Anita Ekberg

Anita Ekberg

Birth name: Kerstin Anita Marianne Ekberg
Born: September 29, 1931
Age: 91
Birthplace: Malmö, Sweden
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Kerstin Anita Marianne Ekberg[1] (29 September 1931 – 11 January 2015) was a Swedish born Italian actress in American and European films. She is best known for her role as Sylvia in the Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita (1960).[2] Ekberg worked primarily in Italy, where she became a permanent resident in 1964.[3]

Anita Ekberg was born on 29 September 1931, in Malmö, Skåne, the sixth of eight children[2] of Gustav Fredrik Ekberg by the former Alva Maria Larsson. 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.[2]



Universal Studios

Although Ekberg did not win the Miss Universe pageant, as one of six finalists she did earn a starlet's contract with Universal Studios.[4]

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.[4] Universal dropped her after six months.[5]

Batjac and Paramount

Ekberg in War and Peace (1956)

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)[2][6] appealed to the gossip magazines, like Confidential and she soon became a major 1950s pin-up, appearing in men's magazines like Playboy.[7] 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.[4]

Ekberg toured Greenland with Bob Hope entertaining American servicemen. Hope spoke of her beauty and John Wayne signed her to a contract with his Batjac Productions at $75 a week.[5]

By the mid-1950s, after several modeling jobs, Ekberg finally broke into the film industry. She guest-starred in the short-lived TV series Casablanca (1955) and Private Secretary.

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.[8] 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 had her best chance to date 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".[9]

Ekberg in Hollywood or Bust (1956)

Ekberg was third billed in a thriller for Batjac, Man in the Vault (1956).[10] It was distributed by RKO Pictures who gave Ekberg an excellent part in Back from Eternity (1956), directed by John Farrow.[11]

Ekberg signed a deal with Warwick Pictures, the company of producers Albert Broccoli and Irwin Allen, who made films in England. She did Zarak (1956) with Victor Mature.

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).[11] In 1956 Hedda Hopper said her fee was $75,000 per picture.[5]

She was announced for Glare directed by Budd Boetticher, but it was not made.[12]

When John Wayne split up with his producing partner Robert Fellows, Fellows took over Ekberg's contract.[13]

Gerd Oswald

Ekberg returned to Hollywood to make Valerie (1957) with Sterling Hayden and her then-husband Anthony Steel for director Gerd Oswald.[11][14]

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. A film was announced for her A Lot of Woman but it was not made.[15]

Italy and La Dolce Vita

Ekberg went to Italy to star in Sheba and the Gladiator (1959), playing Zenobia.[16]

She stayed in Rome to make La Dolce Vita (1960) for Frederico 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".[2][17]

The movie was an international sensation and Ekberg settled in Rome.[18] 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)[11], Behind Closed Doors (1961), and The Mongols (1961), which had an American director (Andre 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."[19]

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.[11] 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 says.[20])

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 made 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).

She had a cameo in If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) and the lead in Fangs of the Living Dead (1969), Death Knocks Twice (1969), and A Candidate for a Killing (1969).

Later career

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).

She went to Asia to make a Hollywood film, Northeast of Seoul (1972). In 1972 she sued an Italian magazine for publishing naked photographs of her.[21]

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.[11]

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).[22][23]

She was in the TV series Beauty Centre (2001).

Personal life

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 in 14 May 1959 and to Rik Van Nutter from 9 April 1963 until their divorce in 1975.[2][6] In one interview, she said she wished she had a child,[24] but stated just the opposite on another occasion.[25]

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.[26]

Ekberg did not live in Sweden after the early 1950s, 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, telling about her life. She stated in an interview that she would not move back to Sweden before her death but would be buried there.[24]

In 1963, she was sued by her publicist.[27]

In 1977, she was robbed in August and in December.[28]

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.[29]

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,[2] and her villa was badly damaged by fire.[30] Ekberg applied for help from the Fellini Foundation, which also found itself in difficult financial straits.[31]


Ekberg died on 11 January 2015, at the age of 83, at the clinic San Raffaele in Rocca di Papa in Castelli Romani, Italy from complications of enduring illnesses.[2][32][33] 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.[34]



