A year before she won her third Oscar for “Murder on the Orient Express” (left) Ingrid Bergman made an independent New York-based film, “The Hideaways” (1973), which got very little attention and then vanished in the mists of time.
The production is so off the Bergman radar that the great star’s official website doesn’t even include it on her filmography.
So, when the wonderful Warner Archive DVD-on-demand made the film available, I couldn’t wait to check it out. I think it was the only Ingrid Bergman film I had never seen.
“The Hideaways” didn’t exactly blow me away when I watched it, but it’s a charming children’s film with a terrific supporting performance by Bergman (she received top billing but is only in the final third).
The picture is based on a very highly regarded young adult novel “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” which won E.L. Konigsburg the Newberry Award in 1968. (According to IMDB, the movie was first released with the book’s title but was quickly changed.)
The story follows a highly imaginative suburban girl named Claudia (Sally Prager) who is feeling neglected by her parents and saddled with too many chores involving her two brothers.
Claudia becomes obsessed with art and the past, and decides to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She needs the savings of her slightly younger brother to finance the trip, so Jamie (Johnny Doran) tags along.
Claudia writes a brief note to her parents telling them she has set off on an adventure and not to worry. Clearly, the story wouldn’t really work in this current era of “helicopter” parents and Amber alerts — the concerns of the parents back in New Jersey are never dramatized.
Although Fielder Cook’s direction is slightly stiff and the two kids are often amateurish, it’s easy to see why several generations of young readers love the story. The two central characters are smart and brave and they live out the popular fantasy of making a huge museum their home and playground.
Bergman plays Mrs. Frankweiler, a rich recluse who has donated a statue of an angel to the Met that might have been made by Michelangelo. The gift sets off a media storm that results in long lines of curious museumgoers and inspires Claudia to solve the mystery behind the statue.
The two children eventually make their way to Mrs. Frankweiler’s mansion where the recluse proves to be much more beautiful and much more gracious than her reputation. The woman makes an instant, instinctual connection with Claudia and with Bergman in the role we understand that this brief encounter will prove to be a life-changing one for the girl.
We can see that Bergman had fun with the small role — perhaps she did it for her grandchildren — and I was very happy to catch up with this lost performance.