SHE HAD been an awkward kid, she said, abnormally tall and afflicted with a "clumsy shyness." Her father ran a camera shop in Stockholm, and he died when she was 12. That same year, in the gymnasium of a Swedish school, she was waiting with the other girls for a class to begin. The gymnasium had a stage, and on impulse she went up and, saying she would entertain her friends (the gym class having been canceled), performed a one-person play of her own devising, taking all the parts.
When Ingrid Bergman died Sunday night on her 67th birthday she had taken nearly all the parts there were to take.
On screen, in her youth, she often portrayed beautiful victims. The sad or complicated destinies she played out seemed all the more powerful in contrast to her distinguishing, clean-scrubbed air of insouciance. Here was a noble eagerness, a tall, cool vivacity, that went beyond sex appeal or beauty. You could see what she brought out in male colleagues with styles as disparate as Bogart, Cooper, Grant and Peck. She was not only interesting, but interested.
We will remember her as at once ethereal and robust, clearheaded yet capable of inestimable passion, and possessed of lips that, when they trembled, set whole theaters to thoughts of rescue or solace.
Between 1941 and 1946 she made "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," "Casablanca," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "Gaslight," "The Bells of St. Mary's," "Spellbound," "Saratoga Trunk" and "Notorious." There were 50 movies in all, capped last year with a remarkably convincing television portrait of Golda Meir.
In the single year 1943, she starred in two movies that defy rational discussion.
Ernest Hemingway was not very good writing about women, or so it seems now, and in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" his Maria seemed an impossible novelistic invention, a little "rabbit" untranslatable to any other medium.
Then suddenly the young Bergman appeared among the shell-shocked Spanish Loyalists, hair shorn, to creep into the sleeping bag of Gary Cooper in the snow while her Roberto, who knew he would die, tried to pretend otherwise and explain it all -- war, love and demolition -- to her.
Hemingway ought to have thanked her. The fashion world did. That film, which still causes strong men to weep and through which Bergman's youthful radiance and embattled hope shines as perhaps in no other, created a hair-styling trend known as the "feather cut," of which Bergman said, with what came to be a characteristic honesty:
"Yes, it started a new fashion. But what the poor women didn't realize was that I had a hairdresser on the set who combed me every 10 minutes, and I wore pincurls between takes to keep it just right."
In "Casablanca," that same year, Bergman played Ilsa Lund to Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine, in what is probably the best-loved B movie ever made. This time Bergman was not bringing to life a novelist's invention. There was no novel, and in fact no completed screenplay -- the script by Julius and Philip Epstein changed every day. At one point Bergman asked the writers whom she was supposed to be in love with -- Monsieur Rick, rakish owner of the Cafe Americain, or her idealist husband, Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid). The writers told her to play it in between -- they hadn't figured out the answer themselves.
Two endings were prepared -- the second of which had her going off with Rick, thereby leaving Lazlo and Capt. Renault (Claude Rains) to start the beginning of a beautiful friendship. But only the first was filmed, in which she and Rick parted, as duty triumphed over the heart.
Rick: You'd better hurry or you'll miss that plane.
Ilsa: Goodbye, Rick . . . God bless you.
It is said that the old stories don't work anymore, that we must come up with something new. But now, when the new is a singer with colored lights in her mouth or gay-straight threesomes dramatized from Beverly Hills or road warriors in love with gasoline, otherwise sensible people are going to see "Casablanca" for the 17th time.
Devotion to "Casablanca" has been, and will continue to be, irrational.
Bergman was herself rational. She had what was sometimes described as a "Nordic stubbornness," but although she knew what was right for her career she did not always do it.
In 1948, when she was the most popular actress in the world, she wrote an impulsive letter to Roberto Rossellini, then the foremost director in the world. They made the movie "Stromboli" together, in which she played a war refugee trying to escape from an imprisoning marriage on a volcanic island.
She was still married to Dr. Petter Lindstrom, with whom she had a daughter, Pia, when she revealed that she was about to have Rossellini's child. A scandal of extraordinary proportions resulted. Bergman eventually married Rossellini and withdrew to Europe, her American career in tatters.
The word "brazen" was frequently affixed to her behavior. A columnist of the day, George Sokolsky, compared her conduct to that of the Soviet Union, which he said had already discovered "that the destruction of the family system leads to social and intellectual decay." She was denounced in Congress as "a powerful influence for immorality."
By the mid-'50s, Rossellini and Bergman had separated, and she subsequently married a third time.
