Ingrid Bergman: From A Lost Swedish Orphan To A Hollywood Starlet

The Golden Age of Hollywood introduced the world to many talented actresses and one that became a true legend was Ingrid Bergman. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Bergman went on to star in many classic films such as Casablanca, The Bells of St. Mary’s, Joan of Arc, and many more. Get to know this iconic actress with these little-known facts about her life.

Ingrid’s Early Life Was Full Of Tragedy

Ingrid Bergman at the age of about 6 months
George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images
George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Ingrid Bergman was born on August 29, 1915 in Stockholm, Sweden to Justus Samuel Bergman and Frieda “Friedel” Henriette Auguste Louise Adler Bergman.

Sadly, her mother passed away when she was just two years old and her father passed about 12 years later. Then, she was sent to live with her aunt who passed six months later.

Growing Up Was Difficult

Ingrid Bergman as about 2 years old
George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images
George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Bergman’s life was anything but easy with several unexpected family members who left her. Although she had a rough childhood, she still had big dreams.

She knew from a very young age that she wanted to become an actress and would even make up her own plays at home. Bergman kept her dream alive and was given a scholarship to the Royal Dramatic Theatre School.

She Spoke Many Languages

Ingrid Bergman with her father when she was 5
Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

While Bergman was born in Sweden, she actually spent a lot of her childhood in Germany. Before she was able to go to school, she already spoke both Swedish and German.

She was able to learn French in school and learned both English and Italian while working as an actress. In total, she could fluently speak five languages.

She Quit School

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John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Bergman was fortunate to earn a scholarship for the Royal Dramatic Theatre School, but she soon received offers for professional plays and films.

The school had a rule where students needed to complete three years of training before accepting any outside roles. Bergman didn’t like this, so she quit school to start her career.

She Became A Swedish Film Star

Ingrid Bergman in a Swedish film
John Springer Collection/Corbis via Getty Images
John Springer Collection/Corbis via Getty Images

After leaving the Royal Dramatic Theatre School, she set her sights on becoming a professional actress. From about 1935 to 1938, she starred in Swedish and German films such as Ocean Breakers, Swedenhielms, and The Four Companions.

She had already appeared in 11 Swedish films before she reached 25 and had the chance to work with some of Sweden’s biggest stars.

She Fell In Love With A Dentist

petter lindstrom and ingrid bergman at a dinner
Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

On July 10, 1937, Bergman married a dentist named Petter Aron Lindström in Sweden. He later became a neurosurgeon.

The two had one child together about a year later named Friedel Pia Lindstöm; named after Bergman’s late mother. Her husband didn’t enjoy being in the spotlight, so it caused some conflict in their relationship.

American Filmmakers Discover Bergman

david o selznick and ingrid bergman in 1941
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hollywood film executive, David O. Selznick, heard about Bergman from his elevator operator who was a fan of Swedish films. He watched her Swedish film Intermezzo and thought it would be great in English.

Soon, Bergman arrived in Hollywood to complete her first American movie. This 1939 role allowed her to dip her toe into the American film industry.

She Refused To Change

Ingrid Bergman color photo
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

At only 24-years-old, Bergman left her three-year-old daughter and husband in Sweden to move to Hollywood. Film executives weren’t too thrilled about many of her signature characteristics.

Some thought she was too tall, had an unusual name, her eyebrows were too thick, and she had a weird accent. She was urged to change many of these things and more, but she refused.

She Was Considered America’s Ideal Woman

color photo of Ingrid Bergman lying down
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Most of Bergman’s early Hollywood roles consisted of being the angelic and subservient wife and mother. Her image became America’s good girl, which she actually couldn’t stand.

While many actresses of the day were usually put in head-to-toe glamour, Bergman wanted her acting to speak for itself. She wore little to no makeup and her costumes weren’t usually flashy.

