ROME (Reuters) – Anita Ekberg, the striking blonde Swedish actress whose sashay through Rome’s Trevi fountain in “La Dolce Vita” made her an icon of cinema, died Sunday at 83 at a clinic near the Italian capital, her lawyer said.
After a two-year illness and struggling financially, Ekberg died in a clinic southeast or the capital this morning, Patrizia Ubaldi, the actress’s lawyer, told Reuters.
“She had many friends who were with her until the end,” Ubaldi said.
Earning a very low retirement income, Ekberg “didn’t live in luxury in the last few years, but it would be wrong to say she died in poverty,” Ubaldi said. She still owned a large villa south of the capital, she said.
Ekberg’s funeral will be held in Rome this week, her body will be cremated, and her ashes sent to Sweden, the lawyer said.
Ekberg was born in Malmo, Sweden in 1931. Her career began after she was crowned Miss Sweden in the early 1950s and she shot to global fame after playing the capricious actress Sylvia opposite Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (The Sweet Life), about decadent high society in Rome, in 1960.
The scene of her wading into the late baroque Trevi fountain in a strapless velvet black dress, calling to Mastroianni in English, “Marcello! Come here. Hurry up,” is one of the most famous in the history of cinema, and made her a sex symbol for a generation.
“I was freezing to death,” Ekberg later told Swedish TV, recalling shooting the scene. “I thought that my legs were becoming icicles. The water in the fountain comes from the mountains and the film as made in January.”
Fellini later directed her also in “Boccaccio ’70” in 1962, and in “Intervista” in 1987.
Ekberg appeared in a number of films with some of the most famous actors of the 20th century, like Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda in “War and Peace” (1956), winning a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer that same year.
In the 1963 film “4 for Texas”, a western comedy, she starred with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and she had appeared with the comedy tandem Martin-Jerry Lewis in movies shot in the 1950s.
Ekberg was courted by eccentric tycoon and filmmaker Howard Hughes and subsequently married two actors from whom she later divorced. Later in her life, she said that singer Sinatra had asked to marry her, and she had declined. She had no children.
(Additional reporting by Simon Johnson in Stockholm; Editing by Mark Heinrich)