Ingrid Bergman was one of the biggest actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She starred in classic films like Casablanca, Notorious, Spellbound, and Anastasia.
Bergman won three Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, and a Tony Award over the course of her career. She was admired for her immense talent, timeless beauty, and poise.
However, Bergman was also embroiled in controversy during her career that caused many to dislike her. In the 1940s, she had an affair with director Roberto Rossellini while still married to her first husband, Dr. Peter Lindstrom.
The affair and Bergman’s subsequent pregnancy out of wedlock caused a major scandal in America. Many denounced Bergman’s behavior as immoral and felt betrayed by their once wholesome screen idol.
So why do some people still dislike Ingrid Bergman decades after her passing? This article will explore the reasons behind the backlash against Bergman and her complex public image.
Affair with Rossellini
The biggest reason Ingrid Bergman was disliked stemmed from her affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini in the late 1940s.
Overview of the Scandal
- Bergman and Rossellini met in 1949 to discuss a film project. During this time, Bergman was married to her first husband Dr. Peter Lindstrom and they had a daughter together.
- Bergman and Rossellini soon began an affair. In 1949, Bergman became pregnant with Rossellini’s child.
- The affair caused a huge scandal in the United States. Bergman was denounced as an “immoral woman” for cheating on her husband and having a child out of wedlock.
Public Reaction in America
- Many fans felt betrayed and disgusted by Bergman for not upholding her wholesome image. Her films were boycotted.
- Bergman was viciously condemned in the press and on the Senate floor. Senator Edwin Johnson infamously denounced her as “a powerful influence for evil.”
- Bergman’s reputation and career were severely damaged. Her image transformed from Hollywood starlet to scarlet woman overnight.
The public backlash against Bergman’s perceived immorality was intense. Many felt her affair with Rossellini compromised her integrity as an actress and public figure.
Ingrid Bergman’s affair coincided with the rise of McCarthyism in the United States. Her behavior was seen as unpatriotic and “Un-American.”
Dark Era in American History
- The late 1940s was marked by increasing paranoia over Communist infiltration. McCarthyism led to false accusations and blacklisting in Hollywood.
- Stars were expected to act as role models and uphold moral decency aligned with traditional American values.
- Bergman’s scandalous affair went against this climate of conservatism and conformity.
Seen as a Traitor
- Having a child out of wedlock with a foreign (Italian) director played into xenophobic fears.
- Bergman was portrayed as a traitor who turned her back on her husband and country to consort with “Europeans.”
- Her exile to Italy fueled perceptions that she was an unpatriotic woman who put her selfish desires first.
Bergman’s perceived abandonment of American values to have an affair struck a nerve during this unstable time. Her exile from Hollywood only furthered unsympathetic portrayals of her as “Un-American.”
Remaining in Exile
Even after the backlash over her affair subsided, Ingrid Bergman remained in self-imposed exile from Hollywood for 7 years. This sustained absence bothered her critics and the American public.
Life in Italy
- After giving birth in Italy, Bergman continued living with Rossellini as his partner and starring in his films.
- She seemed to show no regret over the affair, even as it made her a pariah in America.
- Bergman only finally divorced her husband in 1950 and married Rossellini that same year. This added to perceptions of immorality.
- Despite repeated offers from Hollywood studios, Bergman refused to return and restart her American film career.
- Her voluntary exile dragged on through the mid-1950s, despite the decline of McCarthyism by 1954.
- Many felt Bergman was turning her back on her fans and wasting her talent by remaining abroad.
- Bergman didn’t return to Hollywood until 1956 to star in Anastasia, for which she won her 2nd Academy Award.
- However, some never forgave Bergman for her years of self-imposed exile from American cinema.
Bergman’s sustained absence from Hollywood long after her scandalous affair created resentment that she was unappreciative of fans who wanted her to return.
Conflicted Views on Motherhood
Another aspect of the scandal that bothered fans was that Ingrid Bergman initially seemed to shirk motherhood during her affair with Rossellini. This conflicted greatly with societal norms about a woman’s role at the time.
Leaving Her Child
- Many were upset that Bergman left her young daughter in California while embarking on her affair.
- She was portrayed as a bad mother who abandoned her child for a fling with Rossellini.
- Bergman didn’t see her daughter for years while she remained in Italy with Rossellini.
Motherhood versus Career
- Traditional expectations of 1950s womanhood dictated that mothers should put family first.
- Bergman appeared to put her film career and affair above motherly responsibilities.
- Having a child out of wedlock also violated cultural norms.
