In May 1939, Bergman met Selznick for the first time at a Hollywood party at Miriam Hopkins' house. Selznick immediately told her that certain things wouldn't do —her name was impossible, her eyebrows too thick and her teeth no good— to which Bergman said she would go back to Sweden if he tried to change her. Realising she meant it, Selznick got an idea. He would do what no one in Hollywood had ever done before. He would allow Bergman to keep her real name and to remain herself. No heavy make-up, no plucking of eyebrows, nothing about her was to be changed. Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish star, was going to be the first "natural" actress in Hollywood.
In her diary (her "Book"), Bergman wrote about Selznick in the summer of 1939, while aboard the Queen Mary:
From the first minute, I liked him and every day my admiration and my affection grew. He knew his metier so well; he was artistic and stubborn and worked himself to the bone. Sometimes we worked until five o'clock in the morning. I would come to him with all my problems. He left important meetings to come out and discuss with me a pair of shoes. Hundreds of times he saved me from the publicity department. I trusted him when we saw the rushes and he told me what he thought. His judgement was very hard but it was just. To work for him is often terribly demanding and very hard on the nerves. But always there is the feeling that you have somebody to help with understanding, encouragement, and wisdom, and that is beyond price. When I left, he asked me to sign an enormous photograph, and I wrote: For David, I have no words, Ingrid. Which is true.
Mr. David O. SelznickSelznick StudioCulver City, CaliforniaJanuary 13, 1947Dear David:
I shall set forth herein a summary of the facts in my dispute with you. It is agreed that upon your receipt of my signature to these facts, you will pay me $60,000 in payment for the picture that I did not make for you under my contract, and for which I am claiming compensation.
These facts are as follows:
You brought me to this country when I was unknown to American- or English-speaking audiences. When I finished my contract with you, under your management, I had become one of the greatest stars in the world, this development taking place entirely while I was under your management.
When my contract drew near to an end, our negotiations for a new contract bogged down upon your insistence on an exclusive contract for a period of seven years. Through these long negotiations, which had gone on for years, I repeatedly assured you that there could be not the slightest question about my continuing with you, but that I wanted to be free to do an occasional picture on the outside. I stated to you verbally and in writing, and repeatedly, that there could be not the slightest question but that I would continue with you. I made these statements right up to a few months before the expiration of my contract with you.
When I went to Europe, I sent you a letter, a copy of which is attached hereto, in which among other things I said, "I think friendship and trust are of more worth than a piece of paper called contract. And if you never get that slip of paper you still will have, changed or unchanged, whatever you think, but still, your Ingrid."
Unfortunately for you, when I returned from Europe, and had everything that I wanted, I forgot all about my promises and statements through the years. I forgot everything you had done for me. I forgot my promises, and even my letter. And I demanded payment for the picture which I asked you to give up, and which you had given up, and which could have been one of the subjects listed above, on which you would, of course, have made a great deal of money, as well as absorbed your overhead, which was idle, largely as a result of my not making a picture. It is true that I entertained the troops on my own insistent desire to do so, but I didn't see and still don't see why you shouldn't pay me $60,000 for having done so.
I complained that you did not make more pictures with me, both privately and in the press. I neglected to say to anybody that you wanted to buy The Valley of Decision and make it with me, but that I didn't want to do it; or that you wanted to make The Spiral Staircase with me... or that you wanted to do Katie for Congress [The Farmer's Daughter] with me; or that you wanted to buy A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and make it with me, making it more the story of the mother, but that I didn't care to do it, and that Twentieth Century-Fox thereupon bought it and made it into a great success for themselves and for your Dorothy McGuire; or that you wanted to make Anna Christie with me, but that I didn't want to do it because Garbo had done it; or that you wanted to make Anna Karenina but that I didn't want to do it, for the same reason; or that there were half a dozen other stories you wanted to make with me, but that I didn't like; or that you took the unprecedented attitude that you would lend me to others for pictures I wanted to make rather than ask me to do pictures that you wanted to make, but in roles that I didn't care for.
Throughout the years, you devoted an enormous amount of time to going over material for me, and to reading scripts submitted from every studio in town, in order to be sure that I was the first actress in the history of the screen that had her pick of the best stories of every studio in town, plus the insistence of yourself as to how the picture should be set up and who should make them in each department. This insistence on your part meant that I had Fleming, Cukor, Curtiz, Wood, McCarey as my directors; that I had the best cameramen in the business, all selected and approved by you, since I didn't know any of them; that I had Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Bing Crosby, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant as my leading men, although any other rising young actress would have given her eye teeth for any one of these occasionally, and all of this through the formative period of my career. I am aware that I was the envy of every young actress in town, and even of every already established star, and that a great deal of trouble was caused at other studios by actresses who contrasted your handling of me with what they had to play in, whom they had to be directed by, and scripts, stories, leading men, publicity, etc..
When everyone in Hollywood disbelieved in me and wondered why you had brought me over, and through the long period when you couldn't lend me to anyone, and through the secondary period when you were lending me at cost and at less than cost, you insisted that I was the great actress of this generation, that I would be the greatest star in the industry, that I would be the Academy Award winner, that I would be universally acclaimed...
And in consideration of the above, I herewith make demand upon you for €60,000 for the picture which I asked you not to make, and for the period that I was entertaining troops. Upon payment of this amount to me, you are free of the obligation which I feel that you owe me, having had the privilege and glory of lifting me from obscurity to great stardom.
I am informed that even Dan O'Shea [Selznick's associate] has reluctantly and at long last come to the conclusion that no new deal with us has been seriously envisaged as part of your future plans. This conclusion comes as no surprise to me, despite our final reliance and faith that I expressed in our conversation and in no way lessens my sorrow over our 'divorce' after so many years of happy marriage. You once said you had 'two husbands'. But Petter was the senior, and of course he knew all the time that his will would prevail. I do regret all the futile gestures and elaborate 'negotiations' but that is all I do regret in a relationship which will always be a source of pride to me. I am sure you know that I have the greatest confidence that your career will go steadily up to new heights, achieving in full the promise of your great talent; and that my good wishes will always be yours no matter what you do. So long Ingrid! May all the New Years beyond bring you everything of which you dream.
Source: Ingrid Bergman: My Story (1980) by Ingrid Bergman and Alan Burgess