Notorious Ingrid Bergman: The First "Natural" Actress

Ingrid Bergman had many of the typical attributes of a classic Hollywood star. She was beautiful, expressive, mysterious, and talented. She also had many attributes that set her apart, however, and which came to define her long, complex and exceptional career. In an age when other actresses her age were changing their names and trying to fit into a certain glitzy Hollywood mold, Bergman stayed firm in her convictions and etched out a career that was authentic to who she was and allowed her to tackle roles with an unmatched rawness and purity.

Bergman was already a star of Swedish films before coming to Hollywood in the 1930s. Orphaned by the age of 12, Bergman was raised by an aunt. When she arrived in Hollywood, she did so without makeup and insisted that she would change nothing about herself when she met with producer David O. Selznick. An article in Vogue about Bergman's stubborn self-belief states of her first meeting with Selznick, "After a silent standoff, Selznick relented—and claimed Bergman’s refusal to cap her teeth and pluck her brows as his own original concept, saying, “I’ve got an idea that’s so simple and yet no one in Hollywood has ever tried it before. Nothing about you is going to be touched. Nothing altered . . . You are going to be the first ‘natural’ actress,” he told her." Indeed, Bergman's natural good looks and her straightforward authenticity became her main attraction, but it did not mean that she had a completely seamless relationship with Hollywood conventions throughout her career.

In spite of being embraced by the public for her straightforwardness and natural charm, many of the ways that Bergman chose to buck convention mystified those who were more invested in Hollywood superficiality. In an interview with Bergman's daughter, actress Isabella Rossellini, it says, " She always told the truth, so when an interviewer asked, 'Who's your favorite designer?' she replied, 'I don't buy designer clothes, they're too expensive.' Everyone was stupefied, it was blasphemy!" Such a free spirit chafed at Hollywood's determination to categorize its actors."

Furthermore, her free-spiritedness led her into some damning scandals, as when she carried on an extramarital affair with director Roberto Rossellini. The ensuing controversy got her disinvited from appearing on the Ed Sullivan show and, as the interview with Isabella states, "The puritanical United States was horrified." It would be many years before public opinion would change and Bergman would return to Hollywood to present at the Oscars. Of her convoluted dance with the public, Bergman is quoted as saying, "I've gone from saint to whore and back to saint again all in one lifetime." Like Alicia Huberman, a woman scorned and misunderstood for her free-spirited ways, Ingrid Bergman lived life adventurously, and it resulted in an incredible career.