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Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman was a Swedish actress who was highly regarded for her roles in influential films, such as Casablanca (1942), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) and Anastasia (1956).

She is the second most decorated Hollywood actress, with three Oscars, after Katherine Hepburn. Bergman was considered to have tremendous acting talent, an angelic natural beauty and the willingness to work hard to get the best out of films.

She was also a very versatile actress, fluent in five languages and appearing in a range of films, plays and TV productions.

  • Born: 29 August 1915, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Died:29 August 1982 (aged 67), London, UK

About Ingrid Bergman

Bergman was born on 29 August 1915 in Stockholm, to a Swedish father, Justus Samuel Bergman (2 May 1871 – 29 July 1929), and his German wife, Frieda Henriette Auguste Louise (née Adler) Bergman (12 September 1884 – 19 January 1918), who was born in Kiel. Her parents married in Hamburg on 13 June 1907.

She was named after Princess Ingrid of Sweden. She mainly grew up in Sweden, but spent the summers in Germany, and spoke fluent German.

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When she was two years old, her mother died. Her father, who was an artist and photographer, died when she was 13.

In the years before he died, he wanted her to become an opera star, and had her take voice lessons for three years.

But she always “knew from the beginning that she wanted to be an actress”, sometimes wearing her mother’s clothes and staging plays in her father’s empty studio. Her father documented all her birthdays with a borrowed camera.

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Her first film, Munkbrogreven (1934), at age 19

After her father’s death, she was sent to live with his sister, Ellen Bergman, who died of heart disease only six months later.

She then moved in with her Aunt Hulda and Uncle Otto, who had five children. Another aunt she visited, Elsa Adler, whom Ingrid called “Mutti”, reportedly told a family legend to the 11-year-old, according to Charlotte Chandler’s biography of Ingrid Bergman, that her mother may have had “some Jewish blood”.

One of Bergman’s biographers, Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm, however, believes the claim was likely an embellishment. After doing an in-depth genealogical investigation, Bergman’s maternal cousin found no Jewish ancestry on Bergman’s mother’s side.

Furthermore, an investigation of Bergman’s ancestry in 1938 when she signed a contract with the German company Universum Film found only non-Jewish ancestors.

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Later, Bergman received a scholarship to the state-sponsored Royal Dramatic Theatre School, where Greta Garbo had some years earlier earned a similar scholarship.

After several months, she was given a part in a new play, Ett Brott (A Crime), written by Sigfrid Siwertz. Chandler notes that this was “totally against procedure” at the school, where girls were expected to complete three years of study before getting such acting roles.

During her first summer break, Bergman was hired by a Swedish film studio, which led to her leaving the Royal Dramatic Theatre after just one year, to work in films full-time.

Her first film role after leaving the Royal Dramatic Theatre was a small part in Munkbrogreven (1935), although she reportedly had previously been an extra in the 1932 film Landskamp).

She went on to act in a dozen films in Sweden, including En kvinnas ansikte, which was later remade as A Woman’s Face with Joan Crawford, and one film in Germany, Die vier Gesellen (The Four Companions) (1938).