söndag 27 oktober 2013

Where do the noses go?

Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman in love.
There is a beautiful scene in "For whom the Bell Tolls", the Hollywood adaptation of the novel by Ernest Hemingway, made in 1943 with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. I'm thinking about the nose scene, the scene where Maria, the young Spanish paesant girl kisses the tall, handsome American who has joined the rebels fight against the Fascists. She is so lovely in perfect Technicolor: her skin a rich, chesnutty hue, her eyes sparkling as the starry sky behind her, her hair is short and curly and she's dressed in a simple shirt and a pair of pants that are being held up by a piece of string. He's softspoken and handsome in the way Disney's princes are. Did I say tall? It doesn't really matter what he does, says or what the actor Gary Cooper could possibly convey - the big shining star here is certainly Ingrid Bergman.

They were in love for real, or so the story goes, about the making of the film "For whom the Bell Tolls". They were on location for weeks out in the wild, far away from Hollywood but just as far away from the real world, world war two going on in Europe and the Pacific at the Spanish civil war that they were telling us about. The story is about an American who helps a group of Spaniards to sabotage a bridge at a crucial moment in the people's resistance against Franco's troops. Ingrid really wanted the part and it was a blessing for her that Hemingway immediately saw her as the perfect Maria. And she was perfect: she could use her "otherness" in a role where she didn't need to pretend to be American. She could also use her greatest asset: her natural beauty, one that worked best in the open, real life surroundings, without the glamour and Hollywood grooming.

Isn't she lovely?
In this part one could almost say that it's in the stars that Ingrid won't stay a Hollywood star for long. Soon, she will be whisked away by the need to appear in real films, made by real people in real life: in other words, Roberto Rossellini. He was the closest a star like Ingrid could come to reality before the emerge of the full length documentary film. Some times it amuses me to think who she would have picked of the great documentary film makers and new wave directors of the sixties and seventies. Could she have worked with Bo Widerberg, Jan Troell, Arne Sucksdorff, for instance? She never did, though, as she went back to Hollywood after her Italian adventure. 

Ingrid Bergman left Swedish cinema to become a major international star in the late 1930:s. She had made ten films in Sweden, two of them were sold to Hollywood and remade there. Ingrid got a contract with David O. Selznick and remade "Intermezzo" in Hollywood with Leslie Howard in the part that the great Swedish actor Gösta Ekman had played in the Swedish version. (The other Swedish film in which Ingrid had starred, "A Woman's Face" was remade with Joan Crawford.) Then Ingrid made one film in Nazi Germany, "Der vier Gesellen" and she would have stayed if her husband Petter Lindström had not advised her to go on to the US. Her mother was German and like all Swedes at the time before the second world war, the German language was much closer to home than English. 

When she decided on going Hollywood, Ingrid made a decision that saved her career. Imagine what she would have become if she had made the choice that other Swedish actresses keen on international fame had made, before her? I'm thinking of Zarah Leander but even more of Kristina Söderbaum, the girl who become the very symbol of Arian beauty in Nazi Germany. 

Ingrid remained the lovely natural girl, the girl we all wanted to love, the girl who stayed true. But true to what? She left Sweden just before the war, and came back to Swedish films only once in the 60:s, to play in the short film "Smycket" ("The Necklace"), which was part of a collaborative effort where all leading Swedish film directors translated the notion of "Stimulantia" into a short film. The film was called "Stimulantia" and Ingrid*s part was directed by Gustaf Molander, the director who made her famous all those years ago. It's an interesting part since it deals with a woman who indulges in a bit of luxury that costs her and her husband ten years of misery and hardship. The story was by French author Guy de Maupassant and required quite a lot of humility from an actress used to getting exactly what she wanted.

She also left her family, twice. First when she left husband and daughter to join the new Italian cinema in the fifties. Then again, when she divorced Rossellini and their three kids had to commute between father in Italy and mother in England, Hollywood and Sweden. Ingrid was no role model as a mother.

Still, it's the promise of perfect motherhood that glows from her face, in the love scenes that she did best, in her Swedish and American films. Alfred Hitchcock must have sensed that, and he also understood that she lied. Maybe that's why she is so good in the three films she made with him.

Ingrid reflecting, in Hitchcock's "Notorious".