional because, there's hardly anyong left."
She thinks about this confession. "Oh, they'll say 'She sits and admires herself.' No, that's not so. I look at that person as if it's somebody for whom I am responsible; it could be my mother, it could be my child. You know, somebody that you say, 'Oh My God, I hope they make it!"
Bergman worked with many renowned directors -- George Cukor ("Gaslight"), Ingmar Bergman ("Autumn Sonata"), seveal others -- and she made a few films, all disasters, for her husband Rossellini. But one may think of her as most closely associated with Alfred Hitchcock, ("Spellbound," "Notorious"), mainly because two years ago, at an AFI testimonial, she so movingly presented Hitchcock with the crucial key she and Cary Grant had stolen from Claude Rains in "Notorious."
"'A-F-I' -- what is that?" Bergman asks. That is the American Film Institute. "Oh yes, well I thought I came over only to make a little speech. I didn't know until I got here that I was the master of ceremonies. sOh, I was so angry.
"But I had my little key. And that was nice. And Hitch was tired and he wasn't feeling well, and he sat there and it was very funny, when he'd say 'Who's that?' when people made speeches. Sean Connery stood up to make a speech and Hitch said, 'Who's that?'" Laughs.
"Hitch had his method and I'm sure he explained it to you and I've explained it a million times, how well prepared he was. What he really enjoyed was the preparation of a movie, when he ahd all those little things on his dinning room table -- the camera, walls, furniture, and actors, actors were just little things and they didn't talk back to him. When he place them there, they stood there. Then when I came on the set, I started to argue with him. Aw! That wasn't so good. Then his joy was over. But we got along very good. We were very good friends."
It was the late Mr. Hitchcock who gave Bergman the best director's advice she ever got, when she couldn't perceive the motivation for a scene and Hitchcock said to her, "Fake it, Ingrid."
And it was the late Mr. Hitchcock who near the end of his life liked opening his shirt to show people the small circular lump made in his chest by an implanted pacemaker.
"Yes, he did that during lunch and I was eating and he said, 'Do you want to see it?' and I said, 'NOT NOW!'" Smiles. "Yes, he was very proud of that."
Bergman's art had apparently always been argumentative in nature. When she saw a film Ingmar Bergman made about the making of "Sonata," she was surprised to see herself bickering ("the way I argue -- embarrassing") on the set.
"That film is very much my life except that he has made 'Charlotte' a concert pianist," she recalls of the movie in which she costarred with Liv Ullman, he new Ingrid Bergman. "But of course I thought Charlotte, my character, a very cruel mother so we had big arguments about that because I cannot possibly imagine a mother staying away for seven years from her child and another child that is paralyzed, plus a grandchild that's given to her, she won't even go to see the grandchild! The grandchild dies and still she is playing the piano.
"I said, 'Ingmar! This is impossible,' and so argued and argued and finally he said, "Well, you know, we're not doing YOUR life, we're doing Charlotte!' I said, 'Well you must have met many monsters in your life.'"
The monsters in Ingrid Bergman's life include many, many journalists and columnists. She wasn't particularly pleased with the way Phil Donahue brought up her two mastectomies, for instance: "Well I think he presented my illness a little bit ungentlemanly," she says, like an offended duchess. She still is beset, she feels, by newpapers and magazines, and says they doctor photographs of her to make it look as though she is sick in bed.
"Either that or I'm going to marry some millionaire. I mean, this goes on all the time, I'm always marrying somebody. And here friends that I've known for 30 years, and suddenly I'm going to marry them. They say, 'WHAT?!' They're scared to pieces! Or else, I'm dying. This goes on and on."
Bergman does not seem religious at all ("but I don't want you to write she doesn't believe in God") yet has a certain respect for fate. It was fate, she says, that the letter she wrote to Roberto Rossellini after seeing his film "Open City" wasn't burned in a fire that swept through Minerva Studios in Rome, where she sent it. Rossellini got it -- "a little charred, is that the word?" -- and wrote back.
And talk about fate. The first time she saw "Open City," in L.A., on "La Cienega Boulevard," she says properly, it was subtitled. She didn't speak Italian, and so she read the dialogue rather than listen to it.Then years later she saw it again and realized that "the nasty lesbian in the picture, the German you know that tortured the young girl and gave her drugs, her name was Ingrid, and then comes the Gestapo man who marches around and tortures people, his name was Bergman. My name is in "Open City!" It was as if he had called for me. I said, Roberto! Her name is Ingrid!' He said, 'That's right, isn't that funny, the nasty people.'
"Oh, we laughed at that."
Although she is giving interviews like crazy to plug her book, Bergman won't be interviewed by her daughter the interviewer. "Pia and I talked about it. No, it would be too emotional." She also can't envision doing more films but won't say "never" to that, although, "to play a little cameo role here or a cameo role there, that doesn't interest me anymore. I've done it in 'Murder on the Orient Express.'" She won her third Oscar for that one.
Excusing herself, Bergman says she must spend the afternoon at a home for old actors in Hollywood. "I had a friend there, Joe Steele [a veteran publicist], he's in the book, too. I always visit him when I come to California and, can you imagine [voice cracks], he died. Two weeks ago." Eyes began to tear. "So, I just missed him."
On one talk show, she was "accused" of having depended too much on the men in her life, of being submissive. "Not when it comes to my work," she says. "There I'm terribly sure. It's very funny: in real life, I'm unsure. I don't know -- should I do this or should I not? I follow my heart too much," laughs nervously. "I lose my head.
She looks at the pile of books. For marketing purposes, which are the only purposes left in the world, there are alternate covers -- one, white letters on black, the other, black letters on white. "I think the black one is a bit sad, isn't it?" says Ingrid Bergman, standing now and smiling, "I like the whtie one better."
Sing it, Ingrid. You sang it for them, you can sing it for me. Sing "As Time Goes By."
De-dy-de-dy-de-dum, de-dy-de-dy-de-dum . . .
Here's looking at you kid.