August 29th is a day that practically belongs to the great Ingrid Bergman. She was born on this day in 1915, and also passed away on this day in 1982. Within her 67 years of life, she starred in a few of Hollywood’s most cherished films like Casablanca and Notorious. She also constantly turned in great performances and is still considered one of the screen’s greatest actresses. So on the occasion of her 101st birthday, I’m taking a look at Anastasia, one of her less discussed films that feature one of her three Oscar-winning performances.
Ten years have passed since Tsar Nicholas II and his family were presumably killed by Bolshevik revolutionaries, yet rumors have been swirling that his youngest daughter survived the execution. Since then, a group of White Russian exiles led by General Bounine (Yul Brynner) has been trying to pass different women off as the Grand Duchess Anastasia to get their hands on the £10 million inheritance that was left behind. One night, they come across a woman who has more than a passing resemblance to what most people probably believe Anastasia would look like. A refugee suffering from amnesia, Anna Koreff (Ingrid Bergman) agrees to play the part in an effort to discover who she is, whether or not she really hails from the Russian royal family. As Bounine grooms her before her meeting with the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Helen Hayes), her performance becomes so convincing that he believes she really could be Anastasia.
Ingrid Bergman was particularly known for excelling in dramatic performances in which her characters were put through harrowing emotional experiences. As Anna she really goes through the wringer, not knowing what to believe about her past and lost on where to go on from there. Bergman acutely expresses Anna’s psychological struggles and balances with the right amount of ambiguity to keep everyone guessing about her real identity.
Anastasia was Ingrid Bergman’s Hollywood comeback, after being effectively blacklisted in 1949 for her affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. After starring in Under Capricorn, her last movie with Alfred Hitchcock, she went off to Italy to film Stromboli for Rossellini. A scandal soon broke out after having a child with him out of wedlock, so she stayed in Italy and made five more films with the director into the mid-1950s. Though Anastasia was the first Hollywood movie Bergman made in seven years, the film was made entirely in Europe. Her first public appearance in Hollywood since the scandal came in 1959 at the Academy Awards, where she presented the Oscar for Best Picture. You can watch her warm welcome back to Hollywood here, in which she accepts her Best Actress Oscar win for Anastasia two years later.
One of the most critically-praised actresses of the screen, Ingrid Bergman received seven Oscar nominations throughout her film career and won three times. A popular star in the 1940s, four of her nominations stemmed from that decade, and she won her first Best Actress Oscar in the 1944 film Gaslight. She received more Oscar recognition towards the end of her career in the late 1970s, winning her third Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Murder on the Orient Express and earning one more Best Actress nomination for her penultimate film Autumn Sonata, in which she acted in her native Swedish language. Though there have been a handful of actors who’ve surpassed her Oscar nomination count, she’s one of the few to have won three Academy Awards, ranking among the likes of contemporary actors Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep and just behind her contemporary Katharine Hepburn.
While Anastasia isn’t one of Ingrid Bergman’s most memorable films, she still gives a compelling performance that really elevates an otherwise middling movie. But for anyone who’s a fan of the actress, this movie is well worth checking out if only to see her turn in another wonderful performance.
I wrote this entry as a part of The 2nd Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon, where bloggers are writing about the alluring actress and her films in honor of her birthday. Click the banner below to read more fantastic posts!