When Joan of Arc was released in 1948, Ingrid Bergman was already a star. Born in Sweden in 1915, Bergman starred in several Swedish stage and screen productions before her 1939 American debut in Intermezzo. An English-language adaption of a Swedish film, Intermezzo featured Bergman reprising her role as Anita, a piano teacher who pulls concert pianist Holger (Leslie Howard, also known as Ashley in Gone With the Wind) away from his family. Bergman's next major role was in Casablanca (1942), now considered a cinema classic. Throughout the 1940s, Bergman starred in a string of successful films: For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Gaslight (1944), and the Hitchcock films Spellbound (1945), and Notorious (1946). In 1947, Life magazine claimed: "polls have rated her No. 1 feminine star of the year."1
In 1947, Ingrid Bergman made a move to the New York stage, playing the title role in Joan of Lorraine by Maxwell Anderson. Constructed as a play within a play, Joan of Lorraine tells Joan of Arc's story through a contemporary staging of her remarkable story. For her onstage portrayal of Joan of Arc, Bergman won a Tony Award. Bergman had wanted to play Joan of Arc for many years, and her investment in the role led to her involvement with the 1948 film Joan of Arc. Based on Joan of Lorraine, the 1948 cinematic version of Joan of Arc is a straightforward retelling of Joan's saga. Broadly summarized, Joan of Arc was a 15th century peasant girl who heard voices. According to Joan, these voices were saints telling her she must lead the decimated French army to victory over the occupying English. Historical record indicates that Joan existed, and did actually serve as a figurehead and/or military strategist during a series of remarkable military victories in the early 15th century. In 1431, she was burned at the stake by a faction sympathetic to the English occupation.