Swedish icons 15: Anna Q Nilsson

In 1907, Anna Q Nilsson was named the most beautiful woman in America. Born in 1888 in Ystad, Southern Sweden, Anna Quirentia Nilsson emigrated to the USA and became one of the most famous actresses of her time.

Her era was the golden era of the silent movies. During her career, she appeared in almost 200 films, but she didn’t successfully make the transition into the talkies. Her most important films are considered to be Adam’s Rib, They Died with their Boots On, The Luck of the Irish and The Thirteenth Commandment. A qualified pilot, she was well known for being daring and she carried out her stunts herself. Consequently she was burned, broken and bruised throughout her career. She was also the first woman to smoke and wear trousers on camera.

She broke the record in fan mail, and was the first Swedish actor to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. She appeared opposite legendary actors such as John Barrymore, Loretta Young, Errol Flynn and a young Elisabeth Taylor.

Her final credited appearance was with Buster Keaton and other contemporaries playing themselves in cameo parts in the classic ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ After this, she appeared uncredited in movies such as Showboat, An American in Paris and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Her final movie appearance was in 1954.

Aged 85, Anna Q Nilsson died in 1974 in Sun City, California. When she died, tv channels in the US interrupted their broadcasting to make the announcement. Her ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

Swedish icons 3: Greta Garbo

I can’t write a series about Swedish icons without mentioning Greta Garbo, perhaps the most famous Swedish film star of all time.

Born Greta Gustafsson in Stockholm in 1905, she first rose to international fame in the silent movies of the 1920’s. In 1930, she made a successful transition into talkies, in the film Anna Christie, which was marketed under the slogan ‘Garbo talks!’ Her first line was an iconic ‘Give me a whisky, ginger ale on the side, and don’t be stingy baby’, which was delivered with a deliberately heavy and husky Swedish accent.

She appeared in classic films such as ‘Queen Christina’, ‘Anna Karenina’, ‘Mata Hari’ and ‘Camille’. Noted for her flawless beauty, cool persona and melancholy, she retired from the screen aged 35. For the rest of her life, she lived as a recluse, which passingly echoed her most famous film line from Grand Hotel – ‘I want to be alone’.

Garbo died in 1990, and her ashes are interred in Stockholm. In the Stockholm neighbourhood of Södermalm, there is a square called Greta Garbo Square, not far from where she was born.

Swedish icons 2: Ingrid Bergman

Swedish actor Ingrid Bergman is considered one of Sweden’s best, and most famous, actors ever. Born in 1915 in Stockholm, she moved to USA in 1939 and took the world by storm. Her poise, her beauty and her talent were showcased in classic films such as Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Notorious and The Bells of St Mary’s.

The mother of actor Isabella Rossellini, Ingrid Bergman was highly decorated, winning three Oscars for best actress in Gaslight and Anastasia and for supporting actress in Murder on the Orient Express. She has been described by the American Film Institute as one of the world’s Top 50 most significant actors throughout history.

Ingrid Bergman died of breast cancer in 1982 in London and she is buried in Stockholm.