Friday, November 28, 2014

Twice a Best Actress Bloggers Roundtable: Ingrid Bergman


I hope everyone had fun stuffing their faces yesterday, if that is what you do, or spending time with friends and family, if that is what you do...or just embraced a day off of work, if that is what you were given.  Whatever.  I hope everyone had fun yesterday, but yesterday is over and today is upon us and it is Friday which means it's...TWICE A BEST ACTRESS DAY!!!!

Today we talk about Ingrid Bergman.  I just...I'm speechless.  Bergman was a Goddess...and transcendent light of absolute brilliance.  

But, enough about me...

Here's the panel:

Andrew from The Films the Thing
Drew from A Fistful of Films
Sati from Cinematic Corner



Andrew:
In only 5 short years since David O. Selznick brought Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman to Hollywood to appear in an English-language remake of her hit Intermezzo in 1939, she had already appeared in a Best Picture winner (the undeniable classic Casablanca), received a Best Actress nomination for 1943's For Whom the Bell Tolls, and become one of Hollywood's biggest and most popular stars. So naturally when her second nomination came in 1944 (of an eventual 7 nominations and 3 wins) for George Cukor's Gaslight, Hollywood was eager to reward the bright, new star - acknowledging that it was her time. Which is not to say that the Academy was blinded by star power, randomly awarding her for any performance, because the truth is Bergman does some of her best work as Paula Alquist Anton, a woman driven mad by her manipulative husband (Charles Boyer). The role has the danger of becoming one-note as scene after scene Paula is constantly being made to feel that she is slowly losing her mind and the same emotive beats of fear and melancholy are written for the role. But Bergman, showing what a movie star can bring to a part, is magnetically compelling throughout the film bringing a style of acting that sometimes is often overlooked. Introspective, melodramatic, baroquely romantic, it's atmospheric, sneaking up on you until you find that you're fully invested and just as frustrated as Bergman's Paula. And it all leads up to the final confrontation scene with her husband, in which the tables are turned and Paula lets out her frustrations. Bergman, seemingly meek and mild throughout, suddenly (but realistically) stands up to her oppressor, bringing a heightened intensity that surges through with Bergman's unique presence. Although, I think Bergman was deserving of the win, it's hard to deny the work of Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, an actress that never won and was equally worthy of the win that year.
My Grade: B+

Drew:
Gaslight is an interesting film.  It is all this build up and then, meh.  It’s so heavy handed and so abrasive, as a film, and so while watching it I’m waiting and waiting for this grand climax and it just kind of ends and I’m left thinking that this would have been so much better had Alfred Hitchcock directed it.  It isn’t that this is a bad film, for it isn’t at all, but it’s not really a good one either.  It’s cheap fun, and it has some real thrills, but overall it’s a predictable flick that isn’t going to make a real serious impact.

But Bergman will make that impact.

This is a clear case of an actress being so far above the material she is given that she actually makes that material seem better than it really is.  Her co-star, Charles Boyer, really can’t be shrugged off either, since he sells this premise so deliciously that the pair of them really should have been dual Oscar winners.  This is a film that I would have never pegged as an Oscar vehicle, but Bergman was at that point in her career where she needed to win an Oscar, and I’m glad she won for this (even if I preferred Stanwyck and the un-nominated Bankhead, because this is a clear case of the Academy embracing something outside of its usual box, and it was well deserved.

Bergman, my personal favorite actress of all time, is firing on all cylinders here, but in such a restrained and effective way.  Her face is a national treasure.  No one conveys raw, rich emotion like Bergman could, with such a simple glance ever changing over the course of mere moments to convey such a range of complete identity.  Her dissolve into absolute madness is terrifying, taking the core of this film’s plot and making it feel believable and gripping despite the filmmaker’s inability to really round out the film.  Her final scene, the attic scene, is just brilliant.  She etches out such a remarkably complex character, and does so with grace.
My Grade: A

