More close-ups, more money

As U.S. audiences continued to be wowed by Hedy Lamarr‘s glamorous turn in Algiers, Oscar-winning movie producer David O. Selznick was both blatant and determined in his efforts to capitalise on the natural beauty of Ingrid Bergman whilst filming her Hollywood debut – Intermezzo – in 1938; so much so that he wrote the following memo to the movie’s director, editor and production manager towards the end of shooting and, whilst pointing out that ‘every beautiful shot we get of her is a great deal of money added to the returns on the picture’, demanded more close-ups of the Swedish actress.

Transcript follows.

Highly recommended reading: Memo from David O. Selznick : The Creation of “Gone with the Wind” and Other Motion Picture Classics, as Revealed in the Producer’s Private Letters, Telegrams, Memorandums, and Autobiographical Remarks.


Messers. Klune, Ratoff, and Kern


7/11/39 (Dictated 7/10/39)

As I have said so often, I think the success of “Intermezzo” is to an unusual extent dependent upon how beautifully we can photograph Miss Bergman. If we can get the public talking about her to an extent comparable to that in which they talked about Miss Lamar in “Algiers”, we will have added a great deal to the gross of our picture, as well as increasing the possibility of our having a new star. Bear in mind that Miss Lamar did not give a performance that anybody could estimate and to this day it is not known whether or not she is an actress; and that her success is traceable entirely to half a dozen or a dozen close-ups that Jimmy Howe made of her.

I think we should spare no trouble to get comparable close-ups of Miss Bergman. Every beautiful shot we get of her is a great deal of money added to the returns on the picture and I urge that Mr. Kern and Mr. Ratoff start to work on a list of where re-take close-ups might be made. I don’t even care if the photography is acceptable or very good in the shot we have presently. If an important close-up can be made, it should be made. It might even be possible to pick these up at odd times but if a whole day or two days or even three days were involved in making them, I would still want to make them.

I suggest that Mr. Kern and Mr. Ratoff talk this over with Mr. Toland after Mr. Kern has spotted various places in the cut material where we might insert these. I would like, if possible, to pick up some of them even in advance of our first preview as I think even the first preview reaction on the picture is going to be to a large extent dependent upon whether we achieve an outstanding result photographically with Miss Bergman.