She Had Little Time For Family

pia and petter lindstrom in 1950
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Bergman’s career was everything to her, so she was willing to put it first in all circumstances. Her husband and daughter eventually followed her to Hollywood, but she rarely saw them.

She kept busy by shooting for many hours of the day in various locations all over the world, so her family had to be on the backburner.

She Wasn’t Too Thrilled With Casablanca

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

One of Bergman’s most famous roles was as the female lead in 1942’s Casablanca. Although it is one of Hollywood’s most memorable films, Bergman didn’t really love the end result.

Also, Bergman was a lot taller than her co-stars Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart, so the men had to wear lifts in their shoes to appear taller than her.

She Was Shy In Real Life

Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca
John Springer Collection/Getty Images
John Springer Collection/Getty Images

Actors usually aren’t the same people they play on screen, so most fans didn’t know that Bergman was painfully shy.

Her daughter was confused by this because her mother would perform in front of many people everyday. Bergman told her that when she’s performing she becomes a different person and her real self melts away.

She Starred As Joan Of Arc More Than Once

Ingrid Bergman in 1948's joan of arc
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

While Bergman had a successful film career, she was also well-respected on Broadway. She played Joan of Arc in the Maxwell Anderson play Joan of Lorraine in 1946.

A couple of years later, she was cast in the film adaptation of that play in the same role. She won both a Tony and an Oscar for her performances.

She Won Tons Of Awards

Ingrid Bergman holding an Oscar in 1945
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Acting was everything to Bergman, so she took her job very seriously. Her performances were nuanced, relatable, and original. Bergman’s work spoke for itself and she ended up winning many awards.

She won three Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, two Emmy Awards, one Tony Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a lot more.

She Started Getting Frustrated With Hollywood

Ingrid Bergman in a white blouse and black hat in 1945
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Towards the end of the 1940s, Bergman wasn’t impressed by the kinds of films that she was making in Hollywood. She wanted to act in something authentic.

She came across the work of Italian director Roberto Rossellini and knew it was unlike anything she had seen before. Bergman felt compelled to talk to Rossellini about how much of a fan she was of his films.

She Sent Rossellini Fan Mail

Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman in 1956
Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

When Bergman discovered Rossellini’s work, she was already one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood. She wanted to get his attention in a subtle way because she wasn’t sure if he would approach her to appear in his films.

They started writing letters back and forth and he noted how impressed he was with her acting. Then, he invited her to be in his next movie.

Bergman Heads To Italy

Ingrid Bergman knitting on set of Stromboli with Roberto Rossellini
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Rossellini didn’t hesitate to ask Bergman to appear in his next movie, Stromboli, and she jumped at the opportunity. This was her way of getting away from Hollywood, which was causing her to feel stuck and frustrated.

While Rossellini’s sets weren’t as luxurious as the ones she was used to, she appreciated that everyone was there to work hard for an important project.

A New Romance

Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman sharing an embrace in 1953
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Bergman’s husband and daughter had left Sweden to be with her in Hollywood, but she decided to stay in Italy for a while. Soon, she fell in love with her director.

Rossellini was loud and outspoken, while Bergman was shy and introverted. They respected each other’s talents and knew this was something they couldn’t ignore.

Their Romance Was Doomed From The Start

Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman in 1950
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Falling in love can be a beautiful thing, but Bergman and Rossellini found each other at the wrong time in their lives. Both were already married when they fell in love, so the world started gossiping about their relationship.

When Bergman quickly became pregnant with Rossellini’s child, their reputations became tarnished.

Why Ingrid Bergman Was Called A Powerful Influence For Evil

photo of Ingrid Bergman with flowers
Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images
Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images

America soon became outraged by Bergman’s actions and theoretically exiled her from Hollywood. The public was used to seeing her in an angelic and kind light, so this was the complete opposite to them.

Senator Edwin C. Johnson said she “had perpetrated an assault upon the institution of marriage” and called her “a horrible example of womanhood and a powerful influence of evil.”

