Based on Edna Ferber’s novel, Saratoga Trunk reteamed Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, again under Sam Wood’s direction, right after their triumphant success, in and out of sleeping bags, in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), during the making of which they became lovers. However, the second film’s release was delayed to maximize its profits—until 1945 in New York City; until 1946 elsewhere in the U.S. When it named Bergman the year’s best actress, though, the New York Film Critics Circle excluded mentioning her wily half-Creole adventuress Clio Dulaine in Saratoga Trunk. Her prize was based instead on her brilliant work in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, as a woman psychoanalyst coping with father-figures and the male domination of her profession, and Leo McCarey’s The Bells of St. Mary’s, where Bergman is again brilliant—this time as a nun and parochial school teacher—if only in the last five or so minutes, where her character wages an interior battle against disappointment and pride. Subsequently, Pauline Kael praised Bergman’s Clio for liveliness, wit and brio; but after making a scintillating early impression along Scarlett O’Hara-lines, Bergman’s acting sounds the same one or two notes—to the point of tedium. Clio’s striving for “security, protection and respectability” never quite comes to aching life. Cooper is more assured in his role of a testy Texan schemer, Clint Maroon, but Wood’s wooden filmmaking casts a pall over everyone and every thing. This is an unpleasant and unconvincing film.
It proved a financial success, though, and Flora Robson won her only Oscar nomination for the role of Angelique Buiton, Clio’s Creole servant but (as they say) her own woman. This made up a little for the Academy’s failure to nominate Robson for either We Are Not Alone or Wuthering Heights.
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