Anita Ekberg, 1956- Author; Hall Wallis Productions- Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts about Anita Ekberg

Kerstin Anita Marianne Ekberg, born in 1931 and passed away in 2015 was a Swedish actress active in American and European films. She was popularly known for her beauty and stunning figure and ended up becoming a prominent figure in her iconic role as Sylvia in the 1960 film, La Dolce Vita. She worked primarily in Italy, where she later became a permanent resident in 1964.

1. Anita started working as a fashion model in her teens

A fashion model- Photo by Chyntia Juls on Unsplash

While in her teens, Anita worked as a fashion model and even entered the Miss Malmö competition in 1950 at her mother’s urging.  

This ultimately led to the Miss Sweden contest which she actually won. Because of this achievement, she went on to the U.S. to compete for the 1951 Miss Universe title despite speaking very little English. She however did not win this pageant.

2. She earned a contract with Universal studios despite not winning Miss Universe

Building of Universal Studios- Author; Csiiiyu- Wikimedia

Even though Ekberg did not win the Miss Universe pageant, as one of six finalists, she did manage to earn a contract with Universal Studios. While there, she received lessons in drama, horseback riding, dancing and even fencing.

She however skipped many drama lessons and restricted herself to riding horses thus eventually Universal dropping her after six months.

Anita later admitted that she was spoiled by the system and ended up playing too much instead of pursuing bigger film roles.

3. Her curvaceous physique appealed to so many gossip magazines that led to her fame blowing up

Anita Ekberg, photographed by Bud Fraker in 1956- Author; Photographer: Bud Fraker (1916-2002 )- Wikimedia

The combination of Ekberg’s very voluptuous physique and colourful private life, for example, her very publicized romances with Hollywood’s sexy men at the time like Errol Flynn, Rod Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Yul Brynner, appealed to so many popular gossip magazines including confidential.

Soon after, she became a major icon and sex symbol in the 1950s, even appearing in Playboy. In the 50s and 60s, playboy magazine was a huge deal. Only the prettiest of the prettiest would appear there.

4. Ekberg usually participated in publicity stunts

Anita in 1956 with UK’s actor, Anthony Steel- Author; SAS Scandinavian Airlines- Wikimedia

Publicity stunts and having everything scripted are not something that came with our era. The Kardashians are honestly not the first to pull that one off. Ekberg for instance was a guru when it came to participating in publicity stunts because these are what would ensure she remains relevant and famous; have her name on the lips of fans for as long as possible. Sounds familiar?

Anyway, one time Ekberg admitted that an incident where her dress burst open in the lobby of Berkey Hotel in London, wasn’t coincidental. It was actually prearranged with a photographer.

5. Broke into the film industry in the mid-1950s

Anita Ekberg in the film, La dolce vita- Author; Federico Fellini- Wikimedia

After trying her hand at so many modelling jobs, Anita finally got a break in the film industry by appearing as a guest star in a TV series that was a bit short-lived, Casablanca and Private Secretary.

As much as these were minor roles, they are what opened her doors into the film industry and ended up giving her the opportunity to be the star we celebrate today.

6. Anita’s role in the film, Blood Alley, was her first real speaking role

Anita in one of her many films- Author; Unknown- Wikimedia

In 1955, Anita got a small part in the film, Blood Alley, which was starring John Wayne and Lauren Becall. In this film, Anita got her first fundamental speaking role in a feature.

After fans got a glimpse of her talent and beauty, she started getting more and more roles and soon after, an icon to be admired and celebrated.

7. She at one point toured Greenland to entertain American servicemen

Mexican American servicemen in WWII- Author; U.S. Army – United States Army of Military History- Wikimedia

In the 50s, Anita, alongside Bob Hope, toured Greenland so as to entertain American Servicemen. After that tour, Bob spoke very highly of her and Wayne ended up signing her to a contract with Batjac Productions. She would get $75 a week, which was actually very good money at the time.

8. Anita was nicknamed Paramount’s Marilyn Monroe

Anita Ekberg and Anthony Steel at the 30th Annual Academy Awards held at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles- Author; Los Angeles Times- Wikimedia

The greatest opportunity of all for Ekberg was in 1956 when Paramount cast her in a film that was known as ‘War and Peace.’

This film was shot in Rome and she had the opportunity of playing alongside very prominent icons like Mel Ferre and Audrey Hepburn.

The film actually gave her a good edge and visibility and thus ended up being referred to as “Paramount’s Marilyn Monroe.”

9. Ekberg wasn’t so lucky when it came to love

Anita in the film, A porte chiuse- Author; Dino Risi (director) / Mario Montuori (cinematographer)- Wikimedia

Anita was married two times but both of them didn’t really work out. Both of these marriages were to actors. In 1956, she got married to Anthony Steel but divorced in 1959. Then in 1963, she got married to another iconic actor, Rik Van Nutter but they divorced in 1975.

In 2006 while conducting an interview, Anita admitted that she wished she had a child but then again said the opposite of that at another interview six months later. So let’s assume she wasn’t being serious. Or rather, she wasn’t completely sure of what she was saying.

After her divorce, Anita fell in love with a married man, Gianni Agnelli, an Italian industrialist and owner of Fiat. She termed him as the love of her life, having been lovers for several years regardless of him being a married man. They never ended up together though seeing that Gianni never left his wife for Anita.

In the department of love, she wasn’t so lucky. She never really got her happily ever after.

10. She didn’t live in Sweden after the 1950s

A beautiful street in Sweden- Photo by Linus Mimietz on Unsplash

After her fame blew up, Anita didn’t live in Sweden again. She rarely even visited the country. However, she would always welcome Swedish journalists into her home and in 2005, she appeared on a popular Swedish radio programme known as Sommar where she got to talk about her life.

She once stated in an interview that she would never move back to Sweden but when she died, she would like to be buried there. Contradictory, I know, but that was Anita Ekberg for you.