Ingrid Bergman Received Hate Mail From Fans After Revealing This Secret
"I didn't think it would upset the whole world, but it did," the star later said.
These days, if a member of the public has an issue with a celebrity, they might vent their anger on social media. In the mid-20th century, making your distaste known was a little more complicated. When a scandal emerged about Casablanca star Ingrid Bergman in 1950, she received countless pieces of hateful and insulting mail from former fans expressing their disappointment. Not only that—the Swedish actor was also condemned in the U.S. Senate. Read on to find out about the scandalous thing Bergman did that—at the time—was too much for movie audiences to handle.
Bergman was already very famous prior to the scandal.
By 1950, Bergman was a very well known, very successful actor. She had received her first four Academy Award nominations for For Whom the Bells Tolls, The Bells of St. Mary's, Joan of Arc, and Gaslight, winning the award for Best Actress for the latter. (Three more Oscar nominations and two more wins came in later years.) She had also already starred in Casablanca and in three Alfred Hitchcock films, including Notorious.
It began on the set of the 1950 film Stromboli.
Bergman made Stromboli with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. At the time, the actor was married to her first husband, Petter Lindström, with whom she had a daughter, Pia Lindström. Rossellini was married to Marcella De Marchis, and they had two sons, Marco and Renzo Rossellini. Though they both had partners, the actor and director began an affair.
Not only that, but Bergman became pregnant by Rossellini. They welcomed their son, also named Roberto Rossellini, in February 1950 around the time that Stromboli was released.
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The affair came led to major backlash.
The fact that not only did Bergman was not only unfaithful to her husband but also became pregnant out of wedlock during the affair caused a major uproar in America, in particular. Bergman received an influx of hate mail from angry fans. In January 2022, 47 telegrams sent to Bergman in the wake of the affair becoming public were obtained by The Wrap.
"You are just a common adulteress, worse than a streetwalker," reads one. "I hope that you will never darken our fair shores again as we have enough immorality without adding to it by your presence."
Another says, "You are a dirty prostitute, you deserted your 12-year-old daughter and your husband, you have disgraced yourself and both of them."
Some of the messages even wished death on Bergman.
An American senator denounced her.
The scandal made its way into the U.S. government. As reported by The Daily Beast, Senator Edwin C. Johnson spoke out against Bergman in Congress and brought forth a bill that would require movies to have licenses to be shown based on the morality of the stars and filmmakers who made them. Johnson said that Bergman had "had perpetrated an assault upon the institution of marriage" and called her "a powerful influence for evil."
According to The Wrap, Stromboli was boycotted, and Bergman wasn't allowed to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show to promote it. The star kept her distance from Hollywood for several years following the scandal but continued to make films with Rossellini and in Europe where their situation wasn't considered quite as scandalous.
She called the ordeal "absolute hell."
Bergman and Rossellini were married for seven years until their divorce in 1957. They welcomed three children together—in addition to Roberto, they had twins Isotta and Isabella Rossellini.
Bergman later spoke out about the firestorm, calling it "absolute hell," according to her 1982 obituary in The Washington Post.
"I didn't think it would upset the whole world, but it did," she said. "I cried so much I thought there wouldn't be any tears left … I felt the newspapers were right. I was an awful woman, but I had not meant it that way. It was because so many people, who knew me only on the screen, thought I was perfect and infallible and then were angry and disappointed that I wasn't." Referencing her role in The Bells of St. Mary's, she added, "A nun does not fall in love with an Italian."