In the last 14 months, two of the sexiest actresses to grace the big screen in the 1950s and 60s exited the stage, Anita Ekberg (below) and Virna Lisi (above).
Swedish-born Ekberg is seen here in her famous early morning frolic in Rome’s Fountain of Trevi in Federico Fellini’s 1960 stalwart, La Dolce Vita. Ekberg, who died last year in Italy at age 83, was quite a looker in her time.
Her time spent in Hollywood, however, was largely forgettable. After her requisite early years as a pin-up model, she thrust herself on the world as Miss Sweden in 1950. (Bob Hope famously quipped that Ekberg’s parents should have been awarded a Nobel Prize for architecture.)
After making her debut in 1953’s Abbot and Costello Go To Mars, Ekberg graduated to bigger and more prestigious productions: 1956’s War and Peace and Blood Alley, William Wellman’s 1955 adventure starring John Wayne. She dipped her toes into film noir in Columbia’s Pickup Alley costarring Victor Mature and Trevor Howard.
In 1956, she made the cover of Life magazine, a very big deal at the time.
Most of Ekberg’s 63 movie and tv credits were made in Europe, usually in Italy. In La Dolce Vita, she plays sultry temptress, Silvia, who seduces her transfixed male companion (Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni) into partaking with her of the Trevi waters after a night of Roman revelry. Ekberg’s exquisitely sensual delight in the fountain’s waters made for an unforgettable screen moment.
Her watery few minutes in the Fountain of Trevi instantly made (her) a cinema icon, intoned British newspaper, The Guardian.
Lisi was not as monumental a figure as Eckberg but she more than matched her in the beauty department. Born Virna Lisa Pieralisi in the Le Marche region of Italy in 1936, she started making Italian movies as a teenager. Unlike Eckberg, she worked steadily (more than 100 credits, mostly European productions) right up until her death of lung cancer at age 78 on Dec. 18, 2014.
Her beauty and frisky way with a comic line caught the attention of Hollywood, and Lisi wound up costarring with Jack Lemmon in 1965’s How To Murder Your Wife and opposite Tony Curtis and George C. Scott in 1966’s Not With My Wife, You Don’t.
In more romantic parts, she costarred with French heartthrob Alain Delon in 1964’s The Black Tulip and was paired with Anthony Quinn in MGM World War II drama, The 25th Hour. Her clock-stopping beauty stood out in any part she took.
No less an authority than France’s Brigitte Bardot, who certainly knows whereof she speaks, declared that Lisi was “the most beautiful woman in the world.”