Ingrid Bergman

I just read in the Stabroek News that the 68th Cannes Film Festival unveiled its official poster featuring legendary actress Ingrid Bergman in a tribute to what would have been her 100th birthday this year.  I think that’s wonderful.  She was an actress I truly admired and appreciated.  She had gentle beauty and an air of quiet refinement.  She was very classy.  I remember her in films like Casablanca, Gaslight, Anastasia and For Whom the Bells Toll.  She acted with some of Hollywood’s A list male stars–Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper.  It would have been interesting to see her star opposite Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Burt Lancaster.

Acting was something Ingrid always knew she wanted to become.  Her father, a Swedish artist and photographer wanted her to become an opera star and had her take voice lessons for three years.  She wore her mother’s clothes and staged plays in her father’s empty studio.  He documented all of her birthdays with a borrowed camera.  He died when she was thirteen.  Her German mother had died when she was two years old.

After her father’s death, Ingrid was sent to live with an aunt who died just six months later from a heart disease.  She moved in with another aunt and uncle who had five children.  Her aunt Elsa was the first one who told Ingrid when she was 11 years old that her mother may have “some Jewish blood”, and that her father was aware of this long before they got married.  Her aunt cautioned her about telling others about her possible ancestry as “there might be some difficult times coming.”  This reminds me of Queen Esther who was intially cautioned by her uncle not to let anyone know that she was a Jew.

In 1932 when she was 17, Ingrid had only one opportunity to become an actress by entering an acting competition with the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.  For Ingrid it was a terrible moment.  She recalled:  As I walked off the stage, I was in mourning.  I was at a funeral.  My own.  It was the death of my creative self.  My heart had truly broken…they didn’t think I was even worth listening to, or watching.”

This couldn’t have be further from the truth as she soon learned after meeting one of the judges who told her, “We loved your security and your impertinance.  We loved you and told each other that there was no reason to waste time as there were dozens of other entrants still to come.  We didn’t need to waste any time with you.  We knew you were a natural and great.  Your future as an actress was settled.”  What a thrill and relief that must have been for the aspiring actress.  She received a scholarship to the state-sponsored Royal Dramatic Theatre School where Greta Garbo had earned a similar scholarship just years earlier.

Ingrid’s dream was now a reality.  She was given a part in a new play and over the summer break, she was hired by a Swedish film studio which led to her departure from the Royal Dramatic Theatre a year later to work full-time in films.  She starred in a dozen films in Sweden, including En kvinnas ansikte which was later remade as A Woman’s Face, starring Joan Crawford.  Ingrid made one film in Germany in 1938.

Then it was off to Hollywood…Thanks to David O. Selznick, she starred in Intermezzo:  A Love Story, her first acting role in the United States.  It was a remake of her 1935 Swedish film, Intermezzo.  Ingrid didn’t plan to stay in Hollywood.  She thought she would complete this film and return home to Sweden to be with her husband, Dr. Peter Lindstrom and their daughter, Pia.

Selznick had concerns about Ingrid.  “She didn’t speak English, she was too tall, her name sounded too German, and her eyebrows were too thick.”  However, Ingrid was accepted without having to modify her looks.  Selznick let her have her way because he understood her fear of Hollywood makeup artists who might turn her into someone she wouldn’t recognize.  He told them to back off.  Besides, he believe that her natural good looks would compete successfully with Hollywood’s “synthetic razzle-dazzle.”

Selznick, who was filming Gone With the Wind at the same time, shared his early impressions of Ingrid in a letter to William Hebert, his publicity director :

Miss Bergman is the most completely conscientious actress with whom I have ever worked, in that she thinks of absolutely nothing but her work before and during the time she is doing a picture … She practically never leaves the studio, and even suggested that her dressing room be equipped so that she could live here during the picture. She never for a minute suggests quitting at six o’clock or anything of the kind … Because of having four stars acting in Gone with the Wind, our star dressing-room suites were all occupied and we had to assign her a smaller suite. She went into ecstasies over it and said she had never had such a suite in her life … All of this is completely unaffected and completely unique and I should think would make a grand angle of approach to her publicity … so that her natural sweetness and consideration and conscientiousness become something of a legend … and is completely in keeping with the fresh and pure personality and appearance which caused me to sign her.

Not surprisingly, Intermezzo was a huge success and resulted in Ingrid becoming a star.  She left quite an impression on Hollywood.  And Selznick’s appreciation of her uniqueness made he and his wife Irene remain important friends to Ingrid throughout her career.

