Swedish film siren Anita Ekberg has died at the age of 83. Ekberg became a cinematic icon with her role in La Dolce Vita, in which she famously glided through the Trevi fountain in Rome.
Attorney Patrizia Ubaldi reported that her client had been ill and confined to a wheelchair for two years after an accident in which one of her Great Danes knocked her over and she broke her hip, which forced her to move into a senior residence in Rome. The laywer also said that Ekberg had been having financial problems for several years when she died at a clinic near Rome on Sunday morning. According to Ubaldi, Ekberg had not been “liv[ing] in luxury” during the final years of her life, but she had not “died in poverty,” and had maintained ownership of a large country house located south of Rome. The actress’ lawyer also mentioned that a large number of the star’s friends had remained by her side until her death.
Ekberg’s body is scheduled for cremation after a Rome funeral this week. Her ashes will be sent to her home country of Sweden, where she was born sixth in a family of eight children in 1931 in the port city of Malmo. She began her career in the early 1950s after winning the crown of Miss Sweden. She traveled to the U.S. to compete for the title of Miss Universe, but did not win. She did, however, catch the eye of filmmaker Howard Hughes, producer/actor John Wayne and director Russ Meyer and won a contract with Universal Studios. During her years in the U.S., she became known as a movie starlet and a pin-up in magazines such as Playboy before moving to Italy.
She became internationally famous in 1960 for her role as Sylvia in the Federico Fellini film, La Dolce Vita. The film, in which Ekberg played a willful actress, revolved around the luxury of living in Rome’s high society and also starred actor Marcello Mastroianni.
The scene in which the Swedish bombshell, wearing a black velvet strapless dress, wades into the Trevi fountain and calls out to her co-star in English has become known as one of the most iconic tableaus in the history of film. Her trip through the ornate Roman landmark sealed her status as a sex symbol for her generation. In an interview with a Swedish television station, Ekberg revealed that she had been “freezing to death” during the January filming of the scene, and added that she “thought that my legs were becoming icicles.”
The film icon also appeared in two other Fellini films, 1962’s Boccaccio ’70 and Intervista in 1987. During her film career, Ekberg acted with a number of 20th century film icons, including 1956’s War and Peace with Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn, for which she won the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer. In addition, she played alongside Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra in 1963 in the comedy western, 4 for Texas. She also appeared in movies starring the comedy team of Martin and Jerry Lewis during the 1950s.
During her life, she was said to have been involved romantically with Hughes, Errol Flynn and Mastroianni, and revealed during her later years that she had turned down a proposal by Frank Sinatra. Although the famous Swedish actress was married and divorced twice, neither marriage produced children.
By Jennifer Pfalz
Color photo by Retrogasm cropped for size – License