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Petter Lindstrom; Abandoned by Ingrid Bergman

May 31, 2000|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dr. Petter Lindstrom, the Swedish surgeon whom actress Ingrid Bergman abandoned for a scandalous affair with and subsequent marriage to Italian director Roberto Rossellini, has died. Lindstrom, who was 93, died May 24 in his home in Sonoma, Calif.

Lindstrom was a dentist, eight years older than Bergman, when he married her in Stockholm. The marriage lasted 10 years, produced a daughter, Pia, and ended in a firestorm of scandal. Bergman, the superb actress who played nuns and martyrs above reproach, deserted her husband and child to live in Italy with Rossellini and bear his illegitimate son, Roberto. Her fans were horrified that their silver screen saint was merely human.

In a more innocent era, the Bergman-Lindstrom-Rossellini triangle shocked people worldwide. The affair was even denounced from the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Bergman, who began her affair with Rossellini in 1948, was divorced from Lindstrom in 1950 and married Rossellini. She bore two more children, twins Ingrid and Isabella Rossellini; the latter also became an actress. Bergman's marriage to Rossellini lasted eight years.

Lindstrom first came to the U.S. to study neurosurgery, and then joined Bergman in Beverly Hills after her acting career moved from Sweden to Hollywood. He later switched from dentistry to brain surgery and became a U.S. citizen.

He also became Bergman's manager and agent, and seemed to answer the need of the actress, orphaned as a child, for a father figure.

Long after the divorce and court battles over custody of Pia had ended, Bergman's biographers continued to analyze the Lindstrom relationship. In her autobiography, "My Story," Bergman politely referred to her first husband as "Dr. Lindstrom" and wrote of all three of her husbands--Lindstrom, Rossellini and Lars Schmidt--"They were strong men and I was lucky to be married to them."

But Lindstrom, said to have remained bitter toward the actress for her desertion of him and their daughter, was less charitable. Biographer Laurence Leamer in his 1986 "As Time Goes By, The Life of Ingrid Bergman" quoted Lindstrom: "Ingrid said, 'I'm only interested in two kinds of people, those who can entertain me, and those who can advance my career.' " Even Bergman's death, the author wrote, "did not free Petter of his regret that years before he had not spoken out to tell the world of an Ingrid Bergman the world did not know."

With Lindstrom's help, the Leamer biography portrayed Bergman as a hard-drinking, hard-smoking, promiscuous woman who ignored her children and lived only to act.

Lindstrom, born in Stode, Sweden, earned dental and medical degrees at the University of Heidelburg and the University of Leipzig. He studied and later taught neurosurgery at UCLA, then went on to teach and practice at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Utah. From 1964 until 1978, he practiced in San Francisco. Then he relocated his office to San Diego, becoming a highly respected pioneering brain surgeon.

Lindstrom is survived by his wife, Dr. Agnes Ronavec, whom he married in 1954; his daughter, Pia, of New York City; and his four children with Ronavec--Peter of Ridgecrest, Calif., Michael of Boise, Idaho, Brita of San Diego and Karl of Sonoma; and eight grandchildren.

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