Fritz:
In some ways, 1944 was the essential Ingrid-Bergman-year. After her roles as Lisa in the Best-Picture-winner Casablanca and as Maria in the movie version of Ernest Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell tolls failed to win her the golden statuette in 1943, she probably would have won for any kind of role in 1944 as Academy members must have been dying to honor her for her talent, her charming personality and her status as one of Hollywood’s most shining stars. But in 1944, Ingrid Bergman did not just offer any kind of role to the Oscar voters but probably one of the showiest in movie history as a woman who is haunted by the dark memories of her aunt’s murder and then slowly starting to lose her mind after she moved into her aunt’s old home. Very seldom must an Oscar win have been such a done deal as in this case. And while it may be easy to dismiss her work as “Oscar bait”, there is no denying that she took this part and really created her own tour-de-force without ever appearing like an actress begging for awards. Sure Diana Wynyard might have been more fragile and ghost-like in the original Gaslight but Ingrid Bergman found a much deeper and fascinating core in the role. She lifts Gaslight to such a high level of excellence, developing a co-dependence in which she constantly benefits from the strong material she is given while creating a feeling of desperation, helplessness and lost innocence that haunts and improves the entire movie from start to finish. In her performance, she does not only serve the tension of Gaslight but also develops something beneath the suspense, a believable character, a true and honest creation that fits into the aura of the movie but beyond that also exists as an independent foundation for a less suspenseful and more authentic and human focus. In other words, her character is not only a flat device in service of the movie’s aims but became a full circle, complete from all angles. Ingrid Bergman does not forget that Gaslight is not only the story of a woman who believes that she is going insane but also the story of a false marriage, of misused trust and betrayal. She created Paula Alquist as a woman who is much more than a scared, fearful and obedient creature – thanks to her strong screen presence, her performance became very dominant despite the nature of the role and that way she turned the fight of Paul Alquist, her fight against her own mind, into a much more intriguing, shocking and memorable odyssey than other actresses might have.
My Grade: A-

Josh:
Bergman won her first Best Actress Oscar for playing Paula Alquist Anton, a newly-married woman who is slowly being driven into madness by a presence in her home. This is a fascinating role, and only a great actress like Bergman could pull it off. Throughout the course of the film, she goes from being affectionate and bubbly to confused and flustered to melancholic and dependent to enraged and empowered. It's a performance that allows her to portray a complete emotional overhaul through the journey of the character, and Bergman couldn't be more compelling on screen. Moreover, her performance becomes more interesting as the plot unfolds. She just fits so well in every scene. Most of the focus goes towards her work in Casablanca, Notorious or Autumn Sonata, but this Oscar-winning turn ranks with her finest performances.

Did Bergman deserve to win?

Definitely. Though, Barbara Stanwyck's femme fatale in Double Indemnity and Claudette Colbert's ironclad homemaker in Since You Went Away would've been worthy winners as well.
My Grade: A+

Kevin:
"Ingrid Bergman, you're so pretty,
You'd make any mountain quiver.
You'd make fire fly from the crater,
Ingrid Bergman."
- Woody Guthrie

George Cukor's "Gaslight" is a fun movie. It's well aware of its devices, its symbols and motifs. I mean…it's a movie called "Gaslight" in which gaslights are a supporting character. Light and dark and Ingrid Bergman's face work together in perfect harmony. The black and white cinematography is simple and magnificent, even if the transfer I watched could use some work.

To begin, Ingrid Bergman is one of the most oddly beautiful women to ever walk the earth. Her face (and facial expressions) are alone worth Oscars. There is a shot (one of many great ones in this film) that plays to all the strengths of Bergman's beauty and talent. It is during the early scene at her singing lesson where the lighting shifts on her face, in profile, from light to dark, and her expression matches, turning from happy to a mixture of confusion and fear. A trick that is used throughout this movie. This provides two important things: 1. Bergman's ability to work with a director, and 2. Bergman's ability to evoke many emotions with her face in one scene.

As descending-into-madness Paula, Bergman is in total command of the screen. She evokes the mystery this film demands (almost too heavy-handedly), and, as crap starts getting weird with the whole controlling husband keeping her locked away in a most-likely haunted house bit, her face just keeps matching the tone of the film. She goes from smiling and laughing to confusion and fear to downright hysterics at times all in the same scene. It is pretty dang cool.

Of the other contenders for Best Actress for '44, I've only seen Barbara Stanwyck's performance in Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity." I pick Bergman.

