Film Greats: Ingrid Bergman

Swedish-born actress Ingrid Bergman ranks among the best film stars that the world has ever had the privilege to watch and she is certainly one of my favorites. As long weekends off from school approach, it’s nice to have a movie list. What follows is a list of my personal favorites.


It is ironic that Ingrid Bergman’s most famous film is one that both she and her co-stars (Humphrey Bogart, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains) viewed as a waste of their time. Now it ranks among the most famous films of all time, with several of the lines being ranked among the ‘Top 100 Movie Lines of All Time.’ Bergman’s performance in this film is remarkable, considering some of the sappy lines she had to work with (“Was that cannon fire? Or my heart pounding?”).  More memorable is Humphrey Bogart, but his character is far more complex than Bergman’s, and he had very clear instructions on how to act, whereas Bergman was not told until the final days of filming which of her leading men she would end up with. This annoyed her to no end, but her performance is made far more intricate because of it. All in all, as a classic movie, it ranks among her highest performances.


What more could any movie lover want? A film of espionage and intrigue under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock, starring the dashing Cary Grant as a US government agent, the lovely Ingrid Bergman as an infamous woman of the world, and the villainously brilliant Claude Rains as a (very slightly) sympathetic Nazi. This movie was made during the peak of Hitchcock’s career and was one of the last well-received movies that Bergman made before her well-publicized affair with Italian film director Roberto Rossellini. Not a single shot in this film is wasted, and Hitchcock proves himself to be a master of suspense throughout, from the romantic interludes and the tense poisoning scene to the discovery of sinister secrets and powerful denouement. All three of the leads are in top form, making this movie one of the finest of its era.

Murder on the Orient Express

Originally asked to play the part of the elderly Russian Princess Dragomiroff, Ingrid Bergman instead chose to play the comically serious Swedish nurse, Greta Ohlsson in this star-studded adaptation of Agatha Christie’s masterpiece. The film starred Albert Finney as famed Belgian Hercule Poirot and a cast of suspects including Lauren Bacall, Michael York, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Anthony Perkins, Sir John Gielgud, Rachel Roberts, and (in the role of the Russian) Wendy Hiller. Bergman’s sole starring scene, which was taken in one continuous (5-minute!!!) take, earned her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She was at this point in her life dealing with the advanced stages of breast cancer, but her performance as the worried, devout Swede would never make one think so. Though she expressed dismay at winning the Academy Award (she felt that it should have gone to another of the contenders), viewers will appreciate her superb performance.

Autumn Sonata (Höstsonaten)

In her last feature film, Ingrid Bergman is joined by Norwegian-born actress Liv Ullmann in a fitting swan-song in her native tongue, under the exquisite direction of Ingmar Bergman. Aptly billed as “the Unity of Two of Sweden’s National Treasures” this film explores the troubled relationship of a mother and daughter. Bergman found the role of concert pianist Charlotte Andergast one of the hardest in her life, as the character’s poor parenting told a story similar to that of her own life. Though she was weakened by cancer and emotionally unsure of herself in role that hit far to close to home for her liking, she delivered a beautifully tormented performance, causing deep sympathy (an at times revulsion) among viewers. One of Ingmar Bergman’s best-created films, it deals with darker topics than usual, and ends in a way that suggests several possibilities. It was fitting that Ingrid’s last film appearance and penultimate role (the last being that of Golda Meir in a made-for-TV drama) should be so poignant and wonderfully elaborate.

(For those interested in Ingrid’s life, I recommend Donald Spoto’s Notorious, Charlotte Chandler’s Ingrid: a Personal Biography, and Laurence Leamer’s As Time Goes By. Also, for a detailed filmography, Lawrence J. Quirk’s The Films of Ingrid Bergman provides the best overview.)

by Evan, Teen Advisory Group
Northeast Branch

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