(born Aug. 29, 1915, Stockholm, Sweden—died Aug. 29, 1982, London, Eng.) one of the most popular motion-picture actresses in the United States from the 1940s until her death and an international star in Swedish, French, German, Italian, and British films. Her natural charm, freshness, intelligence, and vitality made her the image of sincerity and ideal womanhood.
Despite shyness and the resistance of her family, Bergman worked assiduously for admission to the Royal Dramatic Theatre School in Stockholm, where she studied for a year. Her screen debut in Munkbrogreven (1935; The Count of the Monk’s Bridge), was followed by challenging roles in such Swedish films as the original Intermezzo (1936) and En kvinnas ansikte (1938; A Woman’s Face). Taken to the United States to star in the Hollywood version of Intermezzo (1939; released in Great Britain as Escape to Happiness), Bergman achieved tremendous popularity through a series of critical and commercial successes that included Casablanca (1942); For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943); Gaslight (1944), for which she won the Academy Award for best actress; Saratoga Trunk (1945); The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945); and two thrillers directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Spellbound (1945) and Notorious (1946).
Bergman’s love affair with the Italian director Roberto Rossellini, during the filming of Stromboli (1950), led her first husband to divorce her. The scandal forced her to return to Europe, where she appeared in Italian and French films, such as Europa ’51 (1952; The Greatest Love, 1954) and Un viaggio in Italia (1954; Journey to Italy, 1955). After her marriage to Rossellini in 1950 ended in divorce, she made a triumphant Hollywood comeback in Anastasia (1956), for which she won her second Academy Award. She continued to appear in Hollywood productions, including The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), as well as in European films. She won her third Oscar, for best supporting actress, for her role in the highly successful film Murder on the Orient Express (1974), but most agree that her greatest performance in her later years was as a concert pianist in the Swedish film Autumn Sonata (1978), directed by Ingmar Bergman. Her last role was that of Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, in the television play A Woman Called Golda (1981). For this role she was posthumously awarded an Emmy Award in 1982.
On the stage from 1940, when she starred in Liliom, Bergman appeared in critically acclaimed plays such as Hedda Gabler (Paris, 1962), A Month in the Country (Great Britain, 1965), Captain Brassbound’s Conversion (London, 1971), and The Constant Wife (New York, 1975). She also starred in the television plays The Turn of the Screw (1959) and Hedda Gabler (1963).