Movie Stars: Ekberg, Anita–Actress and Sex Symbol, from Sweden to Hollywood

Anita Ekberg Becoming a Hollywood Star

At age 19, Sweden-born Anita Ekberg lost the Miss Universe crown, but won a Universal studio contract.

It was 1950, and the new Miss Sweden had flown to America to compete in the pageant. As one of six finalists, she scored a studio contract and, with Universal’s push, became widely recognized as a pinup model, gracing the pages of fashion and men’s magazines across the country.

Blood Alley: Appearing in John Wayne Movie

Ekberg snagged a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer for one of her initial Hollywood forays, the 1955 thriller “Blood Alley” with John Wayne and Lauren Bacall.

By 1956, she’d been cast in a series of Paramount films, including Hollywood or Bustand War and Peace, and had been anointed New Star of the Year (along with Victoria Shaw and Dana Wynter) by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

But Ekberg got her most memorable role after Federico Fellini saw a photo of the blond bombshell dipping her feet in Rome’s Trevi Fountain. He cast her in 1960’s La Dolce Vita, in which she would frolic in that same fountain with co-star Marcello Mastroianni.

Anita Ekberg, the Swedish-born international star, best remembered for her sensual presence in Fellini’s masterpiece La Dolce Vita, has died. She was 83.

BBC News said she had been in a hospital in Rome since Christmas and in a wheelchair for several years after breaking a hip.

Ekberg was one of cinema’s most famous “sex goddesses,” as renowned for her performances as she was for her alleged list of romances with major stars such as Frank Sinatra and Gary Cooper. In addition to “La Dolce Vita,” which made her an international film icon, Ekberg starred in “War and Peace” with Audrey Hepburn, “Artists and Models” with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin and “Paris Holiday” with Bob Hope.

She auditioned for, but lost out on, the part of Honey Ryder in the first James Bond film, “Dr. No.” Along with Marilyn Monroe, Ekberg was one of the most popular pinups of the 1950s.

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Catapulted to International Stardom by Fellini

It was her work in “La Dolce Vita,” a part tailor made for her statuesque charms, that proved her most enduring.

She would work with “La Dolce Vita” directer Federico Fellini on two subsequent occasions in “I clowns” (1972), and “Intervista” (1987).

The Swedish-born Ekberg was married twice; first to actor Anthony Steel from 1956 to 1959 and later to actor Rik Van Nutter from 1963 to 1975. She had no children.

“I was standing there in bare legs for hours in winter freezing to death,” she told the Irish Examiner in 2013. “We had to keep repeating the take. I had lost all circulation in my legs by the end.” Later roles in small-scale European films, such as 1979’s The Killer Nun, never quite met the same caliber of success.

Having retired in 2002, Ekberg, 83 and twice divorced, now lives outside Rome, the city that had made her an international star.