Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Anita Ekberg R.I.P.

Anita Ekberg, the Sixties sex symbol who gained fame for her romp in the Trevi Fountain in La Dolce Vita (1960), died 11 January 2015 at the age of 83.

Anita Ekberg was born on 29 September 1931 in Malmö, Skåne, Sweden. As a young woman she worked as a fashion model. It was in 1950 that she entered the Miss Malmö beauty pageant at her mother's insistence. She went on to win the title of Miss Sweden and to compete in the Miss Universe pageant in the United States in 1951. While she did not win the tile of Miss Universe, she was signed to a contract with Universal Pictures.

Miss Ekberg made her film debut in an uncredited role as a Maid of Honour in The Mississippi Gambler (1953). She appeared in bit parts in the films Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953), Take Me to Town (1953), and The Golden Blade (1953). Her first role of any significance was a guest appearance on the television show Private Secretary in 1953. In 1955 she received her first significant role in a  film, as a Chinese woman in Blood Alley (1955).

For the remainder of the Fifties she appeared in such films as Artists and Models (1955), War and Peace (1956), Hollywood or Bust (1956), Zarak (1956), Interpol (1957),  Paris Holiday (1958), Screaming Mimi (1958), and Nel segno di Roma (1959--known in English as Sheba and the Gladiator). It was in 1960 that she made her star-making appearance in La Dolce Vita as Sylvia, the movie star and dream woman of Marcello Mastroianni's Marcello Rubini. The film catapulted Anita Ekberg to international fame as a sex symbol. That same year she appeared in the films Apocalisse sul fiume giallo (1960), Le tre eccetera del colonnello (1960), and Anonima cocottes (1960). She also appeared on television in the late Fifties, making a guest appearance on Casablanca.

The early Sixties would arguably be the peak of Anita Ekberg's career. She appeared in the anthology film Boccaccio '70 (1962) in the segment directed by  Federico Fellini), "Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio".  She also appeared in the Bob Hope vehicle Call Me Bwana (1963) and she co-starred with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Ursula Andress in the Western 4 for Texas (1963). She appeared in Frank Tashlin's The Alphabet Murders (1965), the Jerry Lewis comedy Way.. Way Out (1967), and If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) as well. She also appeared in such films as I mongoli (1961--The Mongols), Bianco, rosso, giallo, rosa (1964--known in English as The Love Factory), Il cobra (1967--known in English as The Cobra), Malenka (1969), and Il divorzio (1970--known in English as The Divorce). She appeared on television in Federico Fellini's The Clowns in 1970.

With the Seventies Anita Ekberg's career slowed considerably. She appeared in the films Northeast of Seoul (1972), Casa d'appuntamento (1972--known in English as The French Sex Murders), La lunga cavalcata della vendetta (1972--known in English as The Deadly Trackers), Anno Schmidt (1974), Suor Omicidi (1979--known in English as The Killer Nun), and S+H+E: Security Hazards Expert (1980).

In the Eighties she appeared in the films Cicciabomba (1982) and Dolce pelle di Angela (1986), as well as the mini-series Quando ancora non c'erano i Beatles. She appeared as herself in Federico Fellini's Intervista in 1997. In the Nineties she appeared in the films Il conte Max (1991), Cattive ragazze (1992), Ambrogio (1992), Bámbola (1996). and Le nain rouge (1998). Her last appearance on screen was in the Italian TV drama Il bello delle donne in 2002.

Anita Ekberg was not necessarily the greatest of actresses. Aside from her famous role in La Dolce Vita most people would be hard pressed to name her most impressive performances. That having been said, she was perhaps a better actress than many gave her credit for being. What Anita Ekberg brought to her roles was a sense of honesty, a sense of openness. This was on full display in her turn as Helene in War and Peace, it was on display in Paris Holiday, and it was on display in La Dolce Vita. Indeed, it must be pointed out that only an actress with some talent could have brought off the scene at Trevi Fountain--the success of that scene cannot be credited to Federico Fellini's direction alone. It is true Anita Ekberg was not Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn, but then she did not have to be. She had enough talent to insure that she'll always be remembered.

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