Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Ingrid's Journey to Italy - and China ...

STROMBOLI, 1950. Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman’s first collaboration was overshadowed by the “scandal” of their real-life affair (and their first child born out of wedlock). But this is a strong and evocative drama full of submerged emotion. Bergman plays Karin, a refugee who marries an Italian fisherman (Mario Vitale) as a way out of an internment camp after the war, but finds herself equally isolated and restricted at his home on the volcanic barren island of Stromboli, where she is an outsider among the villagers. This was not a hit at the time and various versions exist. I have just seen an English version on television, though I have an Italian version on disk as well. I actually saw this as a child, well when maybe 12 – and also VOYAGE TO ITALY – of course I would have been too young to appreciate them then, but vividly remembered the still horrifying tuna catch, and Ingrid climbing up that volanco (and the unveiling of those plaster figures at Pompeii in VOYAGE TO ITALY), capturing her isolation and anguish. 
Of course these were not successful then, people may not have wanted to see them, and quite a lot didn’t get a chance to. We can see now of course that these Rossellini-Bergman films (EUROPA 51 too) paved the way for Antonioni and the others (as I remember Bergman telling us at the National Film Theatre back in the ‘70s). One keeps thinking of L’AVVENTURA while watching that barren island which Rossellini frames perfectly, as Karin finally finds redemption of sorts.
Monica Vitti in Antonioni's 'L'AVVENTURA, filmed in 1959, released 1960
THE INN OF THE 6TH HAPPINESS. This must have been one of Fox’s big hits in 1958. Ingrid was back in American movies, “forgiven” after her Rossellini years, and awarded an Oscar for ANASTASIA. This emotional drama ticks all the boxes and I defy anyone to remain dry-eyed when Ingrid as missionary Gladys Aylward leads the children to safety at the climax, after their journey over the mountains (Wales stands in for China) singing “This Old Man”, right to the very man who told her she was not suitable to be a missionary. Bergman is really wrong for the role – the real Aylward was called “The Small Woman” but her star power makes you believe her. It is all splendidly assembled by Mark Robson, with Ingrid as the London maid who wants to go to China, to help ageing missionary Athene Seyler, in the 1930s - Of course this was back when it was considered right for missionaries to go and convert those "heathens" ...
Robert Donat is affecting in his last performance as the Mandarin, and other involved are Richard Wattis and Burt Kwouk; affecting scenes include the unbinding of the women’s feet. Why though did they create a sort of love interest for Gladys with Curt Jurgens in odd make-up as the Eurasian captain who loves her? Simple stuff, then but how they must have lapped it up at the time – they did in Ireland anyway. 
Her 1958 INDISCREET was a popular hit too, by Donen and reunited with Cary Grant, in a very touristy London. More on Ingrid at label - we saw her in several plays, and at the National Film Theatre, where she was always very friendly. Dirk Bogarde wrote a fascinating chapter on her, when she was his house guest during the run of A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY, in his "Cleared For Taking Off" volume.

I really must watch her 1955 ELENA ET LES HOMMES which she did in France with Renoir, before returning to Hollywood; and of course her return to Sweden for AUTUMN SONATA with Ingmar Bergman, and her final role for tv as GOLDA Meir are both astonishing at Bergman label.

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