The Scene That Won It: The one where Gregory tells her they'll be going out, and she runs the table on emotion, singing, laughing, then into hysterics.
My Grade: A

Sati:
That was a very good movie with gorgeous cinematography all around great acting from everyone, including sassy Angela Lansbury, in what I believe was her screen debut. Bergman looked really beautiful in the film and her performance was terrific - she displayed so many emotions, all of them in a very subtle, realistic way. Her character was so delicate and fragile, it was just a delight to watch her play that girl.

She also conveyed the fear and confusion so well, which really gave you the sense of dread and put you right into her character's mindset. The intrigue in the film is very clever and beautifully executed and it's the acting that sells the story and it's Bergman's work that is the best thing about the movie.
My Grade: A-


Andrew:
If Bergman's initial rise in Hollywood was meteoric, her descent only 5 years later was just as abrupt and volatile. In 1949, Bergman went to Italy to appear in a film for director Roberto Rossellini. Both married at the time to other people, the actress and director had an affair that lead to the birth of a child out of wedlock. Known for saintly and virginal roles such as a nun in The Bell's of St. Mary and Joan of Arc, the affair was a scandal that shocked, her image tarnished in a way that Hollywood dismissed her all together. It was so over blown that Bergman was even denounced on the floor of the Senate. She retreated to Italian cinema during the years after, but Hollywood, realizing their error in her treatment, welcomed her back to American cinema for 1956's Anastasia in the best way they knew how - by awarding her another Best Actress Oscar. It was a nice gesture that didn't even bother to take into account the actual performance. Bergman, despite her regal bearing, seems miscast in the role of a woman that may or may not be the only daughter that survived the murder of Russia's last Czar, Nicholas and his family. In her 40s and playing a role for a woman in her 20s, she comes off as far too mature for such a juvenile character. Nor is there much asked of her to begin with as she sits and recites a lot of facts and figures never really seeming to have formed an opinion herself if she is in fact actually Anastasia or not. And all traces of her wattage seemed to have vanished, as she leaves virtually no impression after the film is over. I've seen this film years ago but remembered nothing about her performance and even after re-watching it this past week am struggling to recall anything that stood out. Overly theatrical, the film is stiff and suffocating, never able to overcome its stage-bound origins and Bergman seems to be the one most stifled by it all. Her win would be even more of an injustice if the category wasn't so weak that year, none of the nominees give Oscar-worthy performances. And it's easy to see how Hollywood's guilt allowed Bergman to triumph.
My Grade: D

Drew:
I have a real soft spot for Anastasia because it was a movie I saw many times in my childhood, and it was where my love of Bergman was born.  My mother’s favorite actor was Yul Brynner, and my father’s favorite movie (or one of the one’s he was most vocal about) was Casablanca, and so I saw these two films over and over in my early childhood years.  That double dose of Bergman solidified her as a real force for me, a real creature of absolute fascination.

While I don’t think Bergman should have won in that field, at least not up against Deborah Kerr (who was fascinating in two films that year), her Oscar win is well deserved when reviewing the quality of her work.  She is just mesmerizing as this confused and manipulated young woman, born out of suffering and trying desperately to grasp onto something real.  The air of mystery created by the regal gaze, the way she shifts her own convictions without a single word, the way she melts into an expression of pure naivety and wonderment, building a real woman who is shaded so much by a reality she isn’t truly aware of, a confusion that clouds her past which leads to a woman who is caught between reality and a dream.

Bergman is probably, in all reality, the most deserving actress of having two Oscars, because her resume is superior to most and sublimely consistent.  Like most all actors who actually win Oscars, whether it be one of multiple, she won for the wrong performances, but what is so lovely about Bergman is that even her lesser performances are deserving of Oscars.  Sure, I would have loved to see her win for Autumn Sonata (one of the ten greatest performances ever given by anyone ever in the history of ever) and Notorious or Casablanca, but I’ll take Gaslight and Anastasia because they are two remarkable performances by one of the most remarkable talents to ever grace film.

