I shouldn’t admit, but I’m gonna admit. I am a BIG fan girl for INGRID BERGMAN.
There I said it. TMI?
Look, I love Barbara Stanwyck and I love Bette Davis. But my heart belongs to Ingrid Bergman. She is one of the most beautiful women in motion pictures. M-G-M’s marketing department brand her an All-Natural girl when she comes out to Hollywood. But it wasn’t just the wearing no make-up that makes Bergman natural. It’s that she is not theatrical or “actress-y.” Her characterizations and line deliveries are the normal natural cadence of speaking and being. She is heart-felt. There’s a luminance from within her that shines brightly through the screen into your heart. I feel her. Cary Grant can do anything but it was a hard way to go for me to forgive him for throwing Bergman under the bus in “Notorious.”
But I imagine everyone who’s participating in “THE WONDERFUL INGRID BERGMAN
<—– BLOGATHON” is in love with her. Excuse me? No? Mostly just admirers this wonderful actress? Well…okay. But how can it be too much information when we’re talking about classic films? I figure I’d need a nice respectable reason to legitimately gush about Ingrid Bergman by hiding behind and contributing to this blogathon hosted by ‘The Wonderful World of Cinema’. Here is where I can wax on about Bergman without sticking out like a sore thumb with my entry on M-G-M’s 1941 film: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
This film is just Bergman’s fourth Hollywood film ( “Intermezzo: A Love Story”, “Adam Had Four Sons” and “Rage in Heaven” being her first three ). She pretty much plays nice girls in those movies. If memory serves me, Bergman was initially cast as the nice girl in “Jekyll & Hyde” but somehow convinced the powers-that-be to let her play Ivy Peterson, the free and easy bar maid. She gets that role and does a wonderful job too.
As you know with the story of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” the good doctor ( played with gusto and sexual sadism by Spencer Tracy ) believes good and evil are intertwined in the soul of Man, and Science can separate the two. Of course he’s dead wrong, but you know scientists: test tubes, laboratories ( or laBOREratories if you’re British ) theories, notes and poor little animals who can’t survive experimentation. He’s got a lovely virginal fiancee in Lana Turner waiting in the wings. But still he wants to dabble in his theories.
When Tracy and his colleague come upon Bergman fending off a very heated suitor, they chase him away and get her squared away in her flat. From the first time we see her, she comes to life fully dimensional. She smiles easily, and sees in Tracy a gentleman. We can see her calculating little brain going a mile a minute. She can’t believe her good luck she’s landed “a gentleman.” Now, to score and really seal the deal. She feigns injuries from the attack, but both she and Tracy and his colleague ( Ian Hunter ) know she’s faking. She knows Hunter is not interested in her, so she throws his coquettish high beams on Tracy.
Good Lord. He might have Lana in the ‘cut’ but he’s got Bergman right there for the asking…for the taking:
Tracy plays it poker face while Bergman gives him that “come hither” look
All through this rather sexy scene of ‘playing doctor’ Bergman is enticing and gently imploring Tracy to do more and more. Tracy is a pro of movies and he’s facing one of the better actors he’s had to work with. They each hold their own opposite the other, but Bergman is in control of this scene. Tracy flirts with the idea of flirting with her:
“Your eyes are twin pools of desire.”
But he also looks as if he cannot take a deep breath; that is…his character, Dr. Jekyll dares not breathe her in:
BERGMAN: “You are my doctor, aren’t you? I ought to pay you a fee, oughtn’t I?”
TRACY: “Why I haven’t presented you with a bill yet.”
BERGMAN: “How about this. To begin with. Not that it’s enough.”
TRACY: “It’s fine. Fine. It’s much more than most people play.”
BERGMAN: “Doesn’t seem near enough to me.”
Tracy’s caught kissing Bergman by his friend and has to leave. Bergman’s mood switches. She’s hurt and a bit shamed. The delicate humbled hurtful way she says: “I ain’t no…I ain’t no…” is heartbreaking.
TRACY: “No. I know you’re not. You’re a girl where her heart ought to be. Maybe a little too generous that’s all. So because you’re a nice pretty girl, next time be careful about the company you pick, huh? Why not.”
BERGMAN: “Well, but you are here ain’t you?”
TRACY: “Yes. But I shouldn’t be. If you really knew me, you’d know I don’t want to be.”
He leaves her and she’s upset. Bergman does a great job showing several emotions throughout that scene.
When Bergman meets Tracy again, it’s as Hyde. She tries to swallow her revulsion but it goes down hard. Tracy’s Hyde is fixated on her. In this second/third segment, we see Bergman at turns disgusted and fearful of him, no longer cocksure of her sexual power. He’s got a hold on her and the sexual torture is just about what you’d expect.
By Ivy’s third act, the poor girl is an unholy wreck. She is totally submissive, terrorized and just done. She sees Dr. Jekyll pleading for his help. The poor girl doesn’t know what we know. She is seeing her enemy. But Tracy knows, and he feels shamed. She needs help:
“If you can’t help me, give me some poison so I can kill myself.”
She almost gets a reprieve…
“Here’s hoping Hyde rots wherever he is. Burn slow when the time comes.”
…but it is short-lived:
When Hyde visits her for her last time, it really is torturous to watch Bergman go through this. He teases and taunts. There’s a kind of twisted ecstacy in her reaction. But perhaps these pictures say it better.
I’ve seen her helpless in “Notorious.” I’ve seen her go mad in “Gaslight” shrieking out of a room. It’s tough to see. It’s no different in “…Jekyll & Hyde” except there’s a sexual undertone to her reaction as she bargains, pleads and submits. I think Bergman does a superb job in this movie. If the roles had been reversed, I doubt 21-year old Lana would have been able to handle with abandon what Bergman wallows and sits in with this state of anxiety, sexual tension, fear and terror. Bergman works herself up into this state in front of cast, crew and klieg lights. She goes there…and has to sustain such emotional states until the director yells “CUT!”
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is a benchmark for all three lead actors involved. See their very next movie:
- Lana Turner’s next movie is “Honky Tonk” with human juggernaut Clark Gable.
- SpencerTracy’s next movie is “Woman of the Year” meeting his greatest screen partner: Katharine Hepburn.
- Bergman’s next movie is “Casablanca” a towering classic still remembered today starring Humphrey Bogart.
Ingrid Bergman can change emotions on a dime, imperceptibly…and subtly. She takes the gear shift into her hands and gently guides it through several seamless gears of emotions: fear, pride, hurt, defiance, apology, anger; sometimes doing this simultaneously. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” IS a tough movie to watch because no one can play torture like Bergman. ( See “Gaslight” if you need more Oscar-winning proof. ) And though tough to watch she is a marvel to watch. She’s warm and can be cold, and without a doubt her emotions are always on the surface; where she calls them up as needed, whether it’s regret, desire,
love, hate, disappointment or doubt. In fact, no one can make fear or desire as palpable as she can. I believe Ingrid Bergman because I want to believe her. I believe Ingrid Bergman because she believes herself.
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Thanks for reading. BUT I am not alone in my tribute to Ingrid Bergman. You want to read the thoughts of an actual Scandanavian? Then read my friend Karin’s essay on Bergman: HERE. Also, if you click the banner above, it will take you to “The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon” itself where you can read other writers’ takes on Bergman favorites such as “Spellbound”, “Notorious”, “Stromboli”, “Gaslight”, “Intermezzo” “Murder on the Orient Express” and many more. So what are you waiting for? Here’s a good way to spend Ingrid Bergman’s birthday if you don’t have her films at your fingertips and the Museum of Modern Art is out of reach.
( H O M E )