Bergman in Exile


Swedish beauty Ingrid Bergman was one of the top stars of the 1940s (Casablanca, Gaslight, Notorious), but her career in the U.S. derailed in 1949 when she left her husband and daughter for the Italian director Roberto Rossellini. She was working with Rossellini for the film Stromboli when she became pregnant. It was a huge scandal in the United States. Bergman was denounced on the Senate floor by Edwin C. Johnson (D-Colorado), who referred to her as “a horrible example of womanhood and a powerful influence for evil.” In a floor vote that followed, she was declared persona non grata. The scandal forced Bergman to exile herself to Italy, leaving her husband, Dr. Petter Lindström, who eventually sued her for desertion and waged a custody battle for their daughter.

During Bergman’s anguished time in Italy, anger over her private life had continued unabated in the United States, with Ed Sullivan at one point infamously polling his TV show audience as to whether she should be permitted to appear on his show. Although the audience was mostly in favor, Ed declined to book her. Bergman could not work in an American film for seven years, though upon her return, in 1956, she won an Oscar for Anastasia. In 1972, Senator Charles H. Percy (R-Illinois) lodged a formal apology into the Congressional Record for the attack made on Bergman 22 years earlier by Senator Johnson.

LIFE magazine’s Gordon Parks was her close friend, and Bergman trusted him to the extent that she invited him to the 1949 shoot for Stromboli— directed by Rossellini, at the time she was perceived as the villain — where he made the above haunting portrait. Parks would later acknowledge that portraits of Bergman and Rossolini during their famous sojourn on the island of Stromboli were one of his most important photoshoots for Life.

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