Let’s just not mention her third Oscar win…
My Grade: A

Fritz:
After having been an outcast in Hollywood for her affair with Roberto Rossellini, Ingrid Bergman made a triumphant come back with her role in Anastasia as a woman who calls herself Anna Koreff and who might or might not be the surviving daughter of the Russian czar. Just like in Gaslight, Ingrid Bergman was offered another tour-de-force that involved a lot of acting – only this time, her performance seemed very often more aware and more self-serving than it did in Gaslight. It seems that Ingrid Bergman’s determination to conquer Hollywood for the second time made her go for loud and showy moments too many times but without finding the right balance. Also, her interpretation of the part leaves little room for speculation. With her performances, she immediately tries to get the audience’s sympathy by showing her character as a woman of endless suffering. The script seems to want to let the question “Is she really Anastasia?” open, but Ingrid Bergman seems to have made up her mind right at the beginning and says “Yes, she is”. This, too, gets the audience on her side as we want to see the character getting her old life back, but Ingrid Bergman took a too easy route – she didn’t give the character as much depth and complexity as she could have but instead focused too much on a positive appearance before the viewer. She never lets us doubt her and makes Anna's misery her only characteristic. Still, Ingrid Bergman shows a lot of confidence in this performance – in her character and her own ability as an actress. While her performance comes across as rather calculated in some scenes, it’s thrilling to watch such a talented actress expressing this confidence in herself. This confidence also helps in making Anna more memorable than she might have been otherwise. Overall, it is an impressive performance but sometimes more for the determination behind it than the actual work on the screen.
My Grade: B-

Josh:
Bergman won her second Best Actress Oscar for playing Anna Koreff, an amnesiac who resembles Anastasia and unknowingly joins in a plot to trick the Russian aristocracy into giving her a large inheritance. The Best Actress category might've been a little thin this year, but Bergman gives a stunning performance, nevertheless. She's so elegant and refined, which makes her this convincing in the role. As the potential lost daughter of the murdered czar, she gives off a certain air of royalty, and it makes her job appear easy. She literally looks like a member of royalty, so it only adds credence to her nuanced work in this open-ended examination of Anna (or Anastasia?). Bergman's win can be deemed favoritism, but her performance backs it up. She's simply terrific in the movie, and it's fitting that she was the sole representative of the film to triumph at the Oscars.

Did Bergman deserve to win?

She gives a wonderful performance, but Baby Doll's Carroll Baker and The Rainmaker's Katharine Hepburn were just as great.
My Grade: A

Kevin:
I'm not the audience for this film. It is really beautiful to look at and sometimes charming and has given me a newfound appreciation of Yul Brynner, but I had trouble grasping onto it.

As the title character a.k.a. Anna Koreff in Anatole Litvale's "Anastasia," Bergman does her usual woman-of-many-emotions routine once again. On display again is her ability to play fear and confusion to happiness all on her face, all in the same scene. As in "Casablanca" and "Gaslight" (the only two others I've seen her in), she displays an intense confidence in the characters she plays. She really lets it all out. Her delivery of lines here, as in the previous, is so classic. This almost plays as melodrama, but somehow she is able to find the right line for me between that and true emotion.

When Brynner's General Bounine introduces himself and the gentlemen in the plotting-to-pass-her-off scene early in the film, she introduces herself in full title as Anastasia for the first time. This one moment is incredible acting. That hysterical laugh/cry will most likely go down as one of the great Best Actress moments for me. The quick changes in demeanor that Bergman is capable of is just incredibly fun to watch, and it happens a lot in this film, just as it does in "Gaslight."

I have seen none of the other nominated performances, but Ingrid Bergman is solid here. She is definitely, in my opinion, an actress worth two Best Actress Oscars.

The Scene That Won It: A tie between the introduction scene and the "What is real!?" tantrum she throws during her "training."
My Grade: B+

Sati:
Ugh, what a bore. The actual story is so well known and interesting but the film is so difficult to sit through with tiresome scenes of Anastasia being coached or trying to convince others that she is indeed who she says she is. The supporting cast, other than the actress who played the grandmother, is absolutely awful so Bergman's performance is even better because of the surrounding of forgettable and annoying performances.

