The alluring actress made her indelible mark in Federico Fellini's 1960 La Dolce Vita

By Stephen M. Silverman
January 11, 2015 09:40 AM
John Kobal Foundation/Getty

Anita Ekberg, a former Miss Sweden who will be forever linked to Rome for her iconic role in director Federico Fellini‘s 1960 cinematic landmark La Dolce Vita, died Sunday morning in Italy after a long illness, reports The New York Times. She was 83.

Ekberg reportedly had been incapacitated for several years since she broke a hip after being knocked over by one of her pet Great Danes, reports the BBC. Her final film had been 1996’s Bambola, which was described as a French-Spanish-Italian erotic melodrama.

In the Fellini classic, which starred Marcello Mastroianni in what was essentially one long hedonistic romp through the Eternal City, Ekberg ignited her own eternal sex goddess image when she alluringly waded through the Fountain of Trevi in a black, strapless dress.

Born Kerstin Anita Marianne Ekberg in Malmo, Sweden, to a harbor master, Ekberg was the sixth of eight children. She was named Miss Sweden when she was 20, which got her to the Miss Universe pageant in Atlantic City. She didn’t take the crown, but she did get a Hollywood contract. Among the first of her 50 movies was 1953’s Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, as a guard on Venus.

In 1956, she won a Golden Globe as a promising newcomer. Roles as a voluptuous blonde followed in movies opposite such leading men as Henry Fonda, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra, even Bob Hope, but it was La Dolce Vita that put her on the map.

Of her legend, the outspoken actress told The Times in 1999: “They would like to keep up the story that Fellini made me famous, Fellini discovered me. So many have said they discovered me.”

In her personal life, there were reported affairs with Sinatra, Rod Taylor, Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Tyrone Power and Yul Brynner, and she was married divorced twice. First, to British actor Anthony Steel, from 1956 to 1959, and then to American actor Clyde Rogers, from 1963 to 1975. Both predeceased her.