Welcome to the first Battle Royale here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World. It is an ongoing series that will pit two cinematic greats up against each other - and you can vote for who is the greater by clicking your choice over in the poll at the top of the sidebar.
For our inaugural Battle Royale we travel to the land of the smörgåsbord and the midnight sun. Okay, technically Norway is the Land of the Midnight Sun, but close enough, because we are traveling to the beautiful Scandinavian country of Sweden. The land of the, um...lingonberry? Yeah, Land of the Midnight Sun just sounds better. Anyway, we are off to Sweden. Well, Sweden via Hollywood that is. So it is time to make your choice. Who is your favourite beautiful Swedish icon of cinema? Is it the enigmatic Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, better known as Greta Garbo? Or perhaps it is the spectacular Ingrid Bergman who strikes your cinematic fancy. Who is the best of these two talented and lovely Swedish born icons? Only you can tell - with your votes.
So in one corner we have the woman who vanted to be left alone. She is the great Garbo whose exotic mystique in the silent era exuded a strange and beautiful sexuality and whose throaty voice and infectious laugh in the golden age of Hollywood only managed to ratchet that sexuality into high gear. And boy could the woman act! In films ranging from The Temptress, Flesh and the Devil, Anna Christie, Camille and The Painted Veil; her performances as Anna Kerenina, Mata Hari and my personal favourite Queen Christina with (of course) John Gilbert; the Oscar winning Grand Hotel and her role as the Russian agent softened by Melvyn Douglas in her penultimate farewell film Ninotchka. Garbo went from icon (she was the highest paid star at MGM for several years; more stars than the heavens, and she was the biggest) to legend to cult figure when she retired from acting in 1941 and became one the most famous recluses until her death in 1990. Garbo is such a legend that she is actually going to be on money in Sweden (the 100 Krona note) beginning in 2014. Bette Davis, not one to hand out compliments lightly, said this of the actress: "Her instinct, her mastery over the machine, was pure witchcraft."
And in the other corner we have the stunning powerhouse actress Ingrid Bergman. One of the finest actresses ever to work in cinema, Bergman, the winner of three well-deserved Academy Awards, brought to Hollywood a Nordic freshness and vitality unseen in anyone else at the time. Her performances in Intermezzo, Gaslight and The Bells of St. Mary's are legendary. Her films with Hitchcock and those with her lover Roberto Rossellini cemented her iconic status. Later in life she would play a more mature woman in comedies like Cactus Flower and mysteries such as Murder on the Orient Express, but still never losing any of her sexual energy or youthful exuberance. And of course there is her performance as Joan of Arc and her role as the internationally longed for Ilsa Lund in Casablanca. Falling in and out of favour with America due to her affair with Rossellini, Bergman never once stopped being the glamorous natural beauty and talent that she always was and always would be. With songs written about her (most notably a rather erotically-charged ditty by Woody Guthrie) and praises heaped upon her, Bergman was the epitome of natural womanhood. George Cukor said of the actress: "Do you know what I especially love about you, Ingrid, my dear? I can sum it up as your naturalness. The camera loves your beauty, your acting, and your individuality. A star must have individuality. It makes you a great star. A great star."
Now I personally am having one hell of a time coming up with who I choose between these Stockholm-born actresses and super stars. If I were to make up a list of my ten favourite actresses, both of these talented ladies would be on there. Perhaps you are having a difficult time as well. But difficult choice or not, it is a choice you must make. Okay, you don't have to, but hey, that is why we are gathered here today. So go ahead and vote vote vote. And please feel free to leave any comments you wish to on the subject, but please remember that in order to have your vote (and your voice) counted, you must go over to the poll in the sidebar and actually vote. No votes listed in the comments section will be counted. But please go ahead and comment anyway - after you vote. You have just under three weeks to vote. After that I will announce the victor and we will move onto Battle Royale #2 - whomever that may include.