The politics of passion -- Ingrid Bergman was denounced in the Senate for her affair 42 years ago

Raging Passions…This is it!… Bergman under the inspired direction of Rossellini.” So throbbed the ads for the 1950 Italian import Stromboli. The movie itself was a dreary dud, so RKO studio tried to compensate by capitalizing on the scandalous affair between the film’s star, saintly movie % queen Ingrid Bergman, 34, and its fiery Italian director, Roberto Rossellini, 43. She was married to physician Petter Lindstrom at the time, and had a young daughter, Pia; he was separated from actress Anna Magnani. But Bergman and Rossellini had produced a child, Roberto, and the Hollywood gossip machine had gorged on their indiscreet behavior for months.

The U.S. Senate, however, did more than gossip. On March 14, 1950, Sen. Edwin C. Johnson (D-Colo.) attacked RKO for exploiting Bergman’s behavior and denounced her as ”a powerful influence for evil.” He also called for the licensing of filmmakers and stars, so that permits could be revoked if they were found guilty of moral turpitude.

That fall, Rossellini tried to sue Johnson when, during a visit to Rome, the senator called him a ”Nazi collaborator inspired by cocaine.” Despite the myth that Bergman fled the U.S. in humiliation, she had actually renounced Hollywood the year before and moved to Italy — her only tragedy was losing custody of Pia. After divorcing their spouses, Bergman and Rossellini were married in May 1950 and had twins, Isabella and Ingrid, two years later. (Two of Bergman’s children are in show biz: Isabella is now an actress, and Pia Lindstrom is a movie and theater critic.)

Johnson dropped his licensing plan and agreed to let the motion-picture industry police itself. And the public eventually forgave Bergman. In 1956, she separated from the often adulterous Rossellini and made a Hollywood comeback in Anastasia, for which she won a Best Actress Oscar.

Because she was working in Paris at the time of the awards, Cary Grant accepted for her. ”Dear Ingrid,” he said, ”if you can hear me or see this, I want you to know we all send you our love and admiration.” When Parisian radio rebroadcast the ceremony, she soaked in a bathtub and sobbed quietly into a glass of champagne. After all that, they still liked her. They really liked her.

March 14, 1950

Eleanor Roosevelt reminisced in her best-seller, This I Remember, Frankie Laine roared out the preposterous ”The Cry of the Wild Goose,” and Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater was TV’s runaway No. 1 smash