Anita Ekberg in September 1956
|Pronunciation||Swedish: [aˈnîːta ˈêːkbærj] (listen) Italian: [aˈniːta ˈɛkberɡ] English: / /|
Anita Marianne Ekberg
29 September 1931
|Died||11 January 2015 (aged 83)|
Rocca di Papa, Italy
(m. 1956; div. 1959)
(m. 1963; div. 1975)
Anita Marianne Ekberg (Swedish pronunciation: [aˈnîːta ˈêːkbærj] (listen); 29 September 1931 – 11 January 2015) was a Swedish actress active in American and European films. She is best known for her role as Sylvia in the Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita (1960). Ekberg worked primarily in Italy, where she became a permanent resident in 1964.
Anita Ekberg was born on 29 September 1931, in Malmö, Skåne (Sweden), the sixth of eight children. In her teens, Anita worked as a fashion model. Ekberg entered the Miss Malmö competition in 1950 at her mother's urging. This led to the Miss Sweden contest which she won. She consequently went to the United States to compete for the 1951 Miss Universe title (an unofficial pageant at that time, the pageant became official in 1952), despite speaking very little English.
As a starlet at Universal, she received lessons in drama, elocution, dancing, horseback riding, and fencing. She appeared briefly in The Mississippi Gambler (1953), Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953) (playing a woman on Venus), Take Me to Town (1953), and The Golden Blade (1953).
Ekberg skipped many of her drama lessons, restricting herself to riding horses in the Hollywood Hills. Ekberg later admitted she was spoiled by the studio system and played instead of pursuing bigger film roles. Universal dropped her after six months.
Batjac and Paramount
The combination of Ekberg's voluptuous physique and colorful private life (such as her well-publicized romances with Hollywood's leading men like Frank Sinatra, Tyrone Power, Yul Brynner, Rod Taylor, and Errol Flynn) appealed to the gossip magazines, like Confidential and she soon became a major 1950's pin-up, appearing in men's magazines like Playboy. Additionally, Ekberg participated in publicity stunts. She once admitted that an incident in which her dress burst open in the lobby of London's Berkeley Hotel was prearranged with a photographer.
She had a small part in the film Blood Alley (1955) starring John Wayne and Lauren Bacall, made for Wayne's Batjac Productions. It was her first real speaking role in a feature. She appeared alongside the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy act in Artists and Models (1955), directed by Frank Tashlin for Paramount, playing "Anita".
Ekberg's greatest opportunity was when Paramount cast her in War and Peace (1956) which was shot in Rome, alongside Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn, directed by King Vidor. For a time, she was even publicized as "Paramount's Marilyn Monroe".
Ekberg was third billed in a thriller for Batjac, Man in the Vault (1956). It was distributed by RKO Pictures who gave Ekberg an excellent part in Back from Eternity (1956), directed by John Farrow.
Ekberg returned to Hollywood to make a second film with Martin and Lewis (and Tashlin), Hollywood or Bust (1956). Ekberg made a second film for Warwick with Mature, Interpol (1957). In 1956, Hedda Hopper said her fee was $75,000 per picture.
Ekberg returned to Hollywood to make Valerie (1957) with Sterling Hayden and her then-husband Anthony Steel for director Gerd Oswald. She co-starred with Bob Hope and Fernandel in Paris Holiday (1958). It was also directed by Oswald as was Screaming Mimi (1958). She did a third for Warwick, The Man Inside (1958) with Jack Palance. Another film was announced for her, entitled A Lot of Woman, but it was not made.
Italy and La Dolce Vita
She stayed in Rome to make La Dolce Vita (1960) for Federico Fellini, performing as Sylvia Rank, the unattainable "dream woman" of the character played by Marcello Mastroianni. The film features a scene of her cavorting in Rome's Trevi Fountain alongside Mastroianni, which has been called "one of cinema's most iconic scenes".
The movie was an international sensation and Ekberg settled in Rome. She had the lead in an Italian-French co production, Last Train to Shanghai (1960) (aka The Dam on the Yellow River), then was in Le tre eccetera del colonnello (1960), The Call Girl Business (1960), Behind Closed Doors (1961), and The Mongols (1961), which had an American director (André de Toth) and co star (Jack Palance).
