June 30, 1997 12:00 PM

by Donald Spoto

Donald Spoto’s sympathetic life of Ingrid Bergman is one of those rare biographies by a writer who actually admires his subject. Born in 1915 to a Stockholm camera salesman, Bergman was orphaned at 14. She married young, to Petter Lindstrom, a Swedish dentist. According to Spoto, Lindstrom dominated his talented wife, micromanaged her acting career and criticized her weight. When she left Lindstrom for the equally overbearing Italian director Roberto Rossellini, the scandal so violated postwar America’s puritanical mores that she was denounced on the floor of the Senate and exiled from Hollywood for almost a decade. She bore Rossellini three children (son Roberto and twins Ingrid and Isabella).

Spoto glosses over the sticky matter of the films Bergman made in Nazi Germany. He’s generous with anecdotes (Alfred Hitchcock’s invaluable advice to the actress: “Ingrid, fake it!”) but is reluctant to speculate about undocumented events like her reputed affair with Gary Cooper. Still, Spoto’s portrait is otherwise so detailed that by the end, we feel we know Bergman: an artist dedicated to her craft, an unaffected, passionate woman shaped and buffeted by the men she loved and by the times she lived in. (HarperCollins, $27.50)

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