A sensual, stunningly beautiful member of Ingmar Bergman's troupe, Harriet Andersson was featured in many of the director's early classics. Unlike other typical Swedish leading ladies, Andersson was dark-haired, but her outsider appearance was used to smoldering, even kittenish appeal. She began by performing dance halls while still a teenager and at age 18 made her screen debut in "Medan Staden Sover/While the City Sleeps" (1950). Bergman cast her two years later using her coarse but sensual appeal to good effect in "Summer with Monika" (It is a still photograph from this film that Jean-Pierre Leaud steals in Francois Truffaut's 1959 masterpiece "The 400 Blows".) For the director, she was often the lower-class girl, as in her circus performer in "Sawdust and Tinsel" (1953) or her maid Petra in the comic "Smiles of a Summer Night" (1955). Bergman elevated her somewhat as the schizophrenic in "Through a Glass Darkly" (1961) and the dying sister in "Cries and Whispers" (1972) but in their final screen collaboration "Fanny and Alexander" (1981) had her back as a kitchen maid.
Despite the international attention Andersson received for her work with Bergman, it was her husband Jorn Donner who offered her more substantial roles. She received a Best Actress citation from the 1964 Venice Film Festival as a married woman rediscovering the pleasures of sex and romance in Donner's "To Love". More recently, Andersson projected underlying rebellion as a sympathetic teacher in "Beyond the Sky" (1993).
Unlike her colleagues such as Bibi Andersson or Liv Ullmann who were also launched by Bergman, Andersson has made few international films. She made her English-language debut in Sidney Lumet's "The Deadly Affair" (1966), but seemed more at ease working with her countrymen. Andersson has made a handful of Swedish TV-movies, including "I HHHavsbandet" (1971), and occasional stage appearances, including playing Anne Frank in "The Diary of Anne Frank" in 1953 and Ophelia in "Hamlet".