An international star who excelled in Hollywood roles as well as those in her native Sweden, actress Ingrid Bergman would have turned 100 years old today. Bergman was recently honored during the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, an image of the Notorious star (photographed by David Seymour) used for the poster.
Another ode to the Casablanca actress comes from Woody Guthrie, who wrote the song “Ingrid Bergman,” referring to her role in the film Stromboli, co-starring her husband Roberto Rossellini.
We found other noteworthy songs about classic Hollywood icons, below.
Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
Post-punk gothfathers Bauhaus resurrected Universal Pictures Dracula star Bela Lugosi from the grave for the 1979 track “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” The ode to the count had an enormous impact on gothic rock and goth culture. The song opens Tony Scott’s cult vamp tale The Hunger and features a gaunt Peter Murphy skulking about in a nightclub.
The Fall, “Cary Grant’s Wedding”
“A new-wave personality stumbles out of the ruins, cos he’s been invited to Cary Grant’s wedding… A new wave Hollywood where everybody’s good, but not great,” sings The Fall in the track about the swoony Hollywood leading man from their 1980 live album Totale’s Turns.
Nirvana, “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle”
Seattle-born actress Frances Farmer, who was involuntarily committed to an insane asylum and felt Hollywood used her up and spit her out, was the subject of this 1993 Nirvana track. Singer Kurt Cobain was inspired by the 1978 Farmer biography Shadowland, which he read in high school. “I guess that’s my way of letting the world know that bureaucracy is everywhere and it can happen to anybody and it’s a really evil thing,” Cobain said. “The story of Frances Farmer is so sad and it can happen to anybody and it almost felt at a time that it was happening to us.
The Clash, “The Right Profile”
In 1956, From Here to Eternity star Montgomery Clift, who was marketed as one of Hollywood’s biggest sex symbols, had a serious car accident after falling asleep at the wheel. He underwent extensive plastic surgery to repair the damage to his face, but the differences were noticeable on the screen. Clift never fully recovered from the accident, emotionally. The Clash makes mention of his struggles in their song “The Right Profile,” which refers to the right side of Clift’s face — the one damaged in the accident. Karina Longworth wrote and narrated an engaging You Must Remember This podcast episode about the relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Clift (that goes into his own backstory), which we highly recommend.
Stephen Malkmus, “Jo Jo’s Jacket”
The fabulously bald King and I actor Yul Brenner is the star of this song (and video) from Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus. The track opens with a quote from Brenner: “In a funny way, the shaving of my head has been a liberation from a lot of stupid vanities.”
Suzanne Vega, “Marlene on the Wall”
Singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega explains the inspiration behind her song “Marlene on the Wall” in this live performance. Writer Frank Moraes provides the text (unfortunately, the video cuts off):
It was written for the actress Marlene Dietrich. That’s the Marlene that I am talking about in this song. And the very first time that I ever saw Marlene Dietrich was one night when I was watching television, I was in my apartment sitting in the East Village in New York City which is where I’m from. So there I was and I turned on the TV set. It was one of those old sets that take a while to warm up. So I turned on the knob and you get the little tiny dot in the middle of the screen. And I hear this man’s voice saying, “You have lead many men to death with your body.” I was like “All right!” because I didn’t see anything, you know, I didn’t know who the guy was, who he was talking to. And for a split second I had this fantasy, what if someone came to my door and said that to me? What would I say? And I thought that I would probably apologize. I would probably be like “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, are you sure it was me? It might have been so-and-so down the hall.” So, I was curious to know what who ever he was talking to would say. Of course right then the picture came on and there’s Marlene Dietrich’s beautiful face in close-up. And her answer, of course, which is the only proper and logical one “Give me a kiss.” So right from that moment I was just hooked. I watched the rest of the movie. I became a huge Marlene Dietrich fan. The photograph on the wall I’m singing about in the song, is one that someone had given me, back in the days when I was hanging out at Folk City. They gave it to me because they knew that I was a fan of hers. I had it framed and had it on my wall. The song is written from the point of view of the photograph of Marlene Dietrich looking down into my bedroom at that point when I was in my early twenties
Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Kiss Them for Me”
Siouxsie and the Banshees honors Hollywood blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield in their 1991 single “Kiss Them For Me,” referring to the widely panned 1957 Mansfield film of the same name that co-starred Cary Grant. The band also makes mention of Mansfield’s fatal car accident while driving from Biloxi to New Orleans in 1967: “On the road to New Orleans, a spray of stars hit the screen. As the tenth impact shimmered, the forbidden candles beamed.”
Miss Kittin & The Hacker, “Frank Sinatra”
“I love Frank Sinatra and the American crooners and romantic jazz in general,” said Caroline Hervé, aka Miss Kittin, in a 2001 interview. “I was looking for a rhyme to ‘area’ and here it came. What you don’t know, is when I said ‘He’s dead,’ I really thought he was… A friend told me it was funny because he’s still alive… I couldn’t believe it and felt guilty, especially when he died three months later.”
Roxy Music, “2HB”
“Here’s looking at you, kid,” sings Bryan Ferry — a reference to Rick’s toast to Ilsa in the romantic classic Casablanca. The “2HB” is Ferry’s acronym for “To Humphrey Bogart.”
Sparks, “What Would Katharine Hepburn Say”
A Sparks live favorite.