Before making Casablanca, Ingrid made one last film in Sweden and appearing in three moderately successful films, Adam Had Four Sons, Rage in Heaven and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  According to her biographer, she felt guilty that she had misjudged the situation in Germany.  She had dismissed the Nazis as a “temporary aberration, ‘too foolish to be taken seriously.’ She didn’t believe that Germany start a war because the good people of the country would not allow it.  Sadly, she was wrong.  She felt guilty for the rest of her life and when she was in Germany at the end of the war, she had been afraid to go with the others to witness the atrocitites of the Nazi extermination camps.

In 1942, she starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, a movie famous for its wonderul lines and the famous song, “As Time Goes By”.  I was surprised to read that Ingrid did not consider it to be one of her favorite performances.  She said, “I made so many films which were more important, but the only one people ever want to talk about is that one with Bogart.”  I thought she and Bogart were great together.

I think I only saw For Whom the Bell Tolls once but really liked it.  My sister and I liked how she looked with her short, blond, curly hair and a “sun-kissed complexion”.  I read that Ernest Hemmingway wanted her to play the part of Maria.  When he met her, after studying her, he exclaimed, “You are Maria!”  When Ernest told Ingrid that she would have to cut her hair to play the part, she was quick to respond, “To get that part, I’d cut my head off!”

For Whom the Bell Tolls, was the film that saved the song, “As Time Goes By” from being removed from Casablanca.  Warner Brothers wanted to substitute the song and planned to re-shoot some scenes with Ingrid but thanks to her hair-cut, they had to drop the idea as there would be a problem with continuity even if she wore a wig.

A year later, Ingrid won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Gaslight.  It was a gripping and suspenseful movie of a wife being driven to madness by her husband, masterfully played by Charles Boyer.  She next starred as a nun in The Bells of St. Mary opposite Bing Cosby, garnering her third consecutive nomination for Best Actress.   She came in a succession of Alfred Hitchock movies, Spellbound, Notorious and Under Capricorn (I never heard of this one).

During her marriage to Lindstrom, Ingrid had a brief affair with Gregory Peck.  This affair was kept private until five years after Ingrid’s death, when Gregory revealed in an interview with Brad Darrach of People, “All I can say is that I had a real love for her (Bergman), and I think that’s where I ought to stop…. I was young. She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work.”

Unlike her affair with Gregory Peck, the one with the Italian film director, Roberto Rossellini was a very public one.   Although Ingrid received another Best Actress nomination for Joan of Arc in 1948, the film was not a hit, partly because news of her affair with Rossellini broke while the movie was still in theatres.  It was her admiration for Rossellini which had led Ingrid to write him a letter, expressing her admiration and suggesting that she make a film with him.  She was cast in his film, Stromboli and during production, she fell in love with him and they began an affair.  She became pregnant with their son, Bergman became pregnant with their son, Renato Roberto Ranaldo Giusto Giuseppe (“Robin”) Rossellini and this affair caused a huge scandal in the United States.  She was denounced on the floor of the United States senate and Ed Sullivan chose not to have her appear on his show despite a poll showing that the public wanted her there.  However, Steve Allen had her on his equally popular show, noting, “the danger of trying to judge artistic activity through the prism of one’s personal life.” 

The scandal drove Ingrid back to Italy, leaving her husband and daughter.  She went through a very public divorce and custody battle for their daughter.  She and Lindstrom divorced a week after her son was born and she married Rossellini in Mexico.  In 1952, Ingrid gave birth to twin daughters Isotta Ingrid Rossellini and Isabella Rossellini.  Five years later she divorced their father and the following year she married Lars Schmidt, a theatrical entrepreneur from a wealthy Swedish shipping family.  That marriage lasted until 1975 when they divorced.

In 1956, Ingrid starred in the movie, Anatasia. It was her return to the American screen and her second Academy Award for Best Actress which her best friend Cary Grant accepted for her.  She made her first appearance in Hollywood since the scandal when she was the presenter of the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 1956 Academy Awards.  She received a standing ovation after being introduced by Cary Grant.  In 1969, she starred opposite Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn in the hilarious and delightful movie, Cactus Flower.  It was nice seeing Ingrid take a turn in a light romantic comedy.