The exile was over, and America welcomed her back. "Anastasia," a story that delved into the unknown fate of the czar's daughter said to have been executed during the Russian Revolution, was a big hit and won her an Oscar in mid-career. Her first had been at the height of her fame, for "Gaslight" in 1944; and her third would come for a character role in "Murder on the Orient Express" in 1974.
To most of the country she is remembered simultaneously as a handsome older woman, a voluptuous barmaid ("Dr. Jekyll") and a baseball-playing nun ("The Bells of St. Mary's"). It is very disconcerting, but that is the magical other-dimension of movie lives -- they grow old, as we do, but also go on as before, as memory does.
Bergman found this as confusing as the rest of us.
She wrote in her autobiography that when her old movies turned up on TV, "I run right at the television and stare at it . . . I look at that person as if it's somebody for whom I'm 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.' "
It is difficult to let go. Perhaps we don't have to.
There will still be, in midnights to come, Stanley Donen's "Indiscreet," in which she paired with Cary Grant; and her unusual films for Alfred Hitchcock, "Spellbound" and "Notorious."
A single image from "Spellbound": She is the worried psychiatrist coping with Gregory Peck (colleague? fraud? murderer?); they walk in a meadow, her coat is slung over her arm, he looks into her eyes . . . Suddenly it is not important whether he is a murderer, an amnesiac . . .
In "Notorious," set in Rio de Janeiro, she was opposite Cary Grant, playing a secret service man tracking Nazis. But although she is in love with Grant she has to marry Claude Rains, who tries to poison her. The image is of Grant carrying her--her head lolls, the poison has done its work--out, away, full of mixed feelings, toward some indeterminate complicated safekeeping . . .
Miss Bergman, when people ran on like this to her, often nodded enthusiastically, it is said. She liked watching movies too.
Wherever she went in the last decades, she was asked again and again about "Casablanca," and she always tried to answer the questions, clear up the stories (Bogart was in a bad mood throughout, convinced that nobody had any idea where the picture was going and that it couldn't possibly be any good), and be a good sport.
She said she quite enjoyed Woody Allen's comedy, "Play It Again, Sam," in which Allen is accompanied through various amorous episodes by a ghost of Bogie. Miss Bergman then went to see the movie again, curious as to whether anyone had actually said "Play it again, Sam."
"The closest is when I say, 'Play it, Sam,' " she reported.
Could she act? That is an absurd question the answer to which is yes. Yes, but acting was only part of it. The other part, the part which sticks, must've been there all along. It must've been there on the gym stage when she was 12, and it was there in her last production -- as Golda Meir on television.
As one former resident of Israel marveled yesterday:
"It was almost eerie how Bergman got Golda down . . . the constant flicking of her cigarette, that characteristic voice like an old man's, even the face, yes, even the face was Golda's."
On the screen, Bergman said a lot of goodbyes: as Ilsa, as Maria and the rest.
It was better when it was only a movie. The Films of Ingrid Bergman
Here is a list of films made by actress Ingrid Bergman:
"Pa Solsidan," 1936.
"Intermezzo," (in Swedish) 1937.
"Die Ver Gesselen," 1938.
"En Kvinnas Ansikte," 1939.
"Intermezzo," (remake in English) 1939.
"Rage in Heaven," 1941.
"Adam Had Four Sons," 1941.
"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," 1941.
"En Enda Natt," 1942.
"For Whom the Bell Tolls," 1943.
"The Bells of St. Mary's," 1945.
"Saratoga Trunk," 1945.
"Arch of Triumph," 1948.
"Joan of Arc," 1948.
"Under Capricorn," 1949.
"The Surf," 1949.
"We the Women," 1953.
"Journey to Italy," 1954.
"Joan at the Stake," 1954.
"The Greatest Love," 1954.
"Elena et les Hommes," 1956.
"Paris Does Strange Things," 1957.
"The Inn of the Sixth Happiness," 1958.
"Goodbye Again," 1961.
"The Visit," 1964.
"The Yellow Rolls-Royce," 1965.
"Fugitive in Vienna," 1967.
"Cactus Flower," 1969.
"A Walk in the Spring Rain," 1970.
"From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,"
"Murder on the Orient Express," 1974.
"A Matter of Time," 1976.
"Autumn Sonata," 1979. Ingrid Bergman's television credits include:
"Turn of the Screw," 1960.
"A Woman Called Golda," 1982.