Ingrid Bergman had her first film role at the age of 1,
sitting on her mother's lap in a jerky home movie.
She didn't make her professional screen debut for another 18 years, but by
then it had long been clear that acting was her passion. Tall, shy, somewhat
gawky in her youth, she was transformed when portraying others. As she wrote
years later, she always felt she belonged "to these people of the theater and
the movies and the make- believe world we create."
Her "make-believe world," and her often tempestuous real one, too, are the
subject of "Here's Looking at You, Kid: Selections from the Ingrid Bergman
Collection." An exhibition of photos, letters, movie posters, costumes and
other memorabilia, most of it once owned by Bergman, the show runs through July
17 at Manhattan's Scandinavia House, headquarters of the American-
Scandinavian Foundation. (A tandem Bergman film festival runs Wednesday
evenings through June 30.)
It's an apt setting: The Swedish-born Bergman was, after all, one of
Scandinavia's hottest exports, an international superstar decades before that
term became common coinage.
Despite its iconic title line, the exhibition dwells on "Casablanca" only
briefly, with a couple of photographs and a movie poster from the 1942 film.
Equally prominent is material from such Bergman vehicles as "Gaslight" (1944),
"The Bells of St. Mary's" (1945) and "Notorious" (1946). For those who love
statuettes, her three Oscars - as best actress for "Gaslight" and "Anastasia"
(1956), and best supporting actress for "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974) -
also are on view.
But "Casablanca" is, well, "Casablanca," and the subject inevitably came up
at a recent exhibition preview attended by Bergman's four children: Pia
Lindstrom, her daughter from her first marriage, to Dr. Petter Lindstrom; and
Isabella, Ingrid and Robertino Rossellini, her offspring with Italian film
director Roberto Rossellini.
"Of all the movies she wouldn't want to be remembered for, that's it," said
Lindstrom, a former TV reporter and theater critic, when asked about the
classic Bergman-Bogart melodrama. "And oddly enough, that's the one that stayed
in people's lives."
And how did her mother get along with Bogart? "She didn't," Lindstrom said.
"He was having some problems so he stayed mostly in his trailer" when not in a
scene. Their screen clinches may have set off sparks for audiences, but
Bergman's verdict was "I kissed him, but I never really knew him," Lindstrom
These were keepers
Bergman's view of her films, though, didn't seem to affect what items she
saved from them, said Leith Johnson, co- curator of the Wesleyan University
Cinema Archives, to which Bergman's family donated her collection after her
death from cancer in 1982. "I think she was conscientious and saved material
from all of her projects fairly equally," Johnson said.
While the Bergman archive is available by appointment to scholars at the
Middletown, Conn., university, this exhibition is the first time many of the
objects have been publicly displayed. If it's somewhat short on text and
context, the show still should have enough to offer Bergman buffs or lovers of
It's unusually rich in the early sections, dealing with Bergman's
childhood. Born in Stockholm in 1915, she was constantly photographed, often in
costume, by her father, who ran a camera shop. More surprisingly, he also
filmed her, using a movie camera rented especially for her birthdays. A video
loop of the family films, with Bergman's commentary, greets visitors to the
"It's very rare to have home movies at the beginning of the [last]
century," said Isabella Rossellini, the actress and model. (Rossellini helped
spark the exhibition when she suggested last fall that the Wesleyan archives be
incorporated in what was initially planned solely as a Bergman film festival.)
The home movies are not only rare, but poignant: We see Ingrid as a
round-faced baby, with her mother; soon after, we see her at age 3, putting
flowers on her mother's fresh grave.
At 13, Bergman also lost her father, who had first taken her to the theater
a couple of years earlier. The experience was a revelation. "My eyes popped
out," she recalled in "My Story," her 1980 autobiography. "Grown-up people on
that stage doing things which I did at home, all by myself, just for fun."
By 1936, with the Swedish- language "Intermezzo," Bergman was a star in her
home country. Three years later, she was in Hollywood, making the American
version of the film for producer David O. Selznick. Photos from both movies are
on view, but much more amusing are Selznick's instructions concerning
Bergman's screen test for the 1943 "For Whom the Bell Tolls": "The most
important thing is the pants she will wear, as [executive producer B.G.] de
Sylva has some strange idea about her being too heavy in the hips."
He needn't have worried about her looks. Photo after photo (including
images by Cecil Beaton, Robert Capa, Gordon Parks, David Seymour and Lord
Snowdon) provide ample proof of Bergman's beauty, often described as "radiant"
Placed on an almost saintly pedestal, Bergman went from beloved to reviled
in 1949. Hoping to expand her acting horizons, she had written to Rossellini,
the great neo-realist director. The show includes his return letter, in stilted
English, suggesting she star in his upcoming film, "Stromboli," named for and
set on a volcanic Italian island.
Their subsequent affair, and the birth of their son before her divorce from
Lindstrom was finalized, led to a media circus and Bergman's denunciation in
the United States. (The 1950 movie poster for "Stromboli" - "Raging Island ...
Raging Passions!" - could hardly have failed to recall the scandal.) The
exhibition also includes some surprising letters of support, from Alfred
Hitchcock and Ernest Hemingway. (Though Hitchcock, in truth, is also urging her
to buck up and publicize another film, and Hemingway can't help being
condescending, if loyal.)
Bergman's career eventually recovered, and she continued to act in films,
on TV (winning an Emmy for her portrayal of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir
in 1982's "A Woman Called Golda") and on the stage.
Several photographs and a poster document her well- received work, at age
63, with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman in the 1978 film "Autumn Sonata." It's
her last film, and one of Pia Lindstrom's favorites. In a sense, Bergman had
finally been freed of her youthful, shimmering screen presence: "Once her
enormous, radiant physical beauty had dimmed a bit," Lindstrom said, "she did
some of her best acting."
WHEN & WHERE Through July 17 at Scandinavia House, 58 Park Ave. Gallery hours
are noon-6 p.m., Tuesday- Saturday. For more information, call 212-879-9779 or