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Notorious: Celebrating the Ingrid Bergman Centenary


Notorious: Celebrating the Ingrid Bergman Centenary

When you think of Swedish actors, does any name come to mind before Ingrid Bergman? Her stunning beauty coupled with her many iconic roles made her a household name and every film she starred in became a classic. Born on August 29, 1915 (that’s 100 years ago this month), she started her early acting career in Sweden, before being brought over to Hollywood in 1930 by David O. Selznick to star in an American remake of a Swedish film, INTERMEZZO: A LOVE STORY. With her bold beauty untouched by Hollywood make-up artists, she would go on to film her most famous American role, CASABLANCA in 1942, solidifying her acting talent with audiences everywhere. Throughout the 1940’s she worked with such high profile directors as Alfred Hitchcock (for three films) and Victor Flemming, where she portrayed Joan of Arc so powerfully and beautifully that she earned herself a Best Actress nomination. (Side note: I also happen to have a tattoo of her in this role so I guess you could say I’m a bit of a fan).

While filming JOAN OF ARC, her affair with director Roberto Rossellini became widely known and more public interest shifted to her personal life and away from the film. The two went on to make five films together, most notably STROMBOLI in 1950. Of their two twin daughters, Isabella Rossellini is, of course, the most well known with distinct resemblance to her mother’s bold looks and earthy voice.

From 1956, when she made ANASTASIA, until her death in 1982, she made fifteen more films. One of her final roles (mentioned below) was a small part with a massive cast, but none the less still powerful. As TIFF gears up to celebrate 100 years since her birthday, we are also remembering the legacy she left behind after her death (oddly, the same day as her birthday). What better time to get acquainted with her works if you’ve never seen them, or revisit some classics. Below are a list of choice films you should check out during the retrospective.

Notorious: Celebrating The Ingrid Bergman Centenary starts Saturday August 22 with none other than CASABLANCA.



One of Bergman’s earlier American roles, and possibly the one she is most known for, is personally one of my least favourite of her films. Bergman stars opposite Humphrey Bogart in this wartime romantic drama which contains some of the most well known lines in movie history; “We’ll always have paris” and “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine” are just two that are listed on AFI’s “100 Years of Movie Quotes”.  Every year around Valentine’s Day, you’re sure to see this one screening in a movie theatre somewhere, presumably since the North African backdrop of a World War II romance story was as appealing back then just as it is today. The film earned its place as one of the greatest and most romantic films of all time, and Bergman shines in it. It just doesn’t do it for me.



Have you ever heard the term, to “gaslight” someone? Well it originated from this movie and play of the same name. Bergman plays a young women whose aunt is murdered, and she is sent off to Italy to learn to sing just liker her famous opera singer aunt, and happens to fall in love with her pianist, played by Charles Boyer. Eventually married and moved back into the house where her aunt was killed, her husband begins to gaslight her, making her believe she is going crazy by convincing her she has forgotten things, or making up situations. It’s basically the epitome of spousal emotional abuse; keeping her secluded from friends, having people turn against her, being suspicious of her every move etc. Bergman won her first Oscar for Best Actress in this dark noir thriller. Its atmospheric London streets and claustrophobic house set the dark tone of the film amazing well, but the acting is really what stands out here. Bergman is phenomenal as a wife who is easily convinced of her husbands attempts to drive her mad. It also stars Angela Lansbury in her first feature film as a cockney house keeper who actually has some amazing one liners.



In the first of three films Bergman did with Hitchcock. Bergman plays Dr. Peterson, a psychoanalyst at a mental hospital where the director is being replaced by a new doctor played by Gregory Peck. Something just isn’t right, however, and Dr. Peterson begins to suspect that something may be wrong with the new director, and she attempts to help him get over the psychological distress he is going through. However, since this is Hitchcock there is far more going on, and since Hitch loves his psychoanalysis, this movie is full of a totally amazing and beautiful dream sequences designed by none other than Salvador Dali. It’s not one of Hitchcock’s best films, but probably one of Bergman’s more interesting roles, especially as it’s played alongside Peck who is pretty phenomenal in this one. Apparently they had a short lived affair while filming this one, which makes it all the more interesting to watch their real chemistry on screen.



Bergman’s second time working with Hitchcock is by far the best of the three (the third being UNDER CAPRICORN), and also an absolutely captivating film. With a cast that includes Cary Grant and Claude Rains, this is one with twists and turns around every corner, and because it’s Hitchcock, it keeps you guessing and in suspense the entire time. Using Bergman’s character as a sexual ploy for a spy fuelled operation, it features some of the most beautiful camera work that Hitchcock would become known for, in particular the famous stairway scene that starts wide, and ends with a close-up of Bergman’s hand holding a key.



Bergman’s third to last film role is one of her smallest in this whodunit murder mystery based off the Agatha Christie novel of the same name. However small the role may be, Bergman’s acting is incredible. She filmed a five-minute monologue in one single take, which is impressive on its own, but also truly showcases her incredible talent. Alongside famous names as Lauren Becall, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, and Albert Finney (as Detective Poirot), this story not only keeps you guessing throughout, but the reveal is an almost over the top and gruesome revenge story that is actually hard to believe, but fascinating. This is definitely one which, if you haven’t seen yet, it needs to be checked out because the cast and complex story are totally worth it.

Notorious: Celebrating The Ingrid Bergman Centenary runs through September 6 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. For more information and for tickets, please visit

One Comment

  1. Beautiful and thoughtfully written. Your words evoke wonderful images

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