Mantaray Film’s recently released documentary Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words reveals the legendary actress through her own movies, letters and diaries, including footage that Bergman shot herself. The film premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and is now being screened at select locations in the United States.
The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern claims that “nothing in Stig Björkman’s invaluable documentary can match the serene, silent images of Bergman’s first Hollywood screen test. There she is, in ravishing Technicolor with no makeup—the slate reads ‘No Makeup’—looking up, looking down, turning her head this way and that.”
The referenced screen test is held in the Ransom Center’s David O. Selznick collection. Selznick was responsible for bringing the Swedish actress to Hollywood. In addition to two screen tests of her, the collection of film producer Selznick includes his memos discussing the importance of close-ups of Bergman in the movie Intermezzo as well as the financial returns that a good close-up can bring.
In a July 11, 1939, memo, Selznick writes, “As I have said so often, I think the success of ‘Intermezzo’ is to an unusual extent dependent upon how beautifully we can photograph Miss Bergman. Every beautiful shot of her is a great deal of money added to the returns on the picture and I urge Mr. Kern and Mr. Ratoff [to] start to work on a list of where re-take close-ups might be made.”
For the filmmakers of the documentary, the archive provided documentation of the beginning of Bergman’s Hollywood career.
“The David O Selznick collection at the Harry Ransom Center has been a useful source for the making of the Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words documentary,” said Mantaray Film’s Head of Archive and Production Coordinator Frida Neema Järnbert. “The screen test from when Ingrid first came to Hollywood is one of the more observed scenes in the film.”
“Personally I believe that the audio test from 1939 where Ingrid Bergman acts out a scene from Intermezzo together with Alan Marshall, reveals the actress’s yet untrained English. Marshall makes a quiet comment to the camera at the end, and you sense that she is yet at the very beginning of her career.”
The Selznick holdings at the Ransom Center also include correspondence with Bergman and promotional materials that tout the contract star.