Gregory Peck’s heart-wrenching comment on Ingrid Bergman affair

Designing Woman (1957) – Gregory Peck – Lauren Bacall

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Gregory Peck, previously considered the 12th greatest male star of Classic Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute, heads the cast as 1947’s Gentlemen’s Agreement airs from 1.55pm on Talking Pictures TV on Friday. The Oscar-winning drama, which sees Peck star opposite Dorothy Maguire, following magazine writer Phil Green, who poses as a Jewish man in order to go undercover to write a series of articles on anti-Semitism, though he finds himself embroiled in prejudice as a result.

Peck’s 87-year life is one of Hollywood’s best, and saw the star claim a host of awards during his illustrious career, including the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

But his celebrity brought with it a heightened interest in the star’s love life, and one star he was reportedly linked with during the Forties was Hollywood icon, Ingrid Bergman.

Bergman, a three-time Academy Award winner, began a romantic relationship with Peck when the actor was married to Greta Kukkonen. Unearthed accounts show that they met on the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense-romance film Spellbound in 1945.

Despite claims being made around the time, it wasn’t until 1987, when Peck was 71, that he acknowledged to having an affair with Bergman, who was married to Petter Lindström, remarking that “I was young… she was young”.

During an interview with People magazine, the California-born star appeared to share his relationship with Bergman, with the article’s writer Brad Darrach noting that while discussing women with Peck, he “begins to blather” when it came to his Spellbound co-star.

He said: “Now we get into an area where I can’t answer. All I can say is I had a real love for her, and I think that’s where I ought to stop. Except to say she was like a lovely Swedish rose. I was young. She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work.”

Writing in his 2002 book Gregory Peck: A Biography, author Gary Fishgall discussed the continued reports of a romance blossoming between Peck and Bergman. Speculation grew further when the pair “came in late, disheveled” for filming, he noted.

And Fishgall quoted Peck as saying of Bergman: “I think you fall in love a little bit with a woman like Ingrid Bergman.

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“I don’t think there’s any way to avoid it, for she was incredibly beautiful, and a very sweet person … Her lovely skin kind of took your breath away, and her whole radiance was something to behold.”

Both Bergman and Peck would eventually both divorce their spouses, and go on to marry. Peck’s confession of their closeness came five years after Bergman’s death aged 67 in 1982. Some 21 years later Peck passed away.

At the time of his death, Peck was Roman Catholic, and once admitted to considering priesthood before a career in Hollywood emerged.

He would later be asked about his relationship with faith, by a journalist, saying: “I am a Roman Catholic. Not a fanatic, but I practice enough to keep the franchise. I don’t always agree with the Pope… There are issues that concern me, like abortion, contraception, the ordination of women… and others.”

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As the Church prohibits remarriage if a person’s first spouse is still living, Peck’s second marriage, this time to Veronique Passani, was performed by a justice of the peace, and not a priest.

During his life, he was an ardent fundraiser for the missionary work of a priest who he was friends with and even served as co-producer of a cassette recording of the New Testament with his son Stephen.

After his death, which saw Veronique by his side, Peck’s funeral was attended by a huge stack of Hollywood celebrities, including the likes of Michael Jackson, Harrison Ford, Lionel Richie and Anjelica Huston.

At the funeral itself, a eulogy was read by Brock Peters, whose character Tom Robinson was defend by Peck’s fabled Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Gentleman’s Agreement airs from 1.55pm on Talking Pictures TV on Friday.

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