In 1972, US Senator Charles H. Percy entered an apology in to the Congressional Record for Edwin C. Johnson’s attack on Ingrid 22 years ago.  In 1974 she won her third Oscar for Murder on the Orient Express, earning her the distinction of being one of the few actresses ever to receive three Oscars.  Her final role was as Golda Meir in A Woman Called Golda.   She was offered the part because, “People believe you and trust you, and this is what I want, because Golda Meir had the trust of the people.”  This interested Ingrid and the role was greatly significant for her because she still carried the guilt of misjudging the situation in Germany during World War II.  Ingrid was frequently ill during the film although she hardly showed it or complained.  She was a real trooper.  Four months after the film was completed, on her 67th birthday in London, Ingrid died of breast cancer.  Her daughter, Pia accepted her Emmy.

Ingrid was a  woman of grace, natural beauty who brought realism and dignity to her roles.  She was a star with no temperament, making her a delight to work with, unpretentious, unique, hard-working, “a great star” who “always strove to be a ‘true’ woman.”  She was not a saint but a woman with real emotions.   She was not afraid to speak out against racism.  During a press conference in Washington, D.C. where she was promoting, Joan of Lorraine, she protested against the racial segregation she witnessed firsthand at the theatre where she was performing.  This drew a lot of publicity and some hate mail.  In a news column in the Herald-Journal, she is reported as saying, “I deplore racial discrimination in any form.  To think it would be permitted in the nation’s capital of all places!  I really had not known that there were places in the United States–entertainment places which are for all the people–where everybody could not go.”

Notes to Women salute this remarkable woman and actress who won our hearts and deepest admiration with her grace and courage.  We celebrate one of the greatest leading ladies that ever graced the silver screen.  She once said, “I am an actress and I am interested in acting, not in making money.”  Dear Ingrid, we are so very thankful that you chose acting over opera.

I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say.

I can do everything with ease on the stage, whereas in real life I feel too big and clumsy. So I didn’t choose acting. It chose me.

I don’t think anyone has the right to intrude in your life, but they do. I would like people to separate the actress and the woman.

Time is shortening. But every day that I challenge this cancer and survive is a victory for me.

If you took acting away from me, I’d stop breathing.

ingrid-bergman

Sources:  Stabroek News ; Wikipedia; IMDB; Brainy Quotes; Herald-Journal

The Cruel Cut

Photo:  The Guardian

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

When I read the article in The Daily Mail on Female genital mutilation, I was incensed.  I couldn’t believe the reasons behind this barbaric practice.

  • In some cultures, it is seen as a right of passage into womanhood and a condition of marriage.
  • Some believe that the genitals will be unclean if the female does not have the procedure.
  • There is also a common belief that women need to have FGM to have babies.
  • Religous reasons

Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world and even thought the practice was criminalized in 2008, it still remains widespread.  Up to 92 percent of married women have undergone FGM and most females have the procedure between the ages of nine and 12.  Some have it done earlier than nine years old.  Can you imagine a five year old girl having part or all of her external genitalia removed?  There are no anaesthetics and antiseptic treatments used and FGM is performed with knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades.  This can lead to severe bleeding and infections which can last a woman her entire lifetime.  And it is estimated that 3 million girls are subjected to this barbarism every year in the UK, parts of Africa, Middle East and Asia.  And believe it or not, the procedure is usually done by a woman with no medical background.

Girls are going to grow up believing that their genitals are unclean and only a cruel cut can make them clean and fit for marriage.   What about the infections that they get or what about those who die from the procedure like the 13 year old Sohair el-Batea?  The doctor responsible for her death was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to more than two years in jail.  This was a victory for women but more needs to be done.  FGM is still being practiced.

According to Egyptian Streets, statistics showed that 30% of married women believe that FGM should be banned but more than half were in favor of the procedure for religious reasons.  It’s hard to accept that women would be in favor of such a practice.  It is even harder to accept that they would force their daughters, granddaughters, nieces to go through what they themselves had gone through.  As a mother, I could never subject my daughter to this.  As a woman, I could never bring myself to do this horrible thing to another female.

And which religion would condone this?  God created the human body and He put everything in its place for a reason.  No one has the right to tamper with nature.  How could anyone use religion as an excuse to mutilate young girls and in some cases, babies?  And as far as FGM being necessary in order to have babies, that is ludicrious.  The reality is that FGM can cause infertility and increase the risk of complications in childbirth.

