best film: Casablanca is the winner here though Notorious is a masterpiece as well and I owe Rossellini’s Journey to Italy another revisit. Casablanca is deserving of its reputation and iconic status. Curtiz is not Hitchcock or Rossellini, but he directs the hell out of this one film and of course it has one of the best screenplays in Hollywood history.  Chief amongst the reasons to appreciate Casablanca are the lead performances by Bogart and Bergman. It is Bogart’s speech at the end but its Bergman’s emotional range (while Bogart plays Rick as more even and cool/steady) that help carry the film. It is enough to call it the co-lead.

best performance:  Casablanca though Notorious is not far off here either. Casablanca is among the best 25 female acting performances of all-time and repeat viewings solidify Bergman’s contribution.

 

Bergman in Casablanca here and Notorious below

It is almost as if Ingrid Bergman had two careers: a brilliant Hollywood career (like Katharine Hepburn or Faye Dunaway) and an equally special auteur/avantgarde career (like Juliette Binoche or Tilda Swinton) with international auteurs (Rossellini, Bergman, Renoir).

 

stylistic innovations/traits: Bergman had seventeen (17) films, so she is right there within striking distance of Meryl Streep and Katharine Hepburn (and everyone else) as far as sheer volume of archiveable film performances. She was pretty choosy in her roles- especially for the era with less than fifty (50) total films during her decades-spanning career (archiveable work from 1936-1978). What separates Bergman (ever so slightly) is that Notorious performance and her work with Rossellini. Yes, she is in Casablanca and had a great Hollywood career—full stop— but I believe she delivers a second, top performance that is, arguably, better than any one single performance by Hepburn or Streep. Bergman in Notorious might be a second top 25 performance by a female in the history of film. That is incredible. The only other actress in that realm is Masina and Masina has a total of seven (7) archiveable films so she simply cannot compete with the sheer volume of fantastic work from Bergman. As for the Rossellini period, their four films together in the 1950s crucial to Bergman’s resume. This is Neorealism (or a slight evolution of) and Bergman is a great collaborator for the great Italian master.

 

Journey to Italy– one of the four archiveable collaborations between Rossellini and Bergman

 

directors worked with: Roberto Rossellini (4) and this is key work with a top-tier auteur. Alfred Hitchcock (2)- it is a little sad of what might have been if they had continued to work together in the 1950s. and then it is Ingmar Bergman, Sidney Lumet, Jean Renoir, Victor Fleming, William Wyler, Stanley Donen, and George Cukor once a piece.

 

from Rossellini’s Stromboli- one of the great Italian master’s finest cinematic paintings

 

top ten performances:

  1. Casablanca
  2. Notorious
  3. Journey to Italy
  4. Autumn Sonata
  5. Stromboli
  6. Fear
  7. Gaslight
  8. Europa 51’
  9. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  10. Elena and Her Men

 

It is easy to forget that Ingrid is indeed Swedish with her career in Hollywood and her legendary Italian films- but she started and ended her career in her native homeland. Finally in 1978 with Autumn Sonata she collaborated with the greatest Swedish director- Ingmar Bergman (these two cinema giants are not in relation). As good as Ingmar’s collaborators were throughout his career- it is a shame they did not work together earlier and more often.

 

archiveable films

1936- Intermezzo
1942- Casablanca
1943- For Whom the Bell Tolls
1944- Gaslight
1945- Spellbound
1945- The Bells of St. Mary’s
1946- Notorious
1948- Joan of Arc
1950- Stromboli
1952- Europa 51′
1954- Journey to Italy
1954- Fear
1956- Anastasia
1956- Elena and Her Men
1958- Indiscreet
1974- Murder on the Orient Express
1978- Autumn Sonata