(FILES) Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, pictured on September 18, 1956 in London during shooting of scenes for her new film “Interpol”. Ekberg, who has lived in Italy for many years, was checked into the San Giovanni hospital, said the official in its neurosurgery department who declined to give details. Italy’s domestic ANSA news agency said she had fallen ill in her home in Genzano, near Rome, and that while her condition was not considered serious, she had been put under observation. AFP PHOTO INTERCONTINENTALE (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
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Anita Ekberg, Golden Globe Winner, Dead At 83

Anita Ekberg, Golden Globe winner, died January 11, at a clinic near Rome. The actress was the sex symbol of the 1960s, made famous by her role as Sylvia in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960). The Hollywood Foreign Press Association however, had recognized her already a few years earlier, voting her New Star of the Year in 1956, for her role in Blood Alley (1955), directed by William Wellman, a seafaring action-adventure starring John Wayne as a merchant marine captain, transporting Chinese villagers to Hong Kong on an ancient steamer. Swedish born Ekberg played a Chinese refugee…
Ekberg reached Hollywood via the beauty contest route. Born in Malmö, Sweden in 1931, the sixth of eight children, she worked as a fashion model, won the Miss Malmö title, went on to win Miss Sweden, and competed for the Miss Universe 1951 title. The contest was held in the USA, Ekberg, one of six finalists, lost, but won a starlet’s contract with Universal Studios, and enrolled in a program common at the time: Lessons in drama, diction, dancing, fencing and horseback riding, and minor roles in the studio’s films.
Ekberg took to the glittery Hollywood scene, and her romances with big screen names made her a tabloid staple: Appearing with Frank Sinatra, Tyrone Power, Yul Brynner, Rod Taylor and Errol Flynn kept her in the public eye, and led to a Playboy layout and a prominent pin up status. After her Blood Alley role and Golden Globe win, Ekberg left Universal and appeared in Paramount Studios films starring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, and the studio publicized her as ‘Paramount’s Marilyn Monroe’. It was Paramount’s War and Peace (King Vidor, 1956), shot in Rome, in which she played Henry Fonda’s unfaithful wife, Princess Helene, that first brought her to Italy. There, a series of American and British productions kept her busy, and brought her to the attention of Federico Fellini, who cast her in his La Dolce Vita (1960) in the role of her life, as Sylvia Rank, “the most wonderful woman created since the beginning of time” – an actress pursued by paparazzi, the ‘unattainable dream woman’ of Marcello Mastroianni’s character. The scene of the two of them cavorting in the waters of Rome’s Trevi Fountain, Ekberg in a strapless black gown clinging to her voluptuous body, became one of the iconic scenes in movie history.
The fountain scene was shot on a cold March morning. “I was freezing” Ekberg would tell later, “they had to lift me out of the water because I couldn’t feel my legs anymore”. Mastroianni wore a wet suit under his clothes, but still relied on an entire bottle of vodka, according to Fellini, to keep going, causing him to fall drunk into the freezing water. “I’ve seen that scene a few times. Maybe too many times” Ekberg said in a 2005 interview, “I can’t stand watching it any more, but it was beautiful at the time”…
La Dolce Vita was a career peak for Ekberg. She later appeared in Fellini’s Boccaccio ’70 (1962), where she played a 20 ft. version of herself with plunging cleavage, stepping down from an advertising board to stalk a prudish doctor. She was being considered to play the first Bond Girl in Dr. No, but the role went to the then-unknown Ursula Andress. Fellini would call her back for two more films: The Clowns (1972) and Intervista (1987), where she played herself in a reunion scene with Mastroianni. Ekberg, often outspoken, said that it was Fellini who owed his success to her, not the other way around. “They would like to keep up the story that Fellini made me famous, Fellini discovered me” she told the New York Times…  Ekberg married (and divorced) twice. Her marriage to British actor Anthony Steele became a media circus, with police trying to control the crowds. Steele’s heavy drinking doomed the marriage. A second marriage to actor Rik Van Nutter, also ended in divorce in 1975. The world famous sex symbol never married again.
Ekberg made her home in Italy, and would not return to Hollywood or to Sweden. In Italy she inspired Italian designers like Valentino who based his 1995 campaign on her Trevi Fountain scene, and Dolce & Gabbana who cited her as an inspiration, as her legacy as a sex bombshell lingered. In 2011 it was reported that Ekberg was ‘destitute’, when during her long hospital stay her house was burglarized, and then badly damaged in a fire. Almost penniless, she had to move to a care facility.
Her last public appearance was, fittingly, opening a Fellini exhibition in Amsterdam in
July 2013.
On Christmas 2014 she was hospitalized for the last time. Feisty to the end, Ekberg once told a Swedish interviewer: “I don’t know if paradise or hell exist, but I’m sure hell is more groovy”. Her body was cremated and the ashes sent to be buried in Sweden, some sixty years after she had left to find her fame and fortune in Hollywood.
Yoram Kahana