- After years apart, Bergman reconciled with her daughter in the late 1950s and they developed a close bond.
- However, the early years of seeming maternal neglect created a backlash.
Bergman’s priorities during the affair contradicted gender norms. For years, her conduct implied career was more important than motherhood for a 1950s woman.
Perceived Arrogance in Her Comeback
When Ingrid Bergman finally returned to Hollywood in 1956, some perceived that she had an arrogant attitude about overcoming the scandal, which further put off fans.
Pride in Surviving Backlash
- Bergman displayed pride for surviving the backlash over her affair, even if it meant a 7-year exile.
- To some, this came across as hubris and dismissal of how her actions hurt her image.
- Bergman seemed to expect Hollywood to forget the scandal and embrace her comeback.
Lack of Public contrition
- Aside from a brief apology to the public, Bergman never displayed much contrition.
- She didn’t seem to think she needed redemption for her affair or exile.
- This unapologetic attitude didn’t sit well with moralistic American audiences.
Out of Touch with Fans’ Feelings
- After years away, Bergman appeared out of touch with her spurned American fans.
- She thought audiences would simply move past the scandal and accept her as a star again.
- This miscalculation created resentment that she took fans’ support for granted.
While triumphing over exile may have been a personal accomplishment, Bergman’s perceived arrogance upon her comeback evoked lingering bitterness from fans about the scandal.
Lingering Stigma of Divorce
Even after remarrying, Ingrid Bergman’s status as a divorcee continued to bother more conservative fans long after her Hollywood comeback.
Divorce Still Frowned Upon
- Despite her remarriage to Rossellini, Bergman’s divorce from her first husband carried stigma.
- Divorce was still considered taboo and a moral failing in the 1950s.
- Fans saw the dissolution of her first marriage as further evidence of Bergman’s questionable character.
No Fairytale Romance
- Bergman’s marriage to Rossellini soon grew troubled and ended in divorce as well after 7 years.
- This reinforced the view that her affair was just a lustful fling, not an enduring fairytale romance.
- The consecutive failed marriages magnified Bergman’s image as an unfaithful wife.
Normalization of Divorce
- As divorce became more normalized in society, stigma against Bergman’s marital history lessened.
- But some conservative fans continued frowning upon her multiple divorces decades later.
The moral objections to divorce outlived Bergman’s scandal, leaving an indelible mark on her reputation among more traditional circles.
Association with Alfred Hitchcock’s Obsession
Ingrid Bergman is forever associated with director Alfred Hitchcock, who had an unhealthy fixation on her. This also contributed to backlash against Bergman herself.
Ingrid Bergman was a multifaceted woman who made mistakes like any human does. While her affair and exile caused major backlash in her time, contemporary views on her are more nuanced. Appreciation for her undeniable talent has endured, even if objections to her personal choices linger for some.
Bergman lived in an era of moral conservatism and conformity. Her controversial actions went against these norms, causing public scorn. But she showed courage in weathering the vitriol and excelling after her comeback. Bergman leaves a complex legacy of a gifted actress who brought joy through her films, but invited controversy in her personal life.
Ultimately, she remains one of classic Hollywood’s most evocative icons. The passions Bergman stirred, both positive and negative, confirm her enduring cultural impact. Though not fully forgiven by all, Bergman demonstrated the resilience of a true star.
Why did Ingrid Bergman have an affair with Roberto Rossellini?
Bergman claimed she fell in love with Rossellini after contacting him about a film project. Their shared passion for filmmaking led to an intellectual and romantic bond. However, their relationship caused a huge scandal since both were married at the time.
How long was Ingrid Bergman in exile from Hollywood?
Bergman lived in Italy from 1949-1956, starring in Rossellini’s films and giving birth to their children. She remained abroad for 7 years before returning to Hollywood with Anastasia in 1956.
Did Ingrid Bergman show regret for the scandal?
Bergman issued a brief public apology but otherwise displayed little contrition. She seemed proud of overcoming the backlash and focused on restarting her career. Bergman felt she had found true love, excusing her actions.
Was Ingrid Bergman close to her children?
Bergman was initially accused of abandoning her daughter during her affair. But they later reconciled and stayed close. Bergman had twins with Rossellini but struggled balancing career and motherhood. She was devoted to her children once back in Hollywood.
Is Ingrid Bergman still admired despite the scandal?
Bergman remains a beloved classic Hollywood icon due to her undeniable talent and beautiful performances. While some may still disapprove of her personal choices, appreciation of Bergman as an actress endures.