Anita Ekberg

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Anita Ekberg
Anita Ekburg - 1956-B.jpg
Ekberg in 1956
Pronunciation Swedish: [aˈniːta ˈeːkˈbærj]
Italian: [aˈniːta ˈɛkbɛrɡ]
English /əˈntə ˈɛkbərɡ/
Born Kerstin Anita Marianne Ekberg
(1931-09-29)29 September 1931
Malmö, Sweden
Died 11 January 2015(2015-01-11) (aged 83)
Rocca di Papa, Italy
Nationality Italian
Occupation Actress, model
Years active 1953–2002
Spouse(s) Anthony Steel (m. 1956–59)
Rik Van Nutter (m. 1963–75)

Kerstin Anita Marianne Ekberg[1] (29 September 1931 – 11 January 2015) was a Swedish-Italian actress, model, and sex symbol. She is best known for her role as Sylvia in the Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita (1960).[2] Ekberg worked primarily in Italy, of which she became a permanent resident in 1964.[3]

Early life[edit]

Ekberg was born on 29 September 1931, in Malmö, Skåne, the sixth of eight children.[2] In her teens she worked as a fashion model. Ekberg entered the Miss Malmö competition in 1950 at her mother's urging, leading to the Miss Sweden contest which she won. She consequently went to the United States to compete for the Miss Universe 1951 title (an unofficial pageant at that time, the pageant became official in 1952) despite speaking little English.[2]

Early career[edit]

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

As a starlet at Universal, she received lessons in drama, elocution, dancing, horseriding and fencing. She appeared briefly in the 1953 Universal films, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars and The Golden Blade. 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]

Mainstream career[edit]

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, such as Frank Sinatra, Tyrone Power, Yul Brynner, Rod Taylor and Errol Flynn)[2][5] appealed to the gossip magazines, like Confidential, and she soon became a major 1950s pin-up, appearing in men's magazines like Playboy.[6] Additionally, Ekberg participated in publicity stunts. She once admitted that an incident wherein her dress burst open in the lobby of London's Berkeley Hotel was prearranged with a photographer.[4]

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. She appeared alongside the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy act in Artists and Models (1955) and Hollywood or Bust (1956), both for Paramount Pictures. For a time she was publicized as "Paramount's Marilyn Monroe".[7]

Ekberg in Hollywood or Bust (1956)

Ekberg was featured in five films released during 1956. Paramount cast her in War and Peace (1956) which was shot in Rome, alongside Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn. Meanwhile, RKO Pictures gave the actress her first leading role in an early disaster film Back from Eternity (also 1956).[8] The last two were Man in the Vault and Zarak, both minor productions that had a limited impact on her career.[8]

Ekberg starred in the British drama Interpol with Victor Mature and in Valerie (both 1957) with Sterling Hayden.[8] She then co-starred with Bob Hope in Paris Holiday, and with Philip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee in Screaming Mimi (both 1958). A European film, Sheba and the Gladiator (1959), followed.[9]

Federico Fellini gave Ekberg her best known role in La Dolce Vita (1960), 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][10]

After this, she accepted a role in The Dam on the Yellow River in 1960.[8] She then appeared in Boccaccio '70 (1962), a film that also featured Sophia Loren and Romy Schneider. Soon thereafter, Ekberg was being considered to play the first Bond girl, Honey Ryder in Dr. No, but the role went to the then-unknown Ursula Andress.[8]

Ekberg co-starred with Andress, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in the western-comedy 4 for Texas (1963). Fellini would call her back for two more films: The Clowns (1972) and Intervista (1987), wherein she played herself in a reunion scene with Mastroianni.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Ekberg in 2007

Both of Ekberg's marriages were to actors. She was wed to Anthony Steel from 1956 until their divorce in 1959, and to Rik Van Nutter from 1963 until their divorce in 1975.[2][5] In one interview, she said she wished she had a child,[11] but stated the opposite on another occasion.[12]

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, Fellini discovered me", she said in a 1999 interview with The New York Times.[13]

Ekberg did not live in Sweden after the early 1950s and rarely visited the country. However, she welcomed Swedish journalists into her house outside Rome and in 2005 appeared on the popular radio program Sommar, and talked about her life. She stated in an interview that she would not move back to Sweden before her death since she would be buried there.[11]

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.[14]

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 her home was robbed of jewelry and furniture,[2] and her villa was badly damaged in a fire.[15] Ekberg applied for help from the Fellini Foundation, which also found itself in difficult financial straits.[16]


Ekberg died on 11 January 2015 aged 83 at the clinic San Raffaele in Rocca di Papa in Castelli Romani, Italy from complications of enduring illnesses.[2][17][18] 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.[19]

Partial filmography[edit]

See also[edit]

  • High School Confidential (Rough Trade song)
  • Referenced in Bob Dylan's version of the song I Shall Be Free on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan: "The telephone ringing it would not stop/ It was President Kennedy calling me up/ He said 'My friend, Bob, whatta do we need to make the country grow?'/ I said 'My friend, John, Brigitte Bardot / Anita Ekberg / Sophia Loren / Country'll grow' "...



  1. ^ "Anita Ekberg". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "La Dolce Vita star Anita Ekberg dies". BBC. January 11, 2015. Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c Sullivan (1995).
  5. ^ a b Bernstein, Adam (11 January 2015). "Anita Ekberg, Swedish bombshell of ‘La Dolce Vita,’ dies at 83". The Washington Post. 
  6. ^ "La Dolce Vita star Anita Ekberg passes away". Al Jazeera. 11 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "The Old-School Beauty Of Anita Ekberg". The Roosevelts. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Anita Ekberg, 'Dolce Vita' actress, dies". The Times of India. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "Nel segno di Roma". Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  10. ^ Mejia, Paula. "Anita Ekberg, International Film Siren, Dies at Age 83". Newsweek. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "La dolce Anita turns 75". Aftonbladet (in Swedish). 5 October 2006. 
  12. ^ "Anita Ekberg". Studentafton. Lund. 22 March 2007. 
  13. ^ "Still a Blond Bombshell, but of a Certain Age". New York Times. 13 June 1999. 
  14. ^ "Anita Ekberg in Rome hospital". ABC News. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Dolce Vita diva Ekberg appeals for help". Zee News (India). 23 December 2011. 
  16. ^ "Film icon falls on hard times". The New Zealand Herald. 24 December 2011. 
  17. ^ "Skådespelerskan Anita Ekberg är död". Expressen. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  18. ^ "Anita Ekberg, International Screen Beauty and Fellini Star, Dies at 83". The New York Times. 11 January 2015. 
  19. ^ "Anita Ekberg, mercoledì i funerali nella chiesa evangelica luterana". Corriere di Roma (in Italian). 11 January 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 


  • Sullivan, Steve (1995). VaVaVa Voom! Glamour Girls of The Pinup Era. Stoddart. ISBN 978-1-881649-60-1. 


  • McDonough, Jimmy (2005). Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-07250-1. 
  • Mancini, Henry (2002). Did They Mention the Music?: The Autobiography of Henry Mancini. Copper Square Press. ISBN 978-0-8154-1175-8. 

External links[edit]