The glow of sensibility and sense
she went without make-up and projected an unassuming approachability. What is amazing about her acting was its almost casual lack of pretense.
Some impressions about Bergman:
I don’t believe the sans make-up story because it sounds like a David O. Selznick publicity detail. Under studio lighting, skin would look sallow or spotted, even in black and white, without make-up, but she probably wore less than other actresses. She retained her real eyebrows and that framed her beauty.
She spoke Swedish, German, and French, but she didn’t speak English when she arrived at twenty-four, without her husband or infant daughter, in Hollywood for her first Hollywood movie Intermezzo (1939). Her sunny nature and innate ability immediately set her apart from starlets and set her on the career path of a serious actress and star.
Indiscreet, directed with élan by Stanley Donen. The gowns and sets are gorgeous and there are some outdoor scenes along the Thames Embankment. She’s a famous English actress who falls for a married American economist. The plot hangs on the reversal that he’s actually single, but uses marriage as a cover to avoid long-term involvement. Unbeknownst to him, she finds out and the comic set piece is where she tries to make him jealous with the confused assistance of her butler and cook. Again, Grant is the love object and it’s Bergman who has to overcome her insecurity and anger to win him. Bergman’s rationality smacks up against her desperation and that’s where the comic frisson sparks.
It was her rationality, however, that deserted her when she almost destroyed her Hollywood career by having an affair and getting pregnant by Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Both were married to others and at the peak of their careers. She’d wanted to make a film with him after seeing Rome, Open City (1945), a thrilling and tragic look at the civil war of being occupied by the Germans that’s shot in a rough, almost documentary style that became known as Neo-realism, and Paisan (1946), a set of vignettes about the Allies moving through Italy in 1944.
|Europa '51: Bergman Embraces Dexter|
|Journey to Italy|
After being castigated in the U.S. Senate and returning triumphantly to Hollywood, Bergman made movies in Europe and the U.S. She’s the only reason to see The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964), besides the car, even though the international cast included the biggest stars of that period. She had a small part in Murder On The Orient Express (1974), but won the Oscar for her monologue, where it’s tough to figure out if she’s slow or if she’s playing slow until the final reveal. Again, her wit and common sense inform the performance.