Day 498 - Hollywood
On the sidewalk at Mann Chinese Theatre, 6925 Hollywood Boulevard (323-464-8111), are the signatures and the handprints and footprints of famous actors and actresses. Included are Gloria Swanson, whose father was of Swedish parentage; Swedish film and stage star Viveca Lindfors; and Swedish American actress and singer Ann-Margret, whose family (the Olssons) came from Valsjöbyn. Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman received an Academy Award for best actress in 1944 (Gaslight) and 1956 (Anastasia) and for best supporting actress in 1964 (Murder on the Orient Express). Famed actress Greta Garbo is honored with a star embedded in the sidewalk near the Mann Chinese Theatre.
Filmstars are perhaps Los Angeles most famous product and surprisingly many of them have been of Swedish descent. One of the first Swedes on the scene was Linda Arvidson who collaborated as a writer on a film in 1907 with her movie pioneer husband David W Griffith. Next came silent screen siren Anna Q Nilsson (1888-1974) who made more than 200 films during her 20 year career. She was born in Ystad and had worked in New York as an artist’s model.
Legendary Gloria Swanson was the glamour movie star of the 20s. Her dad was an army captain of Swedish parentage. The greatest star of them all was of course Greta Garbo who ended her spectacular career in 1941 but waited another ten years to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. She died in New York but while she was still acting she lived in Stockholm and Los Angeles. Her friend Signe Hasso (born Signe Eleonora Cecilia Larsson, 1915-2002) was one of the youngest students ever accepted at the prestigious Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm at the age of 12. She starred in The House on 42nd Street (1945) and also got a star on Hollywood Bouleward. Ingrid Bergman began her international film career in Hollywood in 1936 and will forever be associated with it through such classics as Casablanca (1942) and Oscar-winning Gaslight (1944). Often acclaimed as the most beautiful Swedish actress to film in Hollywood, Märta Torén appeared in several films between 1948 and 51 without a breakthrough. Viveca Lindfors did not fare much better. Many actresses were never really recognized as being of Swedish descent. These include Susan Hayward, Myrna Loy, Cloris Leachman and Inger Stevens and few knew the surnames of May Britt Wilkens and Ann Margret Olsson. And who could have guessed that “the most beautiful natural blonde in California” Jean Rogers’ real name was Elinor Lovgren? The father of Candice Bergen, who played Murphy Brown, changed his surname Berggren when he became the famous ventrologist Edgar Bergen. Hollywood still talks about the “Bond girls” Maude Adams from Jämtland and Britt Ekland from Stockholm. Pernilla August starred as Luke Skywalker’s mum. Today Lena Olin, the wife of famed director Lasse Hallström, is one of Hollywood’s leading ladies. In a Swedish Press interview we even revealed that Elvira “Mistress of the Dark” was Swedish.
And yes, there were a few Swedish men among the stars. The first was probably Warner Olund (Johan Verner Olund 1879-1938) who became a celebrated star in the 30s in his role as Charlie Chan, the Chinese master detective. When travelling in China or Japan, he was always mobbed by adoring fans. Henry Bergman who became a friend of Charlie Chaplin’s when he acted in several of the “Little Tramps” classics, became Chaplin’s assistant director in both City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936). Nils Asther managed the transformation from silent movies and turned his Swedish accent into an asset in many talkies. Richard Widmark was actually born in Minnesota but was the leading Swedish Hollywood man for many years. Robert Englund who played Freddy Kruger in the Elm Street horror films also has Swedish roots. The actor and director Bo Svensson still lives there. For many years “He man” Dolph Lundgren was a presence in Hollywood as Stellan Skarsgård and Peter Stormare still are. Now it is Stellan’s son Alexanders Skarsgård that is the hot property after HBO’s hit True Blood. The list seems endless and we have not even mentioned the numerous actors and actresses who have called Los Angeles home for shorter periods.
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