When ‘sinful’ stars play saints

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BERGMAN. Cast as a religious icon in “Joan of Arc.”

Because I was raised a Protestant, I always cast a suspicious eye on movies about men and women who are “sainted” by the Roman Catholic Church. Fortunately, they turned out to be fine films that starred famous actresses—like Ingrid Bergman (“Joan of Arc”) and Jennifer Jones (“The Song of Bernadette”).

The former was beautiful beyond words. Although mannered, Jennifer was pretty, too. It was an open secret that the producer of “Gone With The Wind” and “The Song of Bernadette” was her longtime lover, even when she was married to Robert Wagner. When she starred as a sexy Mexican in “Duel in the Sun,” she lost her saintly appearance in the eyes of the public, who could not separate real from reel saintliness.

Not long after “Joan of Arc” was shown, Ingrid had an affair with director Roberto Rossellini and had a child out of wedlock. As a result, she couldn’t go back to Hollywood for two decades— until she won her second Oscar for “Anastasia.” Alas, actors aren’t always as “saintly” as the characters they portray.

The next big “saintly” film was about the Portuguese children of Fatima. Since many high-profile actresses led questionable lives, its producers wisely chose unknown actors whose personal lives couldn’t “contradict” the saintliness of their screen roles.

The aforementioned movies used to be popular during Holy Week—when the faithful are supposed to veer away from motion pictures that deal with sex and violence. At the time, moviegoers were “forced” to see boring black-and-white “bathrobe” films, which I disliked almost as much as the gloom of the Lenten season.

Those who could afford it ran away to Baguio with their friends. Those who couldn’t voluntarily offered their poverty as part of their “suffering” on earth. —What is 70 years of earthly hardship if eternal reward awaits in heaven?!

In those days, the film industry produced enjoyable, feel-good movies (“The Robe,” “Quo Vadis”) that were specifically made for the Lenten season. These days, I prefer watching inspirational films over religious fare—and I’d be happier if I could watch them in cool Baguio!

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