Anita Bjork, actress in Bergman films

Ms. Bjork had a starring role in “The Lady in Black.”
Jan Ehnemark/AFP/Getty Images
Ms. Bjork had a starring role in “The Lady in Black.”

NEW YORK — Anita Bjork, a Swedish leading lady onstage and in films who worked with Ingmar Bergman and starred in a celebrated screen adaptation of Strindberg’s ‘‘Miss Julie,’’ died Wednesday in Stockholm.She was 89.

A slender, dark-haired beauty (who sometimes dyed her hair blond for film roles), Ms. Bjork was at one time acclaimed as ‘‘the new Garbo.’’ She became internationally known in 1951 in the title role of ‘‘Miss Julie,’’ a tortured victim of privilege and desire. The film, directed by Alf Sjoberg, won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and Ms. Bjork received laudatory reviews in the United States.

The performance drew the attention of Hollywood, and Alfred Hitchcock was reportedly ready to offer her the lead role in ‘‘I Confess,’’ opposite Montgomery Clift, but it never materialized. In a radio interview in Sweden in 2003, Ms. Bjork said that after she arrived in Hollywood, interest in her for that film and others disappeared because she was living with Swedish writer Stig Dagerman and their daughter. Ms. Bjork and Dagerman later married. (The ‘‘I Confess’’ role went to Anne Baxter.)


Ms. Bjork did make American films that were shot in Europe, including ‘‘The Long Search’’ (1952), a sentimental romance about an American flier who returns to Sweden after World War II to find the woman he fell in love with; and a spy thriller, ‘‘Night People’’ (1954), starring Gregory Peck and Broderick Crawford.

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Over more than four decades, Ms. Bjork worked in a dozen projects directed by Bergman, including the 1952 film ‘‘Secrets of Women,’’ in which she played an adulterous wife who makes a tenuous peace with her guilt, and two Dramaten productions that were filmed for television and toured internationally, including in the United States, where they appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and elsewhere.

One was Yukio Mishima’s ‘‘Madame de Sade,’’ about the Marquis de Sade as seen through women’s eyes; Ms. Bjork played the mother of de Sade’s wife, his astringent critic, who attempts to unravel her daughter’s marriage. She also played the Swedish writer and Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlof in ‘‘The Image Makers,’’ a drama by Per Olov Enquist about Lagerlof’s encounter with the filmmaker Victor Sjostrom, who was attempting to adapt one of her novels. ‘‘Gravity cast in granite,’’ Ben Brantley of The Times wrote in 1999 of Ms. Bjork’s performance.