Monday, April 11, 2016

Watch This: Ingrid Bergman In an Oddball Wartime Educational Film: SWEDES IN AMERICA


We can understand why producer David O. Selznick, upon seeing Ingrid Bergman in a Swedish film, knew he had to bring her to America. Bergman wore little or no makeup, was modest and unaffected, but also bold and intelligent. She is one of the great movie stars, and one of the finest actresses of any era.

At the height of United States involvement in WWII, the United States Office Of War Information produced a number of propaganda films for mass dissemination of various messages. There's one that warns about leaks of sensitive information, one about the important work done by women in munitions plants, etc. There is also this one, hosted by Ingrid Bergman, all about Swedish Americans. We see them at work, with their industriousness and sense of cooperation a boon to their adopted country. We meet poet Carl Sandburg, surely a credit to America. It's hard to tell what the film's point is - other than "Swedish Americans are wonderful people" or perhaps, "Send more Swedes."

Frankly, it's odd, especially as there seems to be no similar film about, say, German-Americans or Japanese Americans. It's possible that Bergman, a major star at the time, made her services available and the project was tailored to her.

Whatever the reason, any project that gets Ingrid Bergman in front of a camera can be considered a worthwhile one. She glows. Her rapport with the viewer, even in such a forced and unusual context, is remarkable. We believe that she is deeply interested in the Swedish Museum Of Philadelphia or in the exertions of street sweepers in the frosty north.

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