It's still not Oscar worthy, tough - there's plenty of overacting here and the coughing thing was just annoying. Bergman is good when Anastasia is calm and collected but she has trouble conveying the anguish. It's not a bad performance but it's definitely not the one that Oscar should have gone to. I haven't seen the other nominated performances but I imagine at least one was better than this
My Grade: C-

FINAL SCORE
There is a number assigned to each letter grade that helps us give a score to each performance. The highest number (and A+) would be 20 points. An F would warrant 0 points (a D gives you 5). So these are the scores for each performance as well as a collective score (which will be used at the end to rank each individual actress).

Ingrid Bergman received a total of 103 points for her performance in Gaslight.
Ingrid Bergman received a total of 73 points for her performance in Anastasia.

This is a collective total of 176 points.

As a point of reference, the highest collective score you can attain is 240.

So this closes our discussion of Ingrid Bergman.  It looked like we may have hit a snag, with To Each His Own being really hard to come by, but it looks like our beloved Sati may have saved us, so de Havilland MAY be next week...if not it'll be Vivian Leigh.

Again, a big round of applause for the awesome bloggers sharing this series with me! You guys did some awesome work, as to be expected.

18 comments:

  1. I believe Ingrid Bergman gave THE best performance she she won for Gaslight. Barbara Stanwyck is excellent but the range of emotions that Ms. Bergman had to convey to the audience was astounding. You had to sympathize with her character and, with lesser actresses, one may have wanted that character to be done in by Boyer. Ingrid Bergman has convey vulnerability, fear and yet strength...all at once! I do not think there would have been any other actress who could have done it quite so well. I loved the flashback scene when you see her first going out with Boyer and she is carefree and happy and fun loving. The 2nd film is good and she is still an excellent actress but there were other roles more deserving. I felt she played it more one note and did the best she could given the script but she was not truly invested in it. I almost felt, with her sharp intelligence, that the actress questioned the sincerity of the person who claimed to be Anastasia (she was right to question to). I would have given it to Deborah Kerr. Even though it was good ole Marni Nixon (I think) who did the singing, she showed strength, elegance and real acting chops in this film and it was my dad's favourite(he was a strong lumberman so i always found that fun that he loved this film so)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, how cool that The King and I was one of your father's favorites! Same here. My dad loved the film. He was a big musical lover, and The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady were films I grew up adoring.

      Delete
  2. Highly entertaining as always! I love Ingrid, it's not just her beauty or star quality but she's a consistently interesting actress. I've seen all but about 6 of her films, mostly her early Swedish movies and two really obscure later ones, even if the film she's in is less than stellar you can count on her to add something special to the picture. My take on her two lead wins:

    Gaslight:
    Potent work with Ingrid starting strong with just a hint of insecurity, ever so slowly disintegrating and then suddenly ferociously bouncing back for that gloriously vivid third act. As was her custom she used slight inflections of voice and gesture in unison to subtly signal her inner thoughts, an admirable skill. Her realization scene is really beautifully done. This is the best of her three winning performance but this year's Oscar should have been Barbara Stanwyck's for Double Indemnity. Her co-star Boyer however should have won for his excellent work in this instead of Bing Crosby's genial but unremarkable performance in Going My Way.

    Anastasia:
    A lovely performance that was partially awarded to welcome Ingrid back from her exile after the Rossellini affair, which seems like nothing now but a fiasco at the time. Her searching, wounded diffidence is perfect for the part. Her large eyes often dart around as if she's a caged animal after so many years of wandering, always looking for the way out. However hidden deep within there's an autocratic royal that when offended, as when someone smokes in front of her without permission, snaps into view. Ingrid handles the trickiness of the two warring selves adroitly.
    I know she's your favorite actress and as I said she's one of mine too, so don't hate me, but as much as I enjoyed her work and thought she was the strongest contender in a weakish field, so the proper winner, I don't think this is necessarily one of her iconic performances. There were several unnominated performances, Judy Holliday(The Solid Gold Cadillac), Doris Day(The Man Who Knew Too Much), Elizabeth Taylor(Giant), Virginia McKenna(A Town Like Alice) and my favored choice Ann Sheridan(Come Next Spring), that I thought were stronger.