FGM, known as the “cruel cut” needs to be banned the regions of Africa and countries where it is still common.   According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that more than three million girls in Africa are at risk.  Something needs to be done to stop girls and babies from is done in ignorance and in the name of tradition.  Girls should not see the parts of their bodies that is unique to their gender as unclean.  No where in the Bible is female circumcision practiced.  God never intended for girls and women to be circumcised.  It is a man-made procedure and it needs to be outlawed.

I encourage you to watch the video of Leyla Hussein, the founder of Daughters of Eve as she talks to her mother about FGM.    You can visit Leyla’s website to find out more information about FGM and see what you can do to stop this cruel and inhumane practice.

 

 

 

Source:  WHO; The Daily Mail

Her Nazi Grandfather

I lapsed into silence, I slept a lot and I wasn’t really functioning. Only afterward did I begin to analyze the situation and try to understand the characters of my mother and my grandmother. I only started to learn more about my grandmother at the end. Today I understand that I went through the process step by step, peeling away layer after layer. But in the first months I had no idea what to do.

2349077637Imagine how you would feel if you were to find out that Amon Goeth was your grandfather. He was the sadist Nazi Commandant at the Plaszow concentration camp near Krakow from 1943 to 1944 whom Ralph Fiennes portrayed in an Oscar worthy performance. I remember the scene in the movie where he would be on the verandah with his rifle and would randomly shoot people as if it were a sport.

This man murdered prisoners on a daily basis and actually trained his dogs to tear inmates to death. He shot people his office window if they appeared to be moving too slowly or resting in the yard. He even shot to death a Jewish cook because the soup was too hot. He brutally mistreated his two maids, Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig and Helen Hirsch, who, along with the other inmates, lived in constant fear for their lives.

In the movie he was attracted to Helen Hirsch, looking at her and wondering “is this the face of a rat?” At one point in the movie, Helen had resigned herself to idea that Goeth was going to kill her. “He will. I see things. We were on the roof on Monday, young Lisiek and I and we saw the Herr Kommandant come out of the house on the patio right there below us and he drew his gun and shot a woman who was passing by. Just a woman with a bundle, just shot her through the throat. She was just a woman on her way somewhere, she was no faster or slower or fatter or thinner than anyone else and I couldn’t guess what had she done. The more you see of the Herr Kommandant the more you see there are no set rules you can live by, you cannot say to yourself, “If I follow these rules, I will be safe.””

It’s hard to believe that a person could be capable of such horror. And it’s even harder to accept that you are related to such a person. This was the shocking reality for Jennifer Teege, a bi-racial woman who found out quite by accident that Amon Goeth was her grandfather.  She plucked a book from a library shelf and recognized photos of her mother and grandmother in the book.  It was then that she discovered the horrifying fact that her grandfather was Nazi butcher, Amon Goeth.  His daughter, Monika Hertwig was Jennifer’s mother. Monika had met and fallen in love with a Nigerian man. Their relationship didn’t last. Monika’s own experience in dealing with the truth about her father’s role in the Holocaust is showcased in the 2006 documentary film, The Inheritance. In the movie, Monika meets Helen Jonas-Rosenweig at the scene of the former concentration camp, the latter at first unwilling to meet the daughter of the man who terrorized her and so many others.

I am not clear on how Jennifer Teege came to be adopted. Apparently she was close to her grand-mother who committed suicide not long after she did an interview. Jennifer is convinced that had she been around when her grandfather was alive, he would have shot her because she was not a member of the master race–she didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes. Many of us would not have survived.  Jennifer shares her story in the book, My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me which she co-wrote with award-winning journalist Nikola Sellmair.

If you are interested in hearing Jennifer’s story, listen here.

Sources: The Current; Jennifer Teege; Jennifer Teege’s Longreads

Ruth’s Story

You Should Have Been a Boy!

One of my favorite Biblical characters is Jethro.  He was a wise man, loving father and friend.  He had seven daughters and never once did he ever make them feel unloved or unwanted.  Not so, with Ruth.  Ruth is a young Asian woman who lives in a world where being a girl can stir hatred, abuse and neglect and even lead to death.

As the youngest of three girls in my family, I cannot imagine my father hating me because I turned out to be a girl instead of a boy.  Yet, this was Ruth’s experience.  Her father displayed exceptional hatred toward her until finally she had to find out why.  Why did her father hate her so?  What had she done to stir such toxic feelings in him?  She asked and his response was, “You should have been a boy!” Afterwards, he stopped speaking to her altogether.   Not once did my father ever mistreat me or make me feel unloved or unwanted because he his third child to be a boy and got another girl instead.  I grew up with my father’s love unlike Ruth…

All Ruth knew was hatred.  Both of her parents hated her because before Ruth, the couple had three daughters.   Another daughter meant that the family name will not be carried on, there will not be enough income provided for her parents and it meant another marriage dowry which would sink them into debt.  They were so desperate for a son that they sold one of their fields and gave the money to a priest.  They asked him to pray to his gods so that they could have a baby boy.  They truly believed that they were going to have a boy this time and when they didn’t…

For more of Ruth’s story, watch the video and see how God changes her circumstances from pain and heartache to triumph and in the process, change her father.

Ruth’s story has a happy ending.  Thanks to the women missionaries of Gospel for Asia, she learned that there is a Father who loves her.   God showed her that she has value and He called her to serve Him.  You can help other girls like Ruth—sponsor a woman missionary today.

God’s kingdom will be made up of sons and daughters and we will reign one day as co-heirs with our Lord Jesus Christ who died for everyone.

Life for Women in India

Beneath the veil of society are the tears of India’s most oppressed members of society–women.  The movie, The Veil of Tears tells the untold story of millions of women who are victims of abuse, abandonment, adversity and gender segregation.  This movie dares us to go beyond awareness and to take action.  I encourage you to watch the trailer.

India has the reputation of being one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. They are married early, having no say in the matter.  Arranged marriages are still the norm.  They need to get permission to visit the doctor.  According to a survey, 54 per cent said they expected to be beaten by their husbands if they left the house without his permission.  Women are also beaten if they cook a dish badly or if their dowry is inadequate or if they neglect their household duties.

Life in India is a constant struggle for women.  Veil of Tears draws us into their dark reality but also allows us to share in their triumphs.  And in spite of all the suffering, there is hope.  Through the work and ministry of Gospel for Asia, these women can be rescued from persecution and rejection and given the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ.

For more information about the movie and how you can help to make a difference visit this link:  http://veiloftearsmovie.com/

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD – Psalm 31:24

Sources:  The Globe And Mail; Gospel for Asia

Illiteracy Among Women in Asia

I can’t imagine not being able to read.  It’s my one of favourite past-times.  When I was a child, you could always find me with my face buried in a book.  My love for reading gave birth to my love for writing.

Reading and writing are basic rights which we are entitled to.  Imagine not being able to write your name or read warning labels in order to protect your child. Yet, sadly for over 250 million women in Asia illiteracy is a reality.

It is said that when a girl or a woman is not educated it impacts her but the entire family.  Illiterate women face more hardships and are not aware of their rights.  Literacy is low among women because in most families the boys are sent to schools instead of the girls.   It is believed that educating the girls would be a waste of time because they aren’t going to earning members of their families and they would be leaving home any way when they get married. Poverty, accessibility to the schools and lack of female teachers are also factors in the low literacy rate among women and girls.

Education is exactly what females in India need in order to break the cycle of poverty.  Find out what Gospel for Asia is doing to help by women and girls through their Literacy Program at this link: http://www.gfa.org/women/literacy/.

 

Sources:  Maps of India; Gospel for Asia

You Should Have Been a Boy

Imagine hearing the words, “You should have been a boy”! Imagine being shunned your entire life because you were born a girl.  Well, this is what happened to Ruth.  Watch her incredible story.

Visit Veil of Tears website to find out how you can get involved in International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8.  Encourage your friends to check out the Veil of Tears movie at www.veiloftearsmovie.com

Read A Baby Girl is Nothing to Celebrate the incredible and heart-breaking story of a woman who couldn’t celebrate the birth of her child after years of infertility because the child turned out to be a girl instead of a boy…

A Baby Girl is Nothing to Celebrate

Check out Gospel for Asia and see what you can do to make a difference in the lives of girls like Ruth who are made to feel like they are nothing or worthless or shunned simply because they are girls.  You can help Gospel For Asia in their ongoing mission to bring hope and the news of Jesus’ love each day through their work and ministry to the countless millions of women in Asia.

This International Women’s Day, celebrate girls.  Celebrate the birth of your daughter.  Give God thanks for blessing you with her.  Celebrate her life.  A baby girl is everything to celebrate.