Bibi Andersson, 1935–2019

In the clip above, Ingmar Bergman and Bibi Andersson are guests on a 1971 episode of The Dick Cavett Show. After talking to the famous director, Cavett turns to Andersson and she is a little nervous. But she does catch Bergman with what is most likely a lie, and it embarrasses him. You can tell how well they know each other, after having made many movies together, and also after a romantic liaison. Yesterday we lost her at the age of 83.

Born in Stockholm, Bibi Andersson studied theater and remained close to that art form, even directing plays at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. She met Ingmar Bergman at an early stage, when she was still a teenager in the early 1950s. Much to her mother’s disappointment she had a relationship with the significantly older but charismatic, difficult filmmaker who ended up casting her in the movies that brought her international fame.

Exceptionally beautiful, Andersson worked her charm and showed real talent as an actor in two 1957 masterpieces – the medieval nightmare The Seventh Seal and the bittersweet drama Wild Strawberries, but she would continue to make interesting films for Bergman throughout the 1960s. One learned never to underestimate her. Persona (1966) became perhaps her most brilliant effort, playing a nurse who’s stuck in a humiliating drama with her patient (Liv Ullmann); that’s her in the clip above looking very cool in sunglasses.

That performance won her a Guldbagge, the Swedish equivalent to the Oscars; she would go on to win three more Guldbagge awards, a record for an actor. 

In the 1970s, Andersson started working internationally to a greater degree, collaborating with famous directors like John Huston and Robert Altman. In 1977, she played a psychiatrist in the acclaimed I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, starring Kathleen Quinlan; two years later she was in An Enemy of the People together with Steve McQueen (watch the trailer above). 

She never quite made it in Hollywood, but remained a huge star in Sweden, working in television, theater and movies. Andersson was also politically active, working with other artists on an aid project for victims of the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s.

Her last decade was spent in a nursing home after a major stroke. Still, her legacy survives. 

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