Today is the birthday of Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982). No one lovelier than Bergman ever acted in motion pictures but today we dishonor her memory by rubbernecking at one of her rare weak spots.
A woman of immense personal dignity especially in her mature years, Bergman’s weak spot was quite naturally comedy. In fact I can’t think of any that she appears in apart from the vehicle we are about to describe. In 1969 she was cast as a sex-starved middle-aged dentist’s assistant in the film adaptation of the recent Broadway hit Cactus Flower. In the film, she is recruited by her boss, swinging dentist Walter Matthau to play his non-existent wife whom he is pretending to divorce for the benefit of his lover Goldie Hawn (who inexplicably won an Oscar for her performance). Bergman is painful to watch in this Gene Saks-directed farce, and she appears miserable. It’s a head-scratcher as to why she was cast, although one does note that the role was originally played on Broadway by Lauren Bacall. H’m…Bacall: Bergman. Sure, that’s a lateral move. But Bacall was okay at comedy. Bergman is sadly just wrong. The part called for an attractive older actress with comedy chops — if not Bacall, Doris Day might have been perfect.
At any rate, we promised Ingrid frugging and now we deliver. There are several scenes in the film of her dancing at a discotheque to muzak versions of Monkees songs. Here’s one. She starts to bust da move at about 1:09. Her dance partner is one of my favorite character actors Vito Scotti: