INGRID BERGMAN, who died of cancer Sunday in London on her 67th birthday, may have been the coolest looking female ever reflected from the silver screen -- and she never blessed us with a "workout book." What resonates for us is her face and inimitable voice from the films of the '40s -- "Casablanca," "Notorious," "Gaslight," "Spellbound" -- though she continued making films and highly successful ones at that -- "Anastasia," "Murder on the Orient Express," "Autumn Sonata" -- until shortly before her death. What we remember, flickering in the darkness in our youthful palace of illusion, is a face both larger and lovelier than life, and a trace of an accent more provocative and enticing -- more exotic -- than the standard American diction to which we were accustomed.
But Ingrid Bergman was more than the embodiment of glamor, though she was indisputably that. She had a look that was alert, aware, intelligent, at once earthy and aloof, larger than life yet distinctly part of it. She was, one felt, an interesting woman, the kind of woman one would like to know; a very human being, in short. She proved to be just that. When in the late '40s she fell in love with the Italian director, Roberto Rossellini, during the filming of "Stromboli" and bore him a son out of wedlock, her private life became the public's obsession. She endured the kind of public abuse that is difficult to imagine in these permissive times. She was denounced from the floor of the Senate, her films were boycotted, her name reviled. But she recovered, or we did, and life fortunately moved on.
We demand a great deal from our public personalities, more, perhaps, than any human being can fulfill; certainly more than we have a right to expect. We are quick to elevate them beyond all reason, and quicker to cast them down. We did both to Ingrid Bergman, and she reacted not with explanations or apologies but with dignity. And she survived and, through her work, continues to. She was, as they say, a class act.