September 19, 2015

Ingrid Bergman, The Bells of St. Mary's

Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actress | Golden Globe - Best Actress
Fresh off her Best Actress win, Ingrid Bergman came roaring back in a big way in 1945. With The Bells of St. Mary's being the highest grossing flick of the year, not to mention Spellbound and Saratoga Trunk being the second and seventh highest grossing flicks of the year, her star power was, without a doubt, at supernova levels. Today Mildred Pierce has carried on a more reputable legacy, but Bergman came pretty close to having her own Luise Rainer/Spencer Tracy moment, having picked up Best Actress prizes at the still infantile Golden Globes and the NYFCC. I for one am glad they didn't reward Bergman; not because of the content to which I am averse; rather, in my opinion it's just not a very "winning" role.
Much of this performance (and by much I mean a good 80% at least) is too passive to really catch anyone's attention. I found this to be really peculiar, considering that her character is supposed to be the Sister Superior, and yet instead she is questionably timid and sensitive--she's not stubborn enough as the film synopses suggest her to be, I didn't really buy that she were the type to be heading a school, and she's not so much a foil to Bing Crosby as she is an agreeable companion. In any case, I couldn't pull any highlights from essentially three fourths of her overall performance here, because there's really nothing there to note (I will say that she's got this good-natured warmness down pat). What salvages this performance--and just about all other reviews I've read reiterate this--are her last few scenes, which are a complete 180 from anything else in the film. This is where Bergman's strengths are really utilized; she is heartbreaking and tragic, able to summon deep emotion with the utmost ease. Her acting here is really next-level, and it almost seems out of place with its marked realism that has the power to puncture. It's a shame then that Bergman is a wasted resource for so much of the film, only truly showing her potential as the film nears its end that feels as though it really should have come sooner. This is a lopsided performance that I'm glad didn't end up winning, because there's just not enough here to warrant any sort of victory. However, as lopsided as it may be, it's one that is really elevated due to Bergman's actressing prowess; I'm confident that few others could have really packed a punch in the end as Bergman did. Overall, a performance that is good for what it is.


  1. It's been since early teenhood that I sat through the entirety of this one, and I'm not anxious to get back to it. Not just because of Crosby, but it's unctuous religiosity. Some films, I'm sure, make you gladder than others that you took on investigating all the leading acting nominations of the Oscars, but this one helps explain why your enthusiasm about the 40s is measured.

    Give me Hitchcock's flawed party girl, who likes her booze, likes her Cary Grant, but is willing to marry Claude Rains to take on the penance owed by her dead Nazi father, with a side dish of one of the most malignant mother figures in any Hitchcock film.

  2. Easily a 4.
    Her last scenes are THAT memorable.