    An aside about her third Oscar, I know that for some reason it's vilified as being an egregious win for a bad performance but I don't agree. Did she deserve to win for it? No, as Ingrid herself more or less said in her acceptance speech the award belonged to Valentina Cortese for Day for Night but considering Bergman's natural radiance and how she subsumed it into the mouse she played it's a fine performance, just not award worthy. There's certainly been worse work awarded, i.e. Loretta Young's win for a nothing acting job like The Farmer's Daughter over at least two superior pieces of work, the really unfortunate thing about the win is that it probably cost her a deserved win in Autumn Sonata which would have put her rightly in the rarified three leading Oscars category.

    Should she be a multiple award winner? Without question and none of her three wins are for inferior work but I would have rather seen her win for Casablanca, Notorious, Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Autumn Sonata and perhaps Goodbye Again.

    No matter whether it turns out to be Olivia or Vivien next week I'm eager to see the opinions on either one of those great actresses work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm totally with you on Boyer! Crosby's win was just...wrong. He did absolutely nothing, but Boyer made so much out of this role and commanded the screen. It would have been nice to see his and hers Oscars for the pair!

      I agree that Ingrid's third win isn't the worst that Oscar has done, but like Crosby, she really didn't do much at all. It's a perfectly fine performance in a perfectly fine film that didn't deserve an Oscar nomination, let alone a win.

      UGH, I live for her Autumn Sonata performance!!!

      Delete
    2. Did you decide whether it will be Vivien or Olivia on Friday? I try and watch the films to be discussed during the week leading up to the post and with GWTW being one of them I'm not sure if I can squeeze all four in by then. Thanks!!

      Delete
    3. I think we'll be going with Olivia, since we found a stream of the movie!

      Delete
    4. Thanks, That's great! I LOVE The Heiress! A truly magnificent performance. I was unsure about To Each His Own at the beginning but it snuck up on me and by the end I found I really enjoyed it. Olivia's super in it.

      Delete
  3. "It was so over blown that Bergman was even denounced on the floor of the Senate" - Jesus, they really loved their scandals back then!

    I really adored Gaslight, but Anastasia was just so dull. I didn't have the issue with her age but yes she was too mature, she even came off as a mature person who has seen a lot of things in life in Gaslight. But the movie itself was just so difficult to watch, a shame because Anastasia's story is really interesting one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Senator Edward C Johnson called her an instrument for evil! can you imagine?!?

      Delete
    2. It really is kind of insane how political things can get...when they shouldn't be.

      Delete
  4. we all certainly have very love it or hate it feelings about ANASTASIA. but i'm with sati - it's pretty dull. even the animated version from 1997 is a better take and it has a talking bat!

    but i really love her performance in GASLIGHT. it's hard for me to describe because it's such a visceral reaction i have to watching her in it. it's by far the best of her 3 wins, but i still can't decide if i would give stanwyck the win over her. i go back in forth. but if stanwyck had won in 41 (like she should have, although even then it should've been for THE LADY EVE...), i would gladly give bergman the win here.

    and i'm with joel - i'm all for bergman having three oscars - for GASLIGHT, NOTORIOUS, and AUTUMN SONATA though

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For the longest time I thought that Stanwyck and Bankhead would be battling it out for the 1944 Fisti, but all this Bergman love and recent rewatch has me questioning that...

      Like, three way tie? Who am I, the Golden Globes?

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. We could all use a little more Bergman in our lives. I can make some suggestions ;-)

      Delete
  6. My quick thoughts:

    Gaslight - A very effective performance, capturing the tension and vulnerability of the character. I'd have given the Oscar to Stanwyck though. A-

    Anastasia (the animated version is better btw) - She's good here too, though I didn't get a sense of the frailty you'd expect from someone who had to endure extended stays in a mental hospital. I prefer Deborah Kerr from this lineup. B+

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm telling you, 1944 is becoming a really, really hard year for me to award in this category.

      Delete
  7. Legend! So glad she won these two Oscars, and it's great that her performance in Anastasia escaped relatively unscathed here. But she still deserved to win for the other films you mentioned. Three Oscars just wasn't enough!

    ReplyDelete