The Coolness of Rod Taylor and Hotness of Anita Ekberg

Actor Rod Taylor and Actress Anita Ekberg died within days of each other, in their eighties.

Taylor, a rugged Australian-born actor who moved to Hollywood to try his luck, racked up a large number of credits, had strong-chinned, blondish sex appeal, proved to have a flair for romantic comedy. He died just short of his 85th birthday.

Ekberg was a physically impressive, blonde Swedish semi-star around the same time—she had roles in everything from Jerry and Lewis comedies to a Chinese peasant woman in a John Wayne action flick called “Blood Alley.” She died at age 83.

Both Taylor and Ekberg starred in two films that were cinema classics in one way or another.

In 1963, Taylor was the heroic figure in the Alfred Hitchcock classic about nature run amok for no particularly good reason called “The Birds.” We all remember that one: for a long time, you cast suspicious, nervous glances at any gathering of more than two ravens or seagulls.

The movie, built to terrific levels of suspense and fright, featured Taylor as a local bringing new love interest Tippi Hedren to his fishing town home in Northern California. Hedren, cool and icy blond (and the mother of Melanie Griffith), right up Hitchcock’s blonde obsession alley (Kim Novak, Grace Kelly), traveled with a set of love birds, which may have, may not have, been some kind of clue for birds descending on the town, wrecking a diner and a gas station, attacking school children and killing several people, including the delightful Suzanne Pleshette.

Artistically, it wasn’t a great movie, but you can’t forget the damn thing. Taylor was a steady, stoic, presence of sanity throughout the film.

Ekberg had a large, impressive role in the 1960 Federico Fellini black-and-white epic about a jaded journalist (the unforgettable Marcello Mastrioanni) making his way drunkenly through the sophisticated world of celebrities , aristocrats and long-staring bon vivants tired of it all in Rome.

Ekberg played a movie star, bigger than life, in many ways, plagued by paparazzi. At one point, she jumps into the Trevi Fountain in Rome and prances, splashes and dances in it with the besotten Mastrioanni in tow. It’s an impressionistic moment in a film that was about a lot of things—religion, politics, sex, boredom, anarchy.

If you were a boy growing up around that time into late teenhood, that movie was disturbing, mainly because you hadn’t a clue what was going on, but it sort of made you sweat. That was Ekberg. She could do that.

One other thing: in the Washington Post obituary about her, Ekberg was said to be famous for her numerous romances. Her conquests, the Post stated, “were said to have included Frank Sinatra, Tyrone Power, Yul Brynner and . . . Rod Taylor.”


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