Rage in Heaven 1941 A psychological thriller based on the novel by James Hilton. Directed by W.S. Van Dyke II. “Heaven hath no rage like love to hatred turned.” (William Congreve’s The Mourning Bride.) Incarcerated for attempting suicide, Philip Monrell (George Montgomery) escapes from an asylum at which he’s used the name of college roommate Ward Andrews. We then see him well-dressed, affably greeting that selfsame Andrews (George Sanders) at a club bar. He invites Ward for the weekend to a family mansion inhabited by his mother (Lucile Watson) and her new secretary/companion Stella (Ingrid Bergman).
Both men are immediately taken with the vivacious young woman, though -see below – Philip is less expressive. Ward courts her in the little time he has, but the minute he leaves, Philip steps in and offhandedly proposes. Stella immediately says yes. Mrs. Monrell goes abroad. Philip keeps jealously bringing up Ward. Stella’s assurances and objections are to no avail. Her husband then weaves a web to expose, entangle and finally incriminate the man he imagines to be his rival as she grows increasingly afraid. Psycho-pathic tendencies are too obvious, Stella too tolerant, but Bergman is good.
“MGM forced Montgomery to make this pic under threat of suspending him and cutting his studio salary…. Montgomery wanted time off the seven-year contract for a vacation. To get even with the studio Montgomery decided to just read his lines in a deadpan manner and not act.” (Film critic Dennis Schwartz.) Rent on Amazon Prime.
Casablanca 1942 Directed by Michael Curtiz. If you haven’t seen this one you can’t rightfully call yourself a film fan. 1941. Rick’s Café Américain, owned by cynical expatriate, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), boasts a cross section clientele of Germans, French, and refugees. Local law officer, Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains), keeps a suspicious, but respectful eye on the club.
When Rick’s former great love Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband, fugitive Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) show up looking for life-saving letters of transit, Rick discovers what parted them years ago and has to choose between his own long awaited freedom and hers.
Peter Lorre plays petty criminal Signor Ugarte, Sydney Greenstreet is Signor Ferrari, Conrad Veidt is Major Heinrich Strasser. A large proportion of other European exiles and refugees were extras or played minor roles. A witness to the filming of the “duel of the anthems” sequence said he saw many of the actors cry. Iconic lines.
The screenplay is based on Everybody Comes to Rick’s an unproduced stage play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. Bergman was two inches taller than Bogart and claimed Curtiz had the actor stand on blocks or sit on cushions in their scenes together. Henreid thought Bogart a second rate actor. The film’s final scene used a cardboard plane. A solid if unspectacular success in its initial run, it then went on to win Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Gaslight 1944 A successful psychological thriller adapted from the play Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton. Directed by George Cukor. When she was 14, opera singer Paula Alquist Anton (Ingrid Bergman) witnessed the robbery/murder of her aunt leaving traumatic insecurity. Her new husband, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), insists they take up residence in the long-abandoned house where the murder took place. To stave off memories, her aunt’s belongings are moved to the attic.
A brooch goes missing, then a painting. Paula hears footsteps in the house and observes gaslights dim. Gregory tells her it’s all in her mind. He accuses her of becoming a kleptomaniac. Paula also doesn’t trust the maid Nancy (Angela Lansbury) to whom she might otherwise turn. There are public scenes. Her husband is irrationally jealous, accusatory, and eventually calls her mad in hopes of securing power of attorney. Also featuring Joseph Cotton as Brian Cameron of Scotland Yard.
The 1944 version was a remake after the 1940 British version. Eighteen year-old Angela Lansbury made an Oscar-nominated screen debut (Supporting Actress), while Ingrid Bergman won Best Actress. The psychological term “gaslighting” describes psychological abuse in which the victim is manipulated into doubting his or her own sanity. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Anastasia 1956 Adapted from a 1952 play by Guy Bolton and Marcelle Maurette which was inspired by the most famous Anastasia imposter, Anna Anderson. Directed by Anatole Litvak. Paris between the wars. Ex-White Russian General Bounine (Yul Bryner), now the proprietor of a successful Russian-themed nightclub, schemes to represent Anna (Ingrid Bergman), an amnesiac woman he finds on the streets, as Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia in order to secure money and power. Rumors have long suggested that as a child, Anastasia might’ve escaped the execution of her entire family in 1918.
Anna is a quick study in comportment and history, seeming to know things she shouldn’t as an imposter. She begins to wonder whether she might, in fact, be Anastasia, but not quite enough to feel guiltless when finally tested by Dowager Empress Marie Fedorovna (Helen Hayes). Bounine, who swears he has no personal interest in her is nonetheless irked by the attentions of gold-digger Prince Paul (Ivan Desny). Is she or isn’t she? An entertaining and sympathetic film.
The film marked Bergman’s return to working for a Hollywood studio after several years of acting in Italy for husband Roberto Rossellini. (He divorced to be with her causing a scandal.) It was also a comeback for Helen Hayes. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Indiscreet 1958 Based on the romantic comedy (play) Kind Sir by Norman Krasna. Directed by Stanley Donen. Sophisticated and charming. London based theater star Anna Kalman (Ingrid Bergman) is successful, but lonely. Her sister Margaret (Phyllis Calvert) and brother-in-law Alfred Munson (Cecil Parker) introduce her to handsome economist Philip Adams (Cary Grant). Anna is extremely taken and invites him out. Philip politely tells her he’s married and though separated can never get a divorce. It seems to make no difference to Anna. They start to see one another. Romance blossoms.
As Philip is being temporarily transferred to New York, the couple must part. Aware of Anna’s feelings, Alfred tells Philip he’s aware that his associate is a bachelor and questions the deception. Philip declares his as yet unrevealed love for Anna. Before he can tell her, however, she discovers the lie and takes revenge. Everything comes out right in the end of course.
This is the second film Grant and Bergman made together after Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (not available to stream). Donen agreed to direct “but only with Cary.” Grant agreed but only if his co-star was Bergman. Bergman agreed only if the film was shot in England. Donen and Grant formed a company together, Grandon Productions, to make the Indiscreet. Rent on Amazon Prime.
A Walk in the Spring Rain 1970 A tender romantic drama based on the novel by Rachel Maddux. Directed by Guy Green. Libby Maddox (Ingrid Bergman) and her obtuse/self-involved law professor husband Roger (Fritz Weaver) move from New York to the (inexpensive) backwoods of Tennessee so that Roger can finish writing a book. Neighbor, Will Cade (Anthony Quinn), is extremely helpful in setting up and maintaining the house. Though Libby flails and is all but ignored by Roger, Will’s growing friendship helps her adjust. Neither a learned, nor a cultured man he’s sensitive, insightful, and appreciates her as a woman.
They tenuously start an affair. Will’s hot-headed son Bucky (Mitchell Silberman) discovers this and assaults Libby. His father breaks it up leaving tragedy in the wake. Not a film that ends happily, it’s credible and boasts nuanced acting. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Autumn Sonata 1978 Written and Directed by Ingrid Bergman. Subtitled. The last film with Ingrid Bergman and the last by Ingmar Bergman, who did only television after. An emotionally fraught mother/daughter relationship. “Autumn Sonata emerged from one of the darkest spells in Ingmar Bergman’s life.” (Peter Cowie in the introduction to The Criterion DVD Collection.) Free on HBO Max.
For Whom the Bell Tolls available on Amazon Prime.
Top photo: Bigstock