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Fountain-frolicking Swedish sex siren Anita Ekberg dies

Anita Ekberg, the Swedish-born actress and sex-symbol of the 1950s and '60s who was immortalised bathing in the Trevi fountain in La Dolce Vita, has died. She was 83.

Ekberg's lawyer Patrizia Ubaldi confirmed she died in Rome Sunday morning following a series of illnesses. She had been hospitalized most recently after Christmas.

Ubaldi said that in her last days Ekberg was saddened by the illness and her advancing age.

"She had hoped to get better, something that didn't happen," she said.

Ekberg had long lived in Italy, the country that gave her worldwide fame thanks to the iconic dip opposite Marcello Mastroianni. The scene where the blond bombshell, clad in a black dress, her arms wide open, calls out "Marcello" remains one of the most famous images in film history.

Her curvaceous body and glamorous social life made her a favourite of tabloid press in the 1950s and 1960s. She married twice but never had children - a fact she came to regret later in her life. Some gossip magazines called her The Iceberg in a nod to her Scandinavian background.

criticised

But even as she became one of Sweden's most famous exports, Ekberg maintained a problematic relation with her native country. She never starred in a Swedish film and was often at odds with Swedish journalists, who criticised her for leaving the country and ridiculed her for adopting an American accent.

Born on September 29, 1931, in the southern city of Malmo, Ekberg grew up with seven siblings.

In 1951 she won the Miss Sweden competition, after being recommended to enter by organisers who saw her on the street, and went to the United States to compete for the Miss Universe title.

She didn't win but became a model in Hollywood and later started taking on small acting roles.

Her role in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita - where she played a movie star - shot her to stardom. The movie was a colossal success and came to define the wild and carefree days of the early 1960s.

Hosting a Swedish radio programme in 2005, Ekberg recalled shooting the scene in the Trevi Fountain in Rome. She said it was shot in February, the water in the fountain was cold and Mastroianni was falling over in the fountain drunk on vodka.

"There I was. I was freezing," she said. "They had to lift me out of the water because I couldn't feel my legs anymore."

"I have seen that scene a few times. Maybe too many times. I can't stand watching it anymore, but it was beautiful at the time," she said.

Ekberg remained in Italy for years, appearing in scores of movies, many forgettable. She returned in two Fellini movies: Clowns and Intervista.

Ekberg married Briton Anthony Steel in 1956, but divorced him four years later. In 1963 she married again to actor Rik van Nutter, but that marriage also failed.

REGRET

In an interview with Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in 2006, Ekberg said her only regret in life was never having children.

"I would have liked to have a child, preferably a son," she was quoted as saying. "It didn't turn out that way. That's life, you just have to accept it."

In the interview, published in connection with Ekberg's 75th birthday, she also said she wasn't afraid of death.

"I'm just angry because I won't get the chance to tell others about death, where the soul goes and if there is a life afterward," she was quoted as saying.

"I don't know if paradise or hell exist, but I'm sure hell is more groovy."

Ubaldi said a ceremony would be held in the coming days at a Lutheran church in Rome, and that Ekberg had specified that her remains be cremated.

hnews@herald.ie


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