Art over stardom

Labels just didn't stick to Ingrid Bergman, who passed on in London earlier this week.

She was a movie actress who won countless fans on television and the Broadway stage. She was a Hollywood star who worked extensively in Europe. She was a pop-culture idol who collaborated on works of high cinematic art with such directors as Ingmar Bergman and Roberto Rossellini.

Summing it up, though, there seems little doubt that her most popular efforts will be her most enduring monuments. ''Gaslight,'' with Miss Bergman and Charles Boyer, has become one of Hollywood's definitive ''mad scene'' movies. ''Notorious,'' directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1946, combined thriller-style suspense with a deep investigation of tortured personal relationships.

And in the unparalleled ''Casablanca,'' she joined one of the most colorful casts in movie history for a bittersweet grand tour of war-torn life and love. When costar Humphrey Bogart lisped, ''Here's looking at you, kid'' - with a slight accent on the ''you'' - the moviegoing world was endowed with one of its most beloved catch phrases, aptly aimed at one of its most beloved heroines.

It all began in Stockholm, where Miss Bergman was born to a German mother and Swedish father. She received her training at the Royal Dramatic School there, became successful in Swedish films, and made her Hollywood debut in 1939. Ten years later, not satisfied with her stardom in American movies, she embarked on a long collaboration with Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini in such pictures as ''Stromboli'' and ''Fear.'' Though the merits of these films were overshadowed by a public scandal over Miss Bergman's personal involvement with Rossellini, they are highly regarded today by many critics and film historians. The scandal waned, and Miss Bergman returned to favor with American audiences, but worked more frequently in Europe than in Hollywood for the rest of her career.

Miss Bergman earned three Academy Awards - the first for ''Gaslight'' in 1944 , the second for ''Anastasia'' in 1956, and the most recent for her supporting role in ''Murder on the Orient Express'' eight years ago. She has also received Emmy and Tony awards for her work on TV and Broadway.

Her last major theatrical film was ''Autumn Sonata'' with Liv Ullmann, in which she realized a long-held dream of working with her near-namesake, director Ingmar Bergman. I spoke with her at length shortly before the American premiere of that picture, and found her openly in awe of the great Swedish filmmaker, who had clearly fulfilled all her expectations. Released in 1978, the exquisite ''Autumn Sonata'' became a solid success with international audiences and won Miss Bergman a new generation of admirers.

Along with her beauty and charisma - necessary equipment for any major star - Miss Bergman had a refreshing humility and a consistent respect for the filmmakers who shaped and propelled her vehicles. Audiences seemed to feel her sincerity under all circumstances, whether she was waltzing through a Hollywood disappointment like ''Under Capricorn'' or performing O'Neill, Shaw, and Ibsen on the stage. It was clear she took her work more seriously than her stardom. And this sense of commitment cast a warm glow on her career.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.