Hollywood Celebrity Scandals Ingrid Bergman & Roberto Rosselini Part 1

About the Hollywood celebrity scandal of 1950 involving the love affair between Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rosselini.


The Bergman-Rossellini Affair--1950

On Mar. 14, 1950, Sen. Edwin C. Johnson of Colorado took to the floor of the U.S. Senate and delivered an extraordinary and impassioned harangue. Extraordinary, for in this instance the good senator wasn't rallying against the red peril or his political rivals, but against a movie actress. The actress was Ingrid Bergman, and during Johnson's blistering tirade she was labeled a "free-love cultist" and a "powerful influence for evil."

The unusual episode was typical of heated public reaction in 1950. For Ingrid Bergman, Hollywood's favorite embodiment of saintliness and virtue, had given birth on Feb. 2 to Renato Roberto Gisuto Giuseppe Rossellini. Little "Robertino" had been conceived, not in sunny Hollywood, but in far-off Italy, and the child's illustrious father wasn't Ingrid's husband, Dr. Peter Lindstrom, but Italian film director Roberto Rossellini.

Senator Johnson wasn't alone in his righteous wrath. Hell hath no fury like a public scorned, and Bergman and her lover Rossellini had quite literally managed to inflame their public with a passion. Sermons rang from pulpits, women's clubs sniffed through their blue noses, and pickets paraded around theaters showing Bergman films. Producers--already hurt by the infant television industry--cringed, and Hollywood moralists, led by gossip columnist Louella Parsons, raved in indignation at the adulterous activities of the virginal star of Joan of Arc and The Bells of St. Mary's.

When idols fall, they land with a crash. The noise was still reverberating a week later when Bergman secured a quick Mexican divorce from Lindstrom and married Rossellini by proxy in Juarez. Mexico.

The whole brouhaha had begun quietly enough with a letter.

Bergman, who had come to the U.S. from Sweden in 1939 to refilm her Swedish success Intermezzo for David O. Selznick, had allowed herself to be talked into a long-term contract. Unhappy with her subsequent film roles and with no challenging roles in her immediate future, she had let her contract lapse and had begun looking around for opportunities elsewhere. Some of her friends had introduced her to the films of Italian neo-realist Roberto Rossellini, and after seeing his Open City in 1948, she wrote Rossellini, modestly offering him the use of her talents.

The brilliant but little-known Rossellini was delighted and cabled back enthusiastically: "I have just received with great emotion your letter.... It is absolutely true that I dreamed of making a film with you and from this very moment I will do everything to see that such a dream becomes a reality as soon as possible."

Rossellini's "dream" may have included more than merely making a film. The 43-year-old director had developed a reputation as a playboy and, although married, was keeping several mistresses.

Elated, Bergman arranged to meet with Rossellini in Paris in 1949 while she was filming Hitchcock's Under Capricorn in England. Her husband, acting as her manager, also flew in from the States to offer his advice.

The meeting went well, and Rossellini, visiting the U.S. later that year, spent some time as the Lindstroms' houseguest. He and Ingrid began discussing plans for a motion picture together.

The Bergman-Rossellini romance apparently began during this period. Bergman would later write to Lindstrom from Rome, where she had gone to film Stromboli for Rossellini: "You saw in Hollywood how my enthusiasm for Roberto grew and grew, and you know how much alike we are, with the same desire for the same kind of work and the same understanding of life."

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