Anita Ekberg

Anita Ekberg

Ekberg in 1956

Swedish: [aˈniːta ²eːkbærj]

Italian: [aˈniːta ˈɛkberɡ]

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

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, 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

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

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 in which 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 even publicized as "Paramount's Marilyn Monroe."[7]

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 in Hollywood or Bust (1956)

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), in the latter of which she appeared as herself, in a reunion scene with Mastroianni.[8]

Personal life

Both of Ekberg's marriages were to actors, but neither of them succeeded. 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, at the age of 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]



Year Title Role Notes ref
1953 The Mississippi Gambler Maid of Honor [20]
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars Venusian Guard American science fiction comedy film directed by Charles Lamont. [21]
The Golden Blade Handmaiden An adventure film directed by Nathan Juran.
1955 Blood Alley Wei Ling, Big Han's wife Propaganda seafaring adventure movie set in China directed by William A. Wellman. [22]
Artists and Models Anita
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. [24]
Hollywood or Bust Herself
Man in the Vault Flo Randall Film noir directed by Andrew V. McLaglen. [25]
Zarak Salma
1957 Interpol Gina Broger
Valerie Valerie Horvat Western film directed by Gerd Oswald. [29][30]
1958 Paris Holiday Zara Comedy film directed by Gerd Oswald [31][32]
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
1960 La Dolce Vita Sylvia Italiancomedy-drama film written and directed by Federico Fellini. [34]
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.
1962 Boccaccio '70 Herself
1963 Call Me Bwana Luba Farce film directed by Gordon Douglas. [42]
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
Who Wants to Sleep? Lolita Young
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
Woman Times Seven Claudie
The Cobra Lou
  • Italian: Il cobra
  • Spanish: El cobra
  • Also known as Cobra and Female Cobra
  • Italian-Spanish crime film directed by Mario Sequi.
1969 Death Knocks Twice Sophia Perretti
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. [52]
The Divorce Flavia
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. [55][56]
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 [58]
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

See also


  1. "Anita Ekberg". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "La Dolce Vita star Anita Ekberg dies". BBC. January 11, 2015. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  3. "Anita Ekberg To Become Italian Citizen" (PDF). Anita Ekberg To Become Italian Citizen. October 15, 1964. Retrieved December 31, 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 Sullivan (1995).
  5. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "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. 1 2 "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.
  20. "The Mississippi Gambler". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  21. Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  22. Variety film review; September 21, 1955, page 6.
  23. "Finding Aid for the Herbert Baker Papers, 1939-1978". Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  24. Pendo 1985, p. 271.
  25. "Man in the Vault: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  26. WARWICK ACQUIRES BEVAN SPY NOVEL: Irving Allen Plans Production of 'Zarak Khan' -- Seeking Errol Flynn for Title Role By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 14 May 1953: 33.
  27. "Zarak (1956) - Overview". Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  28. "Interpol (1957)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  29. "Valerie". TCMDB. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  30. "Valerie". All Movie. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  31. "Full synopsis". TCMDB. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  32. Erickson, Hal. "Plot synopsis". Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  33. McGee, Mark (996). Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures. McFarland. p. 154.
  34. Kezich, Tullio (2006). Federico Fellini: His Life and Work. New York: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-21168-5.
  35. Irene Mazzetti. I film di Dino Risi (in Italian). Gremese.
  36. Valerio Caprara (1993). Mordi e fuggi: la commedia secondo Dino Risi (in Italian). Marsilio.
  37. Paolo D'Agostini, Dino Risi, Editrice Il castoro, 1995
  38. Films in Review, Volume 14, National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, 1963
  39. 1 2 3 Roberto Chiti; Roberto Poppi; Enrico Lancia; Mario Pecorari. Dizionario del cinema italiano. I film. Gremese Editore, 1992. ISBN 8876055932.
  40. 1 2 Freddy Buache. Le cinéma italien, 1945-1990. L'Age d'homme, 1992. ISBN 2825102253.
  41. ""Nino Rota, L'Amico Magico" at". 4 July 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  42. Ceplair, Larry (2007). The Marxist and the Movies: A Biography of Paul Jarrico. University Press of Kentucky. p. either 188 or 250. ISBN 9780813137049.
  43. Scott, J. L. (1 November 1960). "Texas yarns follow in wake of 'alamo'". Los Angeles Times(1923-Current File). Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  44. "Who wants to Sleep?". British Film Institute. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  45. Andrea Pergolari. Verso la commedia: momenti del cinema di Steno, Salce, Festa Campanile. Firenze libri, 2002.
  46. Roberto Poppi; Mario Pecorari. Dizionario del cinema italiano. I film. Gremese Editore, 2007. ISBN 8884405033.
  47. Paolo Mereghetti. Il Mereghetti. B.C. Dalai Editore, 2010. ISBN 8860736269.
  48. "The Glass Sphinx". TCMDB. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  49. "BFI: Blonde Köder für den Mörder". British Film Institute. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  50. McCallum, Lawrence (1998). Italian horror films of the 1960s: a critical catalog of 62 chillers. McFarland. pp. 75–77. ISBN 9780786404353.
  51. Cinefantastique, Volume 3. Cinefantastique. 1973. p. 34.
  52. Philip French (25 October 2014). "I Clowns review". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  53. Roberto Chiti; Roberto Poppi; Enrico Lancia. Dizionario del cinema italiano: I film. Gremese, 1991. ISBN 8876059695.
  54. Paolo Mereghetti. Il Mereghetti. B.C. Dalai Editore, 2010. ISBN 88-6073-626-9.
  55. "Northeast of Seoul". All Movie. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  56. "Film Review: Northeast of Seoul (1972)". Films de France. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  57. Fountain, Nigel (2008). Killer Nun. Time Out Film Guide 2009. London: Ebury Press. p. 566.
  58. Koper, Richard (2010). Fifties Blondes: Sexbombs, Sirens, Bad Girls and Teen Queens. BearManor Media. p. 113.


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


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