Starting Over

Ingrid Bergman with Roberto Rossellini and their three kids
ullstein bild via Getty Images
ullstein bild via Getty Images

Since most of America was not accepting of Bergman’s decision to cheat on her husband with another married man, she knew it would be best to not return for a while.

She started a family with Rossellini in Italy and they ended up having three children together. Her first husband and daughter stayed back in Hollywood and Bergman wasn’t able to gain custody of her.

Her Acting Career Became Limited

Ingrid Bergman in 1960
Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

Since she decided to stay in Italy, it seemed as if Hollywood was but a distant memory. Rossellini became very possessive over her and forbid her to work with other directors for about five years after their wedding.

In the mid 1950s, she finally had the opportunity to work director Jean Renoir in the French film, Elena and Her Men.

A Mighty Return To Hollywood

Ingrid Bergman in 1956's Anastasia
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Bergman and Rossellini ended their marriage in 1957 after seven years and she tried to pursue more roles. Rossellini had fallen in love with another woman and got her pregnant, so Bergman knew it was time to move on.

She made a triumphant return to the American film industry with 1956’s Anastasia, which earned her a Best Actress Oscar. But she never actually went to the US because the movie was shot in England, Paris, and Copenhagen.

Rossellini Wasn’t Her First Affair

Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck in Spellbound
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Movie fans felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under them when they found out about Bergman’s affair with Rossellini. But it wasn’t her first time cheating on her first husband.

During her early Hollywood days, she had been linked to her Spellbound co-star Gregory Peck and photographer Robert Capa.

She Met Her Next Husband While In Paris

Ingrid Bergman and Lars Schmidt in 1958
Olle Seijbold/AFP via Getty Images
Olle Seijbold/AFP via Getty Images

Bergman married her third husband, Lars Schmidt, about a year after her divorce with Rossellini. He was also from Sweden and the two met in Paris while he was working as a theatrical producer.

She tried to gain custody of her three youngest kids, but she lost and they remained in Italy. Feeling defeated, she decided to stay in Paris to focus on her third marriage.

Another Marriage Ended By An Affair

Lars Schmidt and Ingrid Bergman in 1960
Reporters Associes/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Reporters Associes/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Bergman shared that she spent many great years with her third husband, but things started to go downhill about 17 years into their marriage.

They divorced in 1975 after she found out that he was involved with another woman. While this was upsetting at the time, they remained friends until she passed.

Coming Back To America

goldie hawn and ingrid bergman in 1969
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

After leaving the US in the late 1940s, Bergman had only shot movies abroad. She finally returned in 1969 to make the comedy, Cactus Flower, with Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn.

This was her big turning point and she continued to act in films, television shows, and theatrical productions for the rest of her life.

An Unsettling Diagnosis

Ingrid Bergman in 1974
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

While Bergman was filming The Constant Wife in London, she felt a lump on her left breast. She found out that she had breast cancer and started treatment immediately.

Even though she received her cancer diagnosis, she didn’t let it stop her from working. She continued acting in several projects for the final eight years of her life.

Her Legacy Lives On

Ingrid Bergman in 1954
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Bergman passed on August 29, 1982, in London on her 67th birthday. The cancer had spread to her spine, which collapsed her twelfth vertebra. Also, her right lung no longer functioned and her left one was close to completely collapsing.

Some of her ashes were scattered in a Swedish sea and the others were placed next to her parents’ ashes.

Her Daughters Became Actresses

Ingrid Rossellini, Pia Lindstrom, and Isabella Rossellini posing for a photo in 2017
Jemal Countess/Getty Images
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Both Isabella and Isotta Rossellini followed in their mother’s footsteps and became actresses. Pia Lindström is now a retired news anchor who has won several Emmy Awards for her work.

Isabella has even portrayed her mother in several acting jobs including Tales from the Crypt and My Dad is 100 Years Old.