Year Title Role Notes ref
1953 The Mississippi Gambler Maid of Honor
  • Uncredited
  • American adventure film directed by Rudolph Maté.
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars Venusian Guard American science fiction comedy film directed by Charles Lamont. [36]
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. [37]
Artists and Models Anita
  • Musical comedy in VistaVision directed by Frank Tashlin.
  • The film marks Martin and Lewis's fourteenth feature together as a team.
  • Longtime Martin and Lewis writer Herbert Baker worked on the script, which had the original title Rock-A-Bye Baby; the title later being used for a 1958 Jerry Lewis film.
1956 War and Peace Helene American-Italian war drama film directed by King Vidor.
Back from Eternity Rena drama film directed and produced by John Farrow. [39]
Hollywood or Bust Herself
  • Comedy film directed by Frank Tashlin.
  • Last film starring the team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
Man in the Vault Flo Randall Film noir directed by Andrew V. McLaglen. [40]
Zarak Salma
  • British Warwick Films CinemaScope in Technicolor action film based on the 1949 book The Story of Zarak Khan by A.J. Bevan.
  • Directed by Terence Young.
1957 Interpol Gina Broger
  • Known as Pickup Alley in the U.S.A..
  • British Warwick Films crime film shot in CinemaScope directed by John Gilling.
Valerie Valerie Horvat Western film directed by Gerd Oswald. [44][45]
1958 Paris Holiday Zara Comedy film directed by Gerd Oswald [46][47]
The Man Inside Trudie Hall British crime adventure film directed by John Gilling.
Screaming Mimi Virginia Wilson aka Yolanda Lange
  • Film noir directed by Gerd Oswald
  • Based on the novel by pulp novelist Fredric Brown.
  • Film never received an official video release in the U.S.
1959 Sheba and the Gladiator Zenobia
  • Historical drama film loosely pertaining to the Palmyrene Empire and its re-annexation back into the Roman Empire.
  • (Italian: Nel Segno di Roma)
  • Directed by Guido Brignone.
  • Originally called The Sign of Rome.
  • American International Pictures acquired the American rights to the film and retitled it Sign of the Gladiator despite there being no gladiators in the film.
1960 La Dolce Vita Sylvia Italian comedy-drama film written and directed by Federico Fellini. [49]
1961 The Mongols Hulina Directed by André De Toth.
A porte chiuse Olga Duvovich
  • Internationally released as Behind Closed Doors
  • Italian comedy film directed by Dino Risi.
The Dam on the Yellow River Miss Dorothy Simmons
  • Italian: Apocalisse sul fiume giallo
  • French: Le dernier train de Shanghai
  • Released in UK as Last Train to Shanghai.
  • Italian-French drama film written and directed by Renzo Merusi.
[54][55][page needed]
1962 Boccaccio '70 Herself
  • Italian anthology film directed by Mario Monicelli, Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti and Vittorio De Sica, from an idea by Cesare Zavattini.
  • It is an anthology of four episodes, each by one of the directors, all about a different aspect of morality and love in modern times, in the style of Boccaccio.
1963 Call Me Bwana Luba Farce film directed by Gordon Douglas. [57]
4 for Texas Elya Carlson
  • American western comedy directed by Robert Aldrich.
  • The film was announced in 1960 as Two for Texas.
1965 The Alphabet Murders Amanda
  • British detective film directed by Frank Tashlin.
  • Based on the novel The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie.
Who Wants to Sleep? Lolita Young
  • German:Das Liebeskarussell
  • German comedy film directed by Rolf Thiele, Axel von Ambesser and Alfred Weidenmann.
1966 How I Learned to Love Women Margaret Joyce
  • Italian: Come imparai ad amare le donne
  • French: Comment j'ai appris à aimer les femmes
  • German: Das gewisse Etwas der Frauen
  • Also known as Love Parade
  • Italian-French-German comedy film directed by Luciano Salce.
Way...Way Out Anna American comedy film directed by Gordon Douglas.
Pardon, Are You For or Against? Baroness Olga
  • Italian: Scusi, lei è favorevole o contrario?
  • Italian comedy film written, directed and starred by Alberto Sordi.
1967 The Glass Sphinx Paulette
  • Italian: La sfinge d'oro
  • Italian-American 1967 adventure film directed by Luigi Scattini.
Woman Times Seven Claudie
  • Sette Volte Donna in Italian
  • Italian/French/American co-production anthology film of seven different episodes, all starring Shirley MacLaine, most of them based on aspects of adultery.
  • Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
The Cobra Lou
  • Italian: Il cobra
  • Spanish: El cobra
  • Also known as Cobra and Female Cobra
  • Italian-Spanish crime film directed by Mario Sequi.
[54][55][page needed]
1969 Death Knocks Twice Sophia Perretti
  • German: Blonde Köder für den Mörder
  • Italian: La morte bussa due volte
  • Detective film directed by Harald Philipp.
Malenka Malenka / Sylvia Morel
  • Also known as Fangs of the Living Dead.
  • Spanish-Italian horror film that was written and directed by Spanish director Amando de Ossorio, and his first horror film.
1970 The Clowns Herself Film by Federico Fellini about the human fascination with clowns and circuses. [67]
The Divorce Flavia
  • Italian: Il divorzio
  • Italian comedy film directed by Romolo Guerrieri.
1972 Casa d'appuntamento Madame Colette
  • Translation: The House of Rendezvous.
  • Also known as The French Sex Murders.
  • Giallo film directed by Ferdinando Merighi under the pseudonym "F. L. Morris".
Northeast of Seoul Katherine Film directed by David Lowell Rich. [70][71]
1978 Killer Nun Sister Gertrude
  • Also known as Suor Omicidi or Deadly Habits
  • Italian nunsploitation film directed and co-written by Giulio Berruti and co-written by Alberto Tarallo.
  • The film was originally banned in Britain as a 'video nasty' and released with cuts in 1993, but was finally released uncut on DVD in the UK during 2006, after changes in British censorship policy.
1980 S*H*E Dr. Biebling American spy film directed by Robert Michael Lewis.
1987 Intervista Herself Italian film directed by Federico Fellini.
1991 Count Max Marika French-Italian comedy film directed by Christian De Sica [73]
1996 Bambola Mother Greta French-Spanish-Italian erotic melodrama film written and directed by Bigas Luna.


Year Title Role Notes ref
1979 Gold of the Amazon Women Queen Na-Eela

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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