Martin S. Bergmann has passed away, aged 100. If his name is not immediately recognisable to Woody Allen fans, you will know his minor, but acclaimmed role. He played Professor Louis Levy in Crimes And Misdemeanors, the subject of Allen’s documentary in that film. The touchingly human perofrmance in a dark film, his story anchors Allen’a masterpiece.
From the New York Times obit:
A Freudian known for his erudition — he was the author of scholarly books on love, psychoanalysis, history and religion — Mr. Bergmann landed in “Crimes and Misdemeanors” entirely by chance, through a student of his who happened to know the casting director.
As the student was aware, Mr. Allen was looking for a tweedy, white-haired, European-sounding psychoanalyst to portray Professor Louis Levy, a humanistic philosopher. In the movie, a dark comedy about marriage and its discontents, Mr. Allen plays a filmmaker at work on a documentary about Levy, who is seen only in film clips.
Mr. Bergmann fit the bill. Introduced to Mr. Allen, he answered his searching questions about philosophical matters like love, life and death. Twenty minutes later, as The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1989, Mr. Allen told him, “You’ll do.”
Much of Levy’s dialogue in the film was extemporized by Mr. Bergmann along similar philosophical lines.
“Human happiness does not seem to have been included in the design of creation,” Mr. Bergmann, as Levy, says. “It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe.”
Mr. Bergmann, whose professional training let him put his finger instantly on the operative question in almost any situation, did wonder why, if Mr. Allen wanted a philosopher, he did not simply cast a philosopher.
“I asked him that question,” Mr. Bergmann told Newsday in 1989. “He didn’t answer.”
There’s more at the New York Times, including how he felt about the fate of his character, and what that minor film fame brought to his life.
Here he is in action.
“No limos, no bimbos, no awards or anything. This guy is just a thinker, an intellect.”