She later said "things became a little bit boring for me after La Dolce Vita because every producer or director in Italy, England and America wanted me to recreate the same role – the movie star from America who comes over to Italy."
Ekberg then appeared in Boccaccio '70 (1962), a film that also featured Sophia Loren and Romy Schneider. Soon thereafter, Ekberg was being considered by Broccoli to play the first Bond girl, Honey Ryder in Dr. No, but the role went to the then-unknown Ursula Andress. However Broccoli then cast her in Call Me Bwana (1963) with Bob Hope. (Call Me Bwana featured in the second Bond film, From Russia with Love, during a sequence where Ali Kerim Bey assassinates the Russian agent Krilencu with a sniper rifle. Krilencu attempts to escape through a window, which is situated in Anita Ekberg's mouth, on the wall-sized poster: "She should have kept her mouth shut", Bond quips.)
Ekberg co-starred with Andress, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin in the western-comedy 4 for Texas (1963). She returned to Europe to make Love Factory (1964) and Who Wants to Sleep? (1965). She went to England for an Agatha Christie adaptation, The Alphabet Murders (1965), directed by Frank Tashlin who had directed her two Martin and Lewis films.
Ekberg was in the Italian How I Learned to Love Women (1966) then had a small role in a Jerry Lewis comedy, Way... Way Out (1966). She was in Pardon, Are You For or Against? (1966), an Alberto Sordi comedy; The Cobra (1967), an Italian crime film with Dana Andrews; The Glass Sphinx (1967) with Robert Taylor; Woman Times Seven (1967), an anthology directed by Vittorio De Sica, in a segment with Michael Caine; and Crónica de un atraco (1968).
Fellini called Ekberg back for a cameo in The Clowns (1970). She had bigger parts in The Divorce (1970) with Vittorio Gassman; The Conjugal Debt (1970); Quella chiara notte d'ottobre (1970); The French Sex Murders (1972), a giallo; and Deadly Trackers (1972).
Ekberg was also in Gold of the Amazon Women (1979), Killer Nun (1979), S.H.E: Security Hazards Expert (1980), Cicciabomba (1982), and The Seduction of Angela (1986). Fellini used her in Intervista (1987), appearing as herself in a reunion scene with Mastroianni.
Later performances included Count Max (1991), Ambrogio (1992), Cattive ragazze (1992), Witness Run (1996), and Bámbola (1996), in a part turned down by Gina Lollobrigida. She had a good part in Le nain rouge (1998).
She was in the TV series Beauty Centre (2001).
Both of Ekberg's marriages were to actors, but neither of them succeeded. She was married to Anthony Steel from 22 May 1956 until their divorce on 14 May 1959 and to Rik Van Nutter from 9 April 1963 until their divorce in 1975. In one interview, she said she wished she had a child, but stated just the opposite on another occasion.
Ekberg was often outspoken in interviews, e.g., naming famous people she reportedly "couldn't bear". She was also frequently quoted as saying that it was Fellini who owed his success to her, rather than vice versa: "They would like to keep up the story that Fellini made me famous, that Fellini discovered me", she said in a 1999 interview with The New York Times.
Ekberg did not live in Sweden after the early 1950's, and rarely visited the country. However, she welcomed Swedish journalists into her home outside Rome and in 2005, appeared on the popular radio program Sommar, talking about her life. She stated in an interview that she would not move back to Sweden before her death but would be buried there.
On 19 July 2009, she was admitted to the San Giovanni Hospital in Rome after falling ill in her home in Genzano, according to a medical official in the hospital's neurosurgery department. Despite her condition not being serious, Ekberg was put under observation in the facility.
In December 2011, it was reported that the 80-year-old Ekberg was "destitute" following three months in a Rimini hospital with a broken hip, during which time her home was robbed of jewelry and furniture, and her villa was badly damaged by fire. Ekberg applied for help from the Fellini Foundation, which also found itself in difficult financial straits.
