Leading lady of Swedish theater repeatedly worked for Ingmar Bergman

Swedish actress Anita Bjork, one of Sweden’s most respected actresses and a performer for director Ingmar Bergman both onstage and onscreen, died in Stockholm on Oct. 24. She was 89.

Bjork was considered the leading lady of Swedish theater, with a cool aura not unlike that of Greta Garbo. Bjork’s deep, self-restrained voice was impossible to confuse with anyone else’s. She appeared in more than 100 roles, many directed by Bergman.

Bjork’s international breakthrough came with the title role in Alf Sjoberg’s 1951 Strindberg adaptation “Miss Julie,” which won the grand prize at Cannes. She then received several offers from Hollywood, including the female lead in Alfred Hitchcock’s “I Confess” (the role was ultimately played by Anne Baxter). She starred opposite Gregory Peck in Nunnally Johnson’s Cold War thriller “Night People,” shot in England and Germany, but the actress soon moved back to Stockholm for personal reasons.

Over the years she performed in 12 Bergman productions, ranging from pic “Waiting Women” in 1952 to stage play and TV movie “The Image Makers” in 1998. In “The Image Makers” she offered a memorable interpretation of Nobel Literature Laureate Selma Lagerlof. The play went on tour in Europe and also played the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.

Bjork also played Queen Victoria in Bille August’s 1992 Cannes Palme d’Or winner “The Best Intentions,” a pic based on Bergman’s autobiographical novel.

The actress last performed in A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” at the Royal Dramatic Theater in 2009.

Born in Tallberg, Dalecarlia, she attended the Royal Dramatic Theater’s acting school in 1942-45 with Mai Zetterling, Sweden’s most recognized female helmer.

Bjork was married to Stig Dagerman, one of Sweden’s most important writers, until he committed suicide in 1954.

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