The legendary actress Julia Caesar was born in 1885 in Stockholm. And yes, that was her real name – Julia Maria Vilhelmina Caesar.
From a young age, she became typecast in the roles she was given, and frequently played the opinionated but loveable, old woman – often in comedies. They could be a mother in law, a cook, a nosy neighbour or a housekeeper – but they were always a battleax who were outspoken and candid. They weren’t always two dimensional characters, however. In many cases, she depicted strong feminist views and railed against the patriarchy.
You might not have heard of Julia Caesar, but she was a very popular and prolific actor with a career that spanned over 60 decades. In fact, she holds the record for the Swedish actress who has appeared in most films – 136 of them. In addition to this, she played many classic theatre roles and performed in reviews and cabaret.
Julia Caesar was enormously loved and had a huge following – she was an institution in Swedish theatre and film. In the Stockholm park area of Tanto, where she frequently performed in the outdoor theatre, there is a street named after her.
She died in Stockholm in 1971, aged 86. Privately, she lived a discrete life together with opera singer Frida Falk. Although Frida died 23 years prior to Julia Caesar, they are buried together in Caesar’s family grave in the cemetery of Bromma Church.
Born 1937 in the small town of Hagfors, Monica Zetterlund was Sweden’s most prominent jazz singer throughout time. She was also a celebrated cabaret artist and actor.
She started her career as a teenager singing in her father’s band, and gradually gained fame touring in Sweden, Europe and the USA. She sung mostly in Swedish, but did release a few albums in English. The most famous album was Waltz for Debby that she recorded with the legendary Bill Evans Trio. As a singer, she was frequently compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Peggy Lee, and she performed with Quincy Jones and Louis Armstrong, amongst others.
As an actor, she participated in many popular theatre and cabaret productions and acted in many successful films. Her most famous role was in The Emigrants where she played an award-winning role of Ulrika, the fiercely independent village whore. A biographic film of her life, called Monica Z, was released in 2013 and is, in fact, one of the best Swedish films I’ve ever seen.
Throughout her life, she was plagued with severe back pain and developed scoliosis. She walked with a cane and often sat down on stage, and towards the end of her life she was in a wheelchair. She died tragically in 2005 in a fire in her apartment in Stockholm, caused by her smoking in bed.
In Stockholm, there is a park near her home called Monica Zetterlund’s Park. Here there is a sound installation, where you can sit on a bench and listen to her sultry tones.
One of the most influential film directors of all time, Ingmar Bergman was born in 1918 in Uppsala, Sweden. He directed over 60 films, such as the classics ‘The Seventh Seal’, ‘Persona’, ‘Smiles of a Summer Night’, ‘Scenes from a Marriage’ and ‘Wild Strawberries’.
His films were often experimental and very dark, melancholy and miserable and many of them required patience to watch. He was nominated numerous times for an Oscar and won three times for Best Foreign Language film – ‘The Virgin Spring’, ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ and ‘Fanny and Alexander’.
He developed a legendary company of actors whom he frequently worked with, including great names such as Bibi Andersson, Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann and Harriet Andersson.
Ingmar Bergman lived a stormy life and was notoriously hard to work and live with. He was frequently accused of being overbearing and misogynistic. Married five times, and with many other romantic connections, he fathered nine children, one of whom is the prominent Norwegian writer Linn Ullmann.
Bergman died in 2007 aged 89 in his home on the small Baltic island of Fårö, where he is buried. On Fårö today, there is a cultural center called the Bergman Center that focuses on his life and artistic achievements. Every year, they host the five-day long Bergman Week filled with film, discussions, drama, music and lectures.