If you’re like me, and I know that you are, you’ve spent a lifetime mixing up Britt Ekland (b. 1942) with Anita Ekberg (1931-2015) and Elke Sommer (b. 1940). Why not Ursula Andress (b. 1936), you ask? Well the others have all those Ks, Ls, and Es in their names! But Andress’s career does have commonalities with those three as well, so feel free to throw her in. They were all Northern European model/actresses; all were beautiful; all were big in the ’60s. Ekland and Ekberg were Swedish; Sommer, German; Andress, Swiss-German. We’ll talk about Ekland first as it is her natal day, and then have a brief look at why one might confuse the four of them.
Swedish born Ekland first came to fame as the wife of comedian Peter Sellers, with whom she appeared in the films After the Fox (1966), and The Bobo (1967). There was much publicity at the time, because Sellers had a heart attack on their wedding night, which water cooler jokes blamed on the sexual prowess of the beautiful Swede. The pair divorced in 1968, with her citing Sellers’ cruelty as the grounds. She went on to appear in The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968), Get Carter (1971), Endless Night (1972), The Wicker Man (1973), The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), and tv fare like The Six Million Dollar Man: Wine, Women and War (1973), The Great Wallendas (1978), a 1981 remake of Valley of the Dolls, and lots of episodes of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. We are delighted to observe that she co-starred in Fred Olen Ray’s Beverly Hills Vamp (1989) with the great Eddie Deezen.
One distinguishing feature separating Ekland from the others was involvement in rock and roll. After Sellers, she had long term relationships with record producer Lou Adler, Rod Stewart, and Phil Lewis of Girl and the L.A. Guns. She married Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom in 1984, divorcing him 8 years later. Ekland can be heard on Stewart’s 1977 #1 hit “Tonight’s the Night” and was, many believe, the inspiration for the song.
So now for the career confusion. Both Sommer and Ekland appeared in The Prize (1963). Sommer worked with Ekland’s husband Sellers in A Shot in the Dark (1964) and Casino Royale (1965); Andress worked with him in the latter as well as What’s New Pussycat? (1965). The latter was written by Woody Allen; whereas the Ekland-Sellers vehicle After the Fox (1966) was written by Neil Simon. After the Fox was also directed by Vittorio de Sica, who had appeared with Sommer in Men and Noblemen (1959), whereas Anita Ekberg was in La Dolce Vita (1960) by Federico Fellini. Both Sommer and Ekberg were in comedies with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope. Both Ekland and Andress were in James Bond movies, as well as Elvis Presley movies. Three of them were in Agatha Christie adaptations: Ekberg in The Alphabet Murders (1965), Ekland in Endless Night (1972), Sommer in And Then There Were None (1974). Both Ekberg and Andress were in the Rat Pack western 4 for Texas (1963).
Oops! Speaking of the Rat Pack, I forgot to include May Britt (b. 1934), Swedish model-actress wife of Sammy Davis Jr, who also appeared in lots of Italian and Hollywood films. And what about Anita Pallenberg (1942-2017), German-Italian model/actress and girlfriend of both Brian Jones and Keith Richard; and Brian Jones’ Swedish model girlfriend Anna Wohlin (b. 1948). Ann-Margret (b. 1941) is also Swedish and appeared in Elvis and Neil Simon movies!
Let me quickly assert: this is not to say “they’re all the same”! But you must confess that when several people are the same type and do the same kind of projects and live the same kind of lifestyles, it can be difficult to sort them out. But there are differences. For example Ekland was over a decade younger than Ekberg. She had more of a “natural”, long haired ’70s style more like that of Agnetha Fältskog (b. 1950), founder of ABBA. Oh no, here we go again!
(Oh and P.S. for that matter Ekland also shares a birthday with Jenny Lind).