'La Dolce Vita' actress and 1950s sex symbol Anita Ekberg dies

Story highlights

  • Swedish-born actress Anita Ekberg died Sunday in Italy, her adopted home
  • She often said that "La Dolce Vita" director Federico Fellini owed his success to her

(CNN)Anita Ekberg, the Swedish-born actress whose role in "La Dolce Vita" made her into an international symbol of sensuality, died in Italy on Sunday.

Her death was widely reported in Italian media, citing complications from a longtime illness. She was 83.
Ekberg died in the country that made her an international star thanks to her turn as Sylvia, Marcello Mastroianni's unattainable dream woman the 1960 Federico Fellini classic. However, she was often quoted as saying that Fellini owed his fame to her, not the other way around.
    Anita Ekberg was immortalized in the fountain scene from 'La Dolce Vita.'
    A scene from "La Dolce Vita" of her bathing in Rome's Trevi fountain, clad in a black gown with a plunging neckline, cemented her sex symbol status, a designation she would later refer to as a "handicap."
    American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan also immortalized Ekberg in the song "I Shall Be Free."
    Born in Malmo, Sweden, in 1931, Ekberg's road to stardom began in 1950, when she represented Sweden in the Miss Universe competition, according to internet movie database IMDb. She did not win, but she landed a modeling contract in the United States, where she posed for Playboy and American pinup magazines.
    She landed Hollywood roles over the next decade that played on her beauty and her voluptuous figure. She appeared in the comedy "Abbott and Costello Go to Mars" as a guard on the planet Venus. She also appeared in two comedies with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, "Artists and Models" and "Hollywood or Bust," and another with Bob Hope, "Paris Holiday."
    She made Italy her home after her breakthrough role, where she continued to pursue a career in TV and film, though she drew more attention for her personal life, which included two marriages.
    She was absent from the public eye in recent years. According to Italian media, she had grown destitute over the years, with little financial recourse when she became began suffering the setbacks of old age.