Best Actress Bracket Game: Vivien Leigh Vs. Ingrid Bergman
The Academy Awards are just under two weeks away as we move into the second round of our Best Actress Bracket Game. Most of the contestants who advanced to the second round are multiple winners. So for those who have them, the write-ups this time around will focus on second wins. Both of today’s competitors are two-time winners in the Best Actress category.
But before we get into round two, let’s see who was the final addition to our elite eight.
Two-time Best Actress winner Hilary Swank beat out Halle Berry whose historic win for Monster’s Ball makes her to date the only actress of color to win the Oscar in the lead actress category. That means Swank will face off with Jodie Foster to try to make it into the final four.
Today, we’re going to cover two comebacks. Following Gone With the Wind, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier divorced their respective spouses and married each other. This didn’t sit well with some members of the Hollywood establishment. Legendary mogul David O. Selznick who had cast Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara thwarted several attempts she made to work with her new husband. Selzncik kept the Oliviers apart in movies like Rebecca, Pride and Prejudice and Waterloo Bridge.
If the couple wanted to work together, it would have to be on the stage. And so that’s just what they did. They mounted a production of Romeo and Juliet in which they costarred as the star-crossed lovers. In 1941, the Oliviers appeared on screen together in That Hamilton Woman. But most of their collaborations occurred on stage. In 1949, Olivier directed his wife in the London production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.
When it came time to adapt Streetcar for the silver screen, there was no doubt about who to cast as Stanley. Marlon Brando had been a sensation when he originated the role on Broadway. Director Elia Kazan intended to keep the original Broadway actors together by casting Jessica Tandy as Blanche. He was said to be unhappy with some of the direction Olivier had given his wife for the London production of the play.
Kazan was initially unimpressed with Leigh calling her a “small talent”, but over the course of making the movie, the director was won over by his leading lady. He admired her dedication to the role and said “she’d have crawled over broken glass if she thought it would help her performance.”
That commitment earned Leigh her second Best Actress statue. She hadn’t even been nominated in the twelve years since Gone With the Wind and her film career, while still active, had taken a back seat to the theater. Sadly, Leigh struggled with bipolar disorder for much of her life. Following her second Oscar win, her mental health continued to deteriorate. The actress later claimed that her time playing Blanche on stage and screen “tipped me over into madness”.
Ingrid Bergman’s Hollywood career continued to thrive following her first Oscar win for Gaslight in 1944. She was nominated two more times in 1945 and 1948. But in 1949, the actress contacted Italian director Roberto Rossellini and all hell broke loose. They decided to make a movie together which lead to an affair. While filming Stromboli, Bergman became pregnant with Rossellini’s son. This resulted in a scandal that reached the floor of the US Senate.
Senator Edwin C. Johnson of Colorado called for Stromboli to be banned in America. He denounced Bergman on the Senate floor as ”a powerful influence for evil.” Audiences who saw Bergman as the nun she played in The Bells of St. Mary’s or as Joan of Arc couldn’t reconcile her saintly screen persona with the image of a woman who had a child out of wedlock.
Bergman and Rossellini divorced their spouses and married each other. From Europe, Bergman waged a bitter and public custody battle with her ex-husband over their daughter. Bergman remained a Hollywood exile for much of the 1950’s. In 1956, she made her triumphant return to Hollywood in Anastasia.
The movie’s story played into Bergman’s comeback narrative. Anastasia is lost royalty returned to reclaim her rightful title. When the actress returned to Hollywood (and left her Italian husband), American audiences were willing to welcome her back as their lost princess. Bergman was working in Paris at the time of the awards, so her friend and former costar Cary Grant accepted the prize on her behalf.
In accepting the award, Grant sent Bergman a message “Dear Ingrid, if you can hear me or see this, I want you to know we all send you our love and admiration. Bergman listed to the ceremony while soaking in a Parisian bathtub and sobbing into her champagne.