Indiscreet (1958) is a delightful look at the ups and downs of a dream romance built partly on a lie. Ingrid Bergman plays Anna, an actress who’s made an unexpected return home from vacation. She’s bored with dull men, sick of everyone’s smothering and tired of her sister’s attempts to set her up with eligible bachelors. The night she returns she meets a soon-to-be NATO official Philip (Cary Grant) and falls in love at first sight. He tells her he’s married and they nearly part, but the chemistry is too strong and they begin an affair. The relationship is like a fairy tale of elegant dates, high fashion, expensive gifts and true love.
It’s lovely to watch how these wonderful actors communicate so much and keep it real even when acting hammy (Grant’s dancing at the ball). Exploratory chit chat and careful glances turn into long stares that speak volumes. Bergman is especially great, mixing the awkwardness of a woman who suddenly feels like a smitten schoolgirl, with signs of a guilty conscience and instincts to pull back and deny her feelings when she gets too close too quickly. After her vow to never attend another diplomatic banquet with droning speakers, she happily attends to hear Philip and enjoys every word of his incomprehensible “hard currency” speech. She slathers cold cream on her face for a night in, then happily wipes it off as she talks to Philip and gets interested. She removes it right in front of him in the most relaxed way, while he watches, and neither one turns away in embarrassment. It tells us we’re about to watch adults in a sophisticated relationship. Anna’s apartment key is one marker of their progress; first Philip makes a mental note about the urn where it’s kept, later shows hesitation and then ease using it. One clever scene has autograph seekers interrupting the couple’s unseen but clearly intimate moment by the Thames at night. Bergman is polite but shaken, drops the autograph book and pretends to continue a light conversation about Philip’s left-handed violin. Then there’s a split screen phone call with each in their own bed but seeming to touch or nudge each other and hold hands (a year before the one in Pillow Talk).
But warning signs are present. Anna’s servant Carl (David Kossoff) predicts nothing good will come of being a mistress. Anna starts noticing that Philip phones a few seconds later every evening. She questions his motive for spending so much money; is it to please her or is it his conscience? At the prospect of a long separation she asks him to get a divorce and marry her, and then she’s shocked and ashamed at her desperation and inability to “play by the rules.”
That’s when the romance pivots and we learn Philip’s not even married. He pretends to be, because he’s not the marrying kind. He’d much rather lie about a fake wife and keep Anna feeling like a mistress than face the discomfort of obligations and marriage proposals. Suddenly Philip seems more shallow than charming. He’s taken the emotionally easy way while Anna believes in an impossible romance and makes compromises. Furious and disgusted at being lied to and made to feel guilt and shame, Anna the actress plays him like a left-handed violin and dreams up scenarios to make him jealous and teach him a lesson. The hurt feelings and games, the bickering and ironing out before the inevitable happy ending, still makes for sparkling entertainment thanks to Grant and Bergman.
Indiscreet was directed by Stanley Donen from a Norman Krasna screenplay adaptation of his play, Kind Sir. It also stars Cecil Parker and Megs Jenkins, features gorgeous Technicolor photography by Frederick Young and is part of the The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema.