The movie industry has had no shortage of beautiful women – but few could match up to the elegance of Anita Ekberg. She was one of cinema’s most beautiful actresses and her beauty, charm, and talent ensured that she could have any man she wanted.
And indeed she did! She had an exciting romantic life and certainly lived her life to the fullest.
But how did she started? What was life like for the Swedish actress and how did she become such an international star?
Anita Ekberg came from humble beginnings but had big dreams and determined to become an international icon. Her life and career is truly an inspiration for anyone who has big dreams…
Let’s learn about Anita Ekberg’s fascinating life and career…
Kerstin Anita Marianne Ekberg was born on September 29th, 1931, in Malmö, Sweden. She was born into humble beginnings in a large family, being one of eight siblings.
At a young age, she and presumably others took notice of her beauty. She decided to start modeling and also entered competitions such as the Miss Malmö competition. She eventually won the Miss Sweden contest in 1950. The following year she traveled to the United States to participate in the Miss Universe contest.
She didn’t win this contest but her mere participation was enough to get her noticed by film studios. It wasn’t long until she received a “starlets contract” for Universal Studios. This was an opportunity to learn acting, singing, dancing, and even English so that she could eventually act in films.
She was barely 20 and was miles away from her native Sweden. Yet, she was on her way to becoming a star…
Anita Ekberg began her film career in 1953 with small roles in the films The Mississippi Gambler, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, and The Golden Blade. However, she enjoyed many of the perks that Universal Studios brought her and didn’t give too much interest in her acting classes.
After only six months, she dropped by Universal Studios. However, by this time her English had improved and though her acting career limited she had gained enough attention from film studios.
She eventually started receiving offers to appear in films by Paramount Studios and John Wayne’s Bajtac Productions. Anita soon became a leading lady lauded not only for her acting abilities but her incredible beauty and her voluptuous figure.
She also began having public relationships with many huge stars which also drew attention of gossip magazines – but we’ll get to that a little bit later!
In addition to her acting, Anita Ekberg continued to model and often featured in beauty magazines including in Playboy Magazine. Her first speaking role was in John Wayne’s film Blood Alley. She caught John Wayne’s eye after a recommendation from Bob Hope.
Years earlier, Anita Ekberg had toured with Bob Hope to entertain American servicemen. Bob Hope, like so many other men, was smitten by her beauty and recommended that John Wayne make a few films with her.
By the mid 1950s, she had become as famous as any other leading lady of the time – despite having a rather short filmography. Her biggest break came in the 1956 film War and Peace which she starred alongside Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Her performance in the film was lauded and this is what led others to think of her as the Marilyn Monroe of Paramount Studios.
She continued to act regularly in major Hollywood films and before long, the young Swede became the talk of America.
But her dreams went beyond even America! Europe was calling her back but this time, she would make her name in a different country on the continent.
In 1959, she appeared in the Italian film Sheba and the Gladiator. The following year she appeared in what would become her biggest hit – as the beautiful actress Sylvia Rank in Federico Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita.
One of the most famous scenes in the film is when she romances Marcello Mastroianni in Rome’s famous Trevi Fountain. This scene has gone down in history as one of the most famous scenes in the history of cinema.
She became so famous with this role that she decided to settle in Italy – and eventually became a permanent resident.
She continued to act well into the 1990s. Her final role was in the 2002 TV series Beauty Centre. Since the 1960s, most of her work was in Italian films and TV shows with the occasional appearance in an American film.
Her other most notable film roles included:
- Paris Holiday
- Behind Closed Doors
- The Mongols
- Call Me Bwana
- 4 for Texas
- The Alphabet Murders
- The Cobra
- The Glass Sphinx
- The Divorce
- The French Sex Murders
- Northeast of Seoul
- Bad Girls and
- The Red Dwarf
Her popularity has spanned across generations and we can expect a resurgence in the interest of her films to come soon! While many see only her beauty, film enthusiasts are now discussing her incredible acting ability and she serves as an inspiration for many aspiring actresses and directors alike.
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ANITA EKBERG’S LOVE LIFE
As one could expect, Anita Ekberg could have any man she wanted – and any man who had a relationship with her was certainly lucky! Her relationships included Alain Delon, Errol Flynn, Jeff Richards, Marcello Mastroianni, Tyrone Power, and Walter Chiari – to name a few!
She was highly desired by men and she became a pin-up model. Her scenes in La Dolce Vita was so iconic that her character is recognized by newer generations who have never seen the film.
She never had any children and was married twice though neither of these marriages lasted. Her first marriage was to the British actor Anthony Steel and her second was to the American actor Rik Van Nutter.
Her romances with leading men were also very short lived but always attracted interest from gossip magazines. Even after she stepped away from the public eye and other leading ladies took center stage, she was always seen as a woman that men desired. She joins the ranks of women such as Marilyn Monroe and Virginia Bell who remained a fantasy for many men.
In fact, especially when she began working in Italy, many films were made solely to exploit her beauty and sexiness. She didn’t mind and loved the perks that came with being a film star and a ravishing beauty. She loved by men and women all over the world and was an icon in her native Sweden, America, and Italy.
For many men, she was the perfect woman. Fellini described her as being irresistible as well as someone being from outer space! She wasn’t only physically beautiful but she was also intelligent and charming. Anita grew up speaking only Swedish but managed to eventually learn English and Italian. She could charm men speaking three different tongues!
It’s no wonder she was able to charm a Frenchman like Alain Delon, an Italian, like Marcello Mastroianni, a Russian such as Yul Brynner, and that she had both a Brit and an American husband. Bob Hope was clearly moved by her beauty and John Wayne loved working with her in his films.
Anita Ekberg made Italy her permanent home following the success of La Dolce Vita. She became an icon of Italian cinema and some film enthusiasts say that Fellini discovered her while others said that she helped make Fellini’s career with the success of La Dolce Vita.
Anita seldom visited Sweden and stated she had no desire to move back but that she wanted to be buried there upon her death. She was happy to give interviews to Swedish journalists to discuss her life and legacy.
What made her special is that she was a great actress as her roles in films such as War and Peace and La Dolce Vita showed. She was also lauded for her beauty and her figure which unique for the time. Anita wasn’t afraid to flaunt her beauty and defend her physique. She also discussed how she knew she was beautiful and she noticed her beauty everytime she looked in the mirror!
On one hand it seems like a shame that she never managed to have a long term relationship. On the other hand, a woman so beautiful would have a hard time finding a high value man – though she certainly dated many.
Anita Ekberg died on January 11th, 2015, in the commune of Rocca di Papa due to chronic illness. She was 83 years old. She was cremated and her ashes were buried in Sweden as per her wishes.
She’s remembered today as one of cinema’s most beautiful and talented actresses who managed to find international fame across genres and industries. A rare feat indeed!
Did you know about Anita Ekberg? Have you seen any of her films?
Now, we’d like to know your opinion:
Do you think that Anita Ekberg and actresses like her are still considered sex symbols today? Or have they been overshadowed by some of the famous actresses today?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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