For Whom the Bell Tolls . . . Twice

We know that it tolls for all of us, eventually; but which chronometer do we consult to tell the time of departure? Say, for instance, you pass away on this day, 29 August, in London; make it late in the evening. Does that mean Americans will recognize your death as having occurred on the 29th? I guess this calendric reprieve won’t make much difference to the party chiefly involved; but I was wondering about it when I saw that the death of Ingrid Bergman was recorded as 30 August 1982 on the Internet Movie Database, but as 29 August on the official Ingrid Bergman website, and pretty much everywhere else, for that matter. Now, the IMDb is based in Bristol, England, or at least originated there. So, I don’t know just how to account for this discrepancy, or why this much-relied on site does not change the date, which, according to the biographies posted there, is not even recognized by its users.

Certain is that Ms. Bergman was born on this day, 29 August, back in 1915. Certain is also that her Hollywood career came to a screeching halt when the aforementioned gossip columnist Louella Parsons reported in the fall of 1949 that the actress was expecting a child, and that her husband had nothing to do with it. Bergman (last discussed here portraying the adulterous Laura Jesson in a radio adaptation of Noel Coward’s Still Life) had fallen in love with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, and their romance and its issue were so hotly debated in the US, leading a senator to denounce Bergman as a “powerful influence of evil,” that production-code conscious Hollywood closed its lots to her at the height of her career.

Prior to her exile, Bergman was last heard on US radio in two celebrated dramatic roles: as Anna Christie on the Ford Theater (21 January 1949), prophetically billed as the “story of a lost woman who came searching for a new life in a home she had never seen”; and as Nora in a telescoped version of Ibsen’s A Doll House (13 February 1949), produced, no less, by the Episcopal Actors Guild.

Bergman did not return to Hollywood until 1956, but was heard again on US radio as early as January 1954, on the theater program Stage Struck, in an episode discussing “Why Young Actors Try to Break Into the Theatre.” Why, you wonder? Here’s to independent spirits.

4 Replies to “For Whom the Bell Tolls . . . Twice”

  1. Ah, the beautiful, artistically committed Ingrid — one of my most admired actresses. Clicking my perpetual calendar to 29 this morning, I thought of the Birthday Girl. Though, by EST, it is now the faux anniversary of her death, I\’m going to celebrate the anniversary of her birth by watching one of her films….\”powerful influence of evil\” … Ooooh, I shudder to think of the depths of immorality to which millions of good Americans surely would have descended had that iniquitous creature been allowed to remain in this country to work and have her child! … The smug, righteous McCarthy era.I didn\’t know that Ingrid performed in Sir Noel\’s Still Life; I consulted the index of Laurence Leamer\’s As Time Goes By, which I read several years ago, but found no reference to the play. It\’s difficult to imagine a wholly successful treatment of that drama in a non-visual environment. Celia Johnson\’s eyes say so much. Thanks, Harry, for paying tribute to one of my favorite \”independent spirits.\”

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  2. You\’re very welcome, Elizabeth. What did you end up watching? Aside from Gaslight, nothing was shown on UK television to commemorate the event.The Bergman biography dates from the days before internet, when references to broadcasts (let alone recordings) were hard to come by, given the general dismissal of radio dramatics by the contemporary press. Nowadays, we enjoy ready access, but make very little noise about listening. Well, that\’s where I come in.I was surprised to find a fairly comprehensive list of Bergman\’s radio credits (with links to recordings) here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingrid_Bergman#Radio_credits

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  3. Because I had seen many of Ingrid\’s important \’40\’s films as well as her American debut, Intermezzo, recently, I opted for the long ago viewed and hazily remembered Rage in Heaven, co-starring Robert Montgomery and George Sanders. An odd little psychological thriller.Thanks for the link with the radio credits. I\’m anxious to listen to A Man\’s Castle, with Ingrid taking the part Loretta Young played in the Columbia movie and Spencer Tracy reprising his role. I love the Frank Borzage-directed film. I\’m afraid I found Sam Wanamaker a rather poor substitute for Trevor Howard in the Theatre Guild\’s adaptation of Still Life. Ingrid, though, was superb as Laura.

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  4. It\’s been a while since I watched a film starring Bergman. I sure miss TCM; so, sound recordings will have to do for now. And what a wonderful radio voice hers is, soft and warm, like a blanket I gladly pull over my eyes. I enjoyed her \”Jane Eyre,\” no matter how implausible her accent.

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