Famed for her saintly, natural beauty, Ingrid Bergman was the most popular actress of the 1940s; admired equally by audiences and critics, she enjoyed blockbuster after blockbuster -- until an unprecedented scandal threatened to destroy her career. Born August 29, 1915, in Stockholm, Sweden, Bergman was only two years old when her mother died; her father passed on a decade later, and the spinster aunt who had become her guardian perished only a few months after that. Her inheritance allowed her to study at Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theatre, and in 1934 she made her screen debut after signing to Svenskfilmindustri with a small role in Munkbrovregen. Bergman's first lead performance followed a year later in Brunninger, and with the success of the 1936 melodrama Valborgsmassoafen, she rose to become one of Sweden's biggest stars. Later that year, she starred in the romance Intermezzo, which eventually made its way to New York where it came to the attention of producer David O. Selznick. After signing a Hollywood contract, she relocated to America where her first film, 1939's Intermezzo: A Love Story, was an English-language remake of her earlier success.
Bergman's fresh-scrubbed Nordic beauty set her squarely apart from the stereotypical movie starlet, and quickly both Hollywood executives and audiences became enchanted with her. After briefly returning to Sweden to appear in 1940's Juninatten, Selznick demanded she return to the U.S., but without any projects immediately available he pointed her to Broadway to star in Liliom. Bergman was next loaned to MGM for 1941's Adam Had Four Sons, followed by Rage in Heaven. She then appeared against type as a coquettish bad girl in the latest screen adaptation Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. However, it was 1942's Casablanca which launched her to superstardom; cast opposite Humphrey Bogart after a series of other actresses rejected the picture, she was positively radiant, her chemistry with Bogart the stuff of pure magic. Now a major box-office draw, she won the coveted lead in 1943's For Whom the Bell Tolls with the blessing of the novel's author, Ernest Hemingway; when her performance earned an Academy Award nomination, every studio in town wanted to secure her talents.