Ekberg died on 11 January 2015, at the age of 83, at the clinic San Raffaele in Rocca di Papa, Roman Castles, from complications of enduring illnesses. Ekberg's funeral service was held on 14 January 2015, at the Lutheran-Evangelical Christuskirche in Rome, after which her body was cremated and her remains were buried at the cemetery of Skanör Church in Sweden.
|1953||The Mississippi Gambler||Maid of Honor|||
|Abbott and Costello Go to Mars||Venusian Guard||American science fiction comedy film directed by Charles Lamont.|||
|Take Me to Town||Dancehall Girl||Uncredited|
|The Golden Blade||Handmaiden||An adventure film directed by Nathan Juran.
|1955||Blood Alley||Wei Ling, Big Han's wife||American seafaring Cold War adventure film set in China directed by William A. Wellman.|||
|Artists and Models||Anita||
|1956||War and Peace||Hélène Kuragin||American-Italian war drama film directed by King Vidor.|
|Back from Eternity||Rena||drama film directed and produced by John Farrow.|||
|Man in the Vault||Flo Randall||Film noir directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.|||
|Hollywood or Bust||Herself|
|Valerie||Valerie Horvat||Western film directed by Gerd Oswald.|||
|1958||Paris Holiday||Zara||Comedy film directed by Gerd Oswald|||
|Screaming Mimi||Virginia Wilson aka Yolanda Lange|
|The Man Inside||Trudie Hall||British crime adventure film directed by John Gilling.|
|1959||Sheba and the Gladiator||Zenobia||
|1960||La Dolce Vita||Sylvia||Italian comedy-drama film written and directed by Federico Fellini.|||
|The Dam on the Yellow River||Miss Dorothy Simmons||[page needed]|
|Le tre eccetera del colonnello||Georgina|
|1961||A porte chiuse||Olga Duvovich|||
|The Mongols||Hulina||Directed by André de Toth.|
|1963||Call Me Bwana||Luba||Farce film directed by Gordon Douglas.|||
|4 for Texas||Elya Carlson||
|Bianco, rosso, giallo, rosa||Alberchiaria|
|1965||Who Wants to Sleep?||Lolita Young|||
|The Alphabet Murders||Amanda|
|1966||How I Learned to Love Women||Margaret Joyce|||
|Way...Way Out||Anna Soblova||American comedy film directed by Gordon Douglas.|
|Pardon, Are You For or Against?||Baroness Olga|||
|1967||The Cobra||Lou||[page needed]|
|The Glass Sphinx||Paulette|||
|Woman Times Seven||Claudie|
|1968||Crónica de un atraco||Bessie|
|1969||If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium||Performer|
|Malenka||Malenka / Sylvia Morel||
|Un sudario a la medida||Jacqueline Monnard|
|Death Knocks Twice||Sophia Perretti|||
|Il debito coniugale||Ines|
|Quella chiara notte d'ottobre|
|The Clowns||Herself||Film by Federico Fellini about the human fascination with clowns and circuses.|||
|1972||Casa d'appuntamento||Madame Colette||
|La lunga cavalcata della vendetta||Jane|
|Northeast of Seoul||Katherine||Film directed by David Lowell Rich.|||
|1979||Killer Nun||Sister Gertrude||
|1980||S*H*E||Dr. Biebling||American spy film directed by Robert Michael Lewis.|
|1982||Cicciabomba||Baronessa Judith von Kemp|
|1986||Dolce pelle di Angela||Signora Rocchi|
|1987||Intervista||Herself||Italian film directed by Federico Fellini.|
|1991||Count Max||Marika||French-Italian comedy film directed by Christian De Sica|||
|Dov'era Lei a quell'Ora?||Anita Ekberg|
|1996||Bambola||Mother Greta||French-Spanish-Italian erotic melodrama film written and directed by Bigas Luna.|
|1998||Le nain rouge||Paola Bendoni|
|1979||Gold of the Amazon Women||Queen Na-Eela|
- High School Confidential (Rough Trade song)
- The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (Ekberg is referenced in the song "I Shall Be Free".)
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