Isabella Rossellini
Remembering Mamma With These Five Films
Isabella

Isabella Rossellini

Actor

My mother described herself as a migratory bird. She spoke five languages fluently—Swedish (her native tongue), English, French, Italian, and German—and worked in films and theaters in both Europe and the U.S. Making this list for the Academy, I concentrated on my mother’s career in Hollywood, but I couldn’t help include two European films, her last film directed by Ingmar Bergman and the one directed by my father.

To follow her adventurous spirit, Mamma paid a huge price. My parents fell in love while shooting Stromboli. Mamma became pregnant with my brother. At the time, she was still married to her first husband. This caused such a huge scandal and Mamma became persona non grata in the U.S. and couldn’t come back to the States for 10 years. Even the U.S. Senate took a stand against her, stating, “Out of Ingrid Bergman’s ashes will grow a better Hollywood.” Mamma never returned to live in Hollywood. She stayed in Europe, living first in Paris and then in London, where she died on her 67th birthday from breast cancer.

My mother was most charming and delightful. I hope I have inherited from her the lightness of her spirit, her kindness, and her having her feet well on the ground. I know for sure I have inherited her passion for cleaning: My house is immaculate! I miss my mom.

1

Notorious

1946

Mamma and Hitchcock were very good friends. He made her laugh. He used to say about my mother’s dedication to acting, “Ingrid takes movies more seriously than life.” Hitch, as Mamma called him, lifted her spirit. They made three films together, but Notorious is my favorite. It has Mamma acting at her best, and the film is super.

WHERE TO WATCH
Notorious
1946
103 Mins | U
A U.S. agent (Cary Grant) brings a traitor's daughter to Rio de Janeiro to seduce an exiled Nazi.


2

Casablanca

1942

WHERE TO WATCH

This is one of the most romantic films ever, with enormous chemistry between Mamma and Humphrey Bogart. “I kissed him, but didn’t know him,” Mamma wrote in her autobiography, commenting on working with Bogart, who was very private on set. This film, a true classic, has wonderfully witty dialogue with memorable lines. Mamma commented about this powerful film, “My reputation as an actress might be just the same if I had made one film: Casablanca.”

WHERE TO WATCH
Casablanca
1942
102 Mins | PG
A nightclub owner (Humphrey Bogart) protects an old flame and her husband from Nazis in Morocco.


3

Gaslight

1944

WHERE TO WATCH

Mamma won the first of the three Academy Awards with this role. The film deals with a subject still very present in today’s social debate: female abuse, in particular psychological abuse. Charles Boyer is an “enchanting” abuser and a very young Angela Lansbury clearly shows her powerful presence on the screen.

WHERE TO WATCH
Gaslight
1944
88 Mins | PG
A schizoid Victorian tries to drive his wife mad; a Scotland Yard detective figures out why.


4

Stromboli

1950

My mother and father fell in love and made five films and three children together (I am one of the three). Stromboli was their first film together. It moves me to see how both leapt into making experimental films, finding new narratives, and mixing documentary and feature film styles. The tuna fishing scene is particularly extraordinary because that abundance of fish is gone. Nowadays, Mediterranean tuna is classified as a highly endangered species. Mamma without makeup, working with real fishermen, is extraordinary.

WHERE TO WATCH
Stromboli
1950
81 Mins | Not rated
A portrait of a woman’s existential crisis, set against the backdrop of a volcanic island.


5

Autumn Sonata

1978

WHERE TO WATCH

This was Mamma’s last film. She was already sick with cancer when she made it, and she was nominated for an Academy Award. It was Mamma who took the initiative to write to the revered director Ingmar Bergman (same last name, but not related), suggesting that they, both Swedish and internationally known, work together. Ingmar wrote the story of a successful pianist who neglects her family for her career. Mamma, in her real life, had been accused of this. Liv Ullmann told me that Mamma fought a lot on the set, arguing in favor of women having careers and not being considered “bad” mothers. As for me, the daughter of a woman who loved her career above all, I feel only grateful. Mamma opened a path for me and many other women who love to work.

I would like to add another title, in case anyone is interested in my mother’s life, which was controversial and passionate: the fabulous documentary by Stig Björkman, Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words.

WHERE TO WATCH
Autumn Sonata
1978
97 Mins | PG
A pastor's plain wife (Liv Ullmann) resents her famous mother (Ingrid Bergman).


© 2020 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences