‘Casablanca’ Star Ingrid Bergman’s Affair Led to a Pregnancy and a Divorce That Shook Hollywood

Ingrid Bergman is still a Hollywood legend, even now almost 40 years after the actor’s death. She’s remembered today as a Hollywood icon, star of the timeless movie Casablanca. She often acted alongside other Hollywood greats, including Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable. But it may surprise fans to know that Bergman’s career was almost ruined by her personal life. In the early days of Hollywood, the public was pretty intolerant of scandal. That intolerance almost ended Bergman’s career too soon when she had an affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. 

Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, sitting in front of a map looking off camera, in black and white
Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca | John Springer Collection/Getty Images

Ingrid Bergman was entranced by Roberto Rossellini before she met him 

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Shortly after filming Casablanca, Bergman started to get bored with the same old Hollywood style. She became interested in foreign films. She and her husband, Peter Lindstrom, happened to see an Italian film by director Roberto Rossellini. Bergman was hooked. She became somewhat obsessed with the director. This was before the internet, or even Blockbuster video, so Bergman couldn’t binge Rossellini’s whole catalog, although she probably wanted to. But when she managed to see another of Rossellini’s films in theaters, it was enough. She flew to Rome immediately to meet him, reports Today

That meeting led to a year-long affair that almost ruined Bergman’s career completely. After meeting Rossellini, he cast her in one of his movies. Stromboli was filmed in Italy, and before the movie’s release, Bergman told the public she was pregnant with Rossellini’s child, all while she was still married to Lindstrom. 

Congress got involved in Ingrid Bergman’s affair 

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Bergman’s affair was the height of scandal at the time. It was unseemly for Bergman to admit to an affair, and the public was shocked and outraged that she was going to have a child out of wedlock. Bergman did say she would marry Rossellini after both of them got divorced (he was married too), but the public was not assuaged. 

The outrage was so serious that Congress got involved. A senator from Colorado slammed Bergman and proposed a bill that would protect Americans like her from lecherous foreigners. Obviously, no such bill was ever even put down on paper, but the message was clear. Bergman was “canceled” before being “canceled” was a thing. 

But Bergman didn’t seem to mind much. She and Rossellini did get married, although their marriage wouldn’t last. Bergman and Rossellini made a few films together, but none were successful in the United States. When Bergman acquired an annulment around seven years after marrying Rossellini, she went back to Hollywood like nothing ever happened. 

Ingrid Bergman’s career was un-killable 

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Nothing could kill Bergman’s career, not even a scandal of this magnitude. Her career was effectively un-killable. When she wanted back in, Hollywood couldn’t stop her. She returned after her annulment to star in Anastasia. As if to prove her greatness, Bergman’s first role upon her return to Hollywood netted her an Academy Award, her second. 

It seemed like her time away from Hollywood did her good. Although Bergman had been bored before meeting Rossellini, after her return she seemed reinvigorated. Bergman would continue to work right up until her death in 1982. She would win a third Oscar for her supporting role in Murder on the Orient Express. Right before her death, she expanded her horizons to TV, winning an Emmy for A Woman Called Golda, about Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. 

As for her daughter Isabella Rossellini, she followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a Hollywood staple herself. Isabella Rossellini was born to make movies, and she made some good ones, including Blue Velvet, one of the best psychological horror movies of our time. 

[Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated that Bergman and Rossellini only had one child together. They had three children.]