Daily | Anita Ekberg, 1931 – 2015

Anita Ekberg in 'La Dolce Vita'

Anita Ekberg in ‘La Dolce Vita’

“Legendary Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, immortalised by her performance in Federico Fellini‘s 1960 film La Dolce Vita, died Sunday near Rome,” reports the AFP. “She was 83.”

From TCM: “Coming to America after winning the Miss Sweden beauty competition in 1950, Ekberg soon secured herself a contract with Universal Pictures and began a string of appearances in such features as Blood Alley (1955), Hollywood or Bust (1956) and the historical epic War and Peace (1956). Often eclipsing her work on screen, however, were the alleged romantic liaisons with many of Hollywood’s most powerful leading men, including Tyrone Power, Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra. Sub-par genre pictures with titles like Sheba and the Gladiator (1959) were fast becoming Ekberg’s stock-in-trade before Fellini cast the stunning actress in La Dolce Vita, instantly making her co-star Marcello Mastroianni an international superstar, but oddly, doing little to advance her career.”

Gary Giddins for Criterion in October: “La Dolce Vita altered the look, style, and expanse of movies, popularizing overdressed Euro-chic ennui, deflating the pneumatic concupiscence of bombshell film queens, urbanizing the garden of earthly delights, and setting them to warped cabaret music. Movies were soon rife with Americans spending two weeks in another town, usually Rome.”

Reviewing Fellini’s Intervista in 1993, Roger Ebert noted that the arrival of Mastroianni as Mandrake the Magician “inspires Fellini, who sweeps Marcello and carloads of others to the Roman suburbs for a surprise visit with Anita Ekberg… They find her at home, dressed mostly in a turban and a towel, looking chubbier than in 1960 but nevertheless still alluring. Then follows one of the most haunting sequences I have ever seen, as Fellini stretches a sheet across her living room, and projects the famous images from La Dolce Vita on it: Marcello and Anita dancing in the subterranean nightclub, and then wading in the Trevi Fountain at dawn. Ekberg brushes away a tear. So do we.”

Updates: “To call her the poster girl for the Male Gaze is both somewhat apt and entirely reductive,” writes Glenn Kenny who’s posted an amusing series of stills from Frank Tashlin’s Hollywood or Bust featuring Ekberg and Jerry Lewis.

“When Federico Fellini asked me to play one of the reporters milling around at the news conference of the movie star played by Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, I suspected he only vaguely remembered what I’d told him of my experience as a real reporter at her wedding to Anthony Steel.” John Francis Lane tells the story of being the only one of many foreign correspondents at that wedding “to make fun of a goddess… When I next saw Ekberg, on the set of La Dolce Vita, she was more concerned that Fellini might be sending her up. Of course he was, yet I heard him console her affectionately: ‘But Anitona, how could I? You are meant to be Ava Gardner!’ Her marriage was brief, but thanks to Fellini, the Nordic goddess became immortal.”

On that same page in the Guardian, Ronald Bergan notes that, following “an unhappy second marriage, to the actor Rik Van Nutter, which lasted from 1963 to 1975,” Ekberg “lived alone in a grand villa in the country near Rome, guarded by two Dobermans. After a fire and a break-in at her house, she moved into a care home and in 2011 sought financial assistance from the Fellini Foundation.”

“Ms. Ekberg was often outspoken in interviews, naming famous people she couldn’t bear. And she was frequently quoted as saying that it was Fellini who owed his success to her, not the other way around.” Anita Gates for the New York Times: “During an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere Delle Sera on the occasion of her 80th birthday, she was asked if she was lonely. She said yes, a bit. ‘But I have no regrets,’ she added. ‘I have loved, cried, been mad with happiness. I have won and I have lost.'”

In the Hollywood Reporter, Scott Roxborough gathers tributes coming in from around the world.

Update, 1/13: “Whether she was kneeing nosy photographers in the groin or ditching acting lessons to ride horses in the Hollywood Hills, Ekberg shone with a lust for life that audiences can treasure for eternity,” writes Charles Bramesco for the Dissolve.

Updates, 1/15: Mark Rappaport has two short films premiering in Rotterdam on January 24 and one of them is Becoming Anita Ekberg.

“How it came to pass that her two films that gave her roles of substance were both directed by Gerd Oswald is unknown to me, but Ekberg’s recent death was motivation for me to see Screaming Mimi again,” writes Peter Nellhaus.

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