Anita Ekberg, the Swedish pageant queen whose beauty bewitched director Federico Fellini in La Dolce Vita, died in a hospital outside of Rome at the age of 83. Referred to in some gossip rags as “The Iceberg,” Ekberg was known as one of the sex symbols of Hollywood and played opposite a number of Hollywood stars throughout her career like Audrey Hepburn in War and Peace and Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in Four for Texas. She also performed with Bob Hope on a number of USO tours and starred in many movies with him. And long before the uproar over Scarlett Johansson’s casting as the lead in Ghost in the Shell, Ekberg played a Chinese woman, Wei Ling in Blood Alley, for which she won a Golden Globe award in 1956.
Ekberg was born in Malmo, Sweden, in 1931 and grew up as one of eight children. She got her start when she won the Miss Sweden title in 1951 and went on to work in Hollywood shortly thereafter. Her role as the radiant movie star Sylvia in La Dolce Vita catapulted her to stardom — particularly because of a scene where she frolics in the waters of the Trevi Fountain in Rome. She talked about shooting the scene for a Swedish radio program: “I was freezing. They had to lift me out of the water because I couldn’t feel my legs anymore,” she said. “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.”
Here is that immortal scene: