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Britt in 1959.
March 22, 1934
May Britt (born March 22, 1934) is a Swedish actress who had a brief career in the 1950s in Italy and later in the United States. She retired from the screen after she married Sammy Davis, Jr. in 1960.
Maybritt Wilkens, as she was known originally, was discovered as a teenager by Italian filmmakers Carlo Ponti and Mario Soldati in 1951. She was then an assistant to a Stockholm photographer. The two filmmakers were in Sweden to cast a young blonde for the title role in Jolanda, the Daughter of the Black Corsair. They came to the studio where she worked to view photographs of models. After meeting her, they offered her the part. May Britt, as she was renamed professionally, moved to Rome. As expected, she made her movie debut as the leading actress in Jolanda, the Daughter of the Black Corsair (1952). In the following years she worked in some ten Cinecittà productions. She also featured in the epic film War and Peace of 1956.
In the late 1950s, Britt relocated to Hollywood after signing with 20th Century Fox. She starred in a few movies, including The Young Lions (1958) with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift and Murder, Inc. (1960) with Peter Falk, as well as a much-criticized remake of The Blue Angel (1959) in the legendary role first created by Marlene Dietrich in 1930.
Marriage and retirement
She met Sammy Davis, Jr. in 1959. They began dating, and, after a brief engagement, were married on November 13, 1960. Their wedding caused controversy. A rumor or myth was that John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy told Frank Sinatra to tell Davis not to marry May until after the 1960 Presidential Election. At that time interracial marriage was forbidden by law in 31 U.S. states, and only in 1967 were those laws (by then down to 17 states) ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to the wedding, Britt converted to Judaism. The couple was married by Rabbi William Kramer.
Once married, Britt left the movies. She and Davis had one biological child, a daughter, Tracey (born July 5, 1961), and adopted two sons: Mark Sidney Davis (born 1960, adopted June 4, 1963) and Jeff (born 1963). They divorced in 1968 after Davis reportedly had an affair with dancer Lola Falana. After the divorce, Britt resumed working with sporadic TV guest appearances, the last in 1988. Since then she has been retired and mainly involved in painting. She currently resides in California with her third husband, Lennart Ringquist.
In popular culture
|1952||Jolanda, the Daughter of the Black Corsair||Jolanda||Alternative title: Jolanda la figlia del corsaro nero|
|1953||Cavalleria rusticana||Santuzza||Alternative title: Fatal Desire (US)|
|1954||Vergine moderna||Claudia Bardi||Alternative title: Modern Virgin|
|1956||War and Peace||Sonia Rostova|
|1958||The Young Lions||Gretchen Hardenberg|
|1958||The Hunters||Kristina Abbott|
|1959||The Blue Angel||Lola-Lola|
|1960||Murder, Inc.||Eadie Collins|
|1977||Haunts||Ingrid||Alternative title: The Veil|
|1968||The Danny Thomas Hour||Anna||1 episode|
|1969||Mission: Impossible||Eva Gollan||1 episode|
|1971||The Most Deadly Game||Lili||1 episode|
|The Partners||1 episode|
- "May Britt Joins Jewish Faith", The New York Times, 18 October 1960, p. 46