We continue our Ingrid Bergman Centennial with Andrew Kendall on For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)
It's difficult to speak of Ingrid Bergman without consider her place in Oscar history. She's one of the few people to win three acting Oscars. And, she's fourth (only to Kate, Meryl and Bette) when it comes to Oscar's Actress Hierarchy. For modern fans, then, the celebrity of that first nomination is a curio regardless of its quality. When did Oscar first bite? For Ingrid it came four years (and five films) after her Hollywood debut. Not for that year's best picture winner Casablanca, but for the adaptation of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Casablanca, and Ingrid's "Ilsa," have endured as such integral parts of film culture that her work in For Whom the Bell Tolls immediately faces the scrunity of living up to it. Why the vote for this over her work there?
But, it’s essential to remember that films and awards as creatures of their time. At the time of its production Casablanca was merely a minor World War II drama and literary adaptations were all the rage (from 1937 through 1942 every Best Picture winner was an adaptation of a recently pubished text). The adaptation of the literary triumph of 1940 was the bigger ticket. Ingrid was desperate for the role and Hemingway also loved the idea. In a 1971 interview Bergman revealed that Hemingway, a writer typically averse to being too involved in adaptations of his work, lobbied significantly for Bergman to get the role even reportedly sending her a copy of the novel with the inscription