She was 83 and died in a hospital outside of Rome. The Hollywood Reporter confirmed Italian newspaper reports.
A scene from the movie in which Ekberg danced uninhibitedly in the Fountain of Trevi is one of the cinema’s most sensual sequences.
One of the screen’s 1950s sex symbols, Ekberg was briefly under contract with John Wayne‘s Tatjac Prods. She won a Golden Globe Award as Most Promising Newcomer for her performance as, of all things, a Chinese woman, Wei Ling, in Blood Alley (1955), which starred Wayne and Lauren Bacall.
The buxom Swedish actress, who capitalized on her sexuality, played in such U.S. films as Abbott and Costello Go to Mars and Zarak during the ’50s. She appeared on several Bob Hope TV specials, where her special endowments were the butt of Hope’s wisecracks. She also toured with Hope on his numerous USO tours, winning the appreciation of U.S. servicemen. Ekberg also appeared in two film comedies with Hope: Paris Holiday (1958) and Call Me Bwana (1962).
Ekberg was also on the 1955 ABC series Casablanca, playing the role of Ilsa, which Ingrid Bergman immortalized in the movie. In the United States during the ’60s, Ekberg played a number of roles that capitalized on her blonde bombshell persona, which was carefully cultivated by staged press antics and gossip columnists recounting her romantic escapades with many famous men.
Although Ekberg was mainly cast in roles that required only her statuesque beauty, she was most auspiciously cast as the female lead in RKO’s Back From Eternity, where she starred opposite Robert Ryan and Rod Steiger. She delivered another solid performance
as Helene in King Vidor‘s War and Peace in 1956, which was filmed in Rome.
Fellini also utilized her sexual persona in a segment of Bocaccio ’70 (1962). In 1972, she played in Fellini’s I Clowns. In 1987, she performed along with Marcello Mastroianni in Fellini’s mockumentary career reflection Intervista.
For Italian director Vittorio de Sica, she starred along with Shirley MacLaine in Woman Times Seven (1967). Her films also included such romps as Four for Texas, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Ursula Andress. She also starred in such Hollywood fare as The Alphabet Murders, Way … Way Out and If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.
Most recently, Ekberg played an aging opera star in Le Nain Rouge (The Red Dwarf).
Kerstin Anita Marianne Ekberg was born in Malmo, Sweden on Sept. 29, 1931. One of eight children, she won the Miss Malmo Pageant and subsequently was crowned Miss Sweden in 1950. As one of the top six finishers in the Miss Universe Pageant, she was
offered a movie contract with Howard Hughes‘ RKO. However, she signed instead with Universal-International, playing window-dressing parts, beginning in 1953 with The Mississippi Gambler, Take Me to Town and The Golden Blade.
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Ekberg was married to British actor Anthony Steel from 1956 until 1959. In 1963, she married actor Rik Van Nutter, divorcing him in 1975. For many years, she resided in Rome.