Born 1925 in Västerås, Swedish actress, novelist and film director Mai Zetterling appeared in film and television productions spanning six decades from the 1940s to the 1990s. Her breakthrough came in the 1944 film Torment written by Ingmar Bergman, in which she played a controversial role as a tormented shopgirl. Shortly afterwards she moved to England and gained instant success there with her title role in Basil Dearden’s Frieda (1947) playing opposite David Farrar.
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Some of her notable films as an actress include Quartet (1948), The Romantic Age (1949), Only Two Can Play (1962) co-starring Peter Sellers, and The Witches (1990). Having gained a reputation as a sex symbol in dramas and thrillers, she was equally effective in comedies, and was active in British television in the 1950s and 1960s.
Zetterling began directing and publishing novels and non-fiction in the early 1960s, her films starting with political documentaries and a short film titled The War Game (1962), which was nominated for a BAFTA award, and won a Silver Lion at Venice. Her first feature film Älskande par (1964, “Loving Couples”), based on the novels of Agnes von Krusenstjerna, was banned at the Cannes Film Festival for its sexual explicitness and nudity. It was not the only film she made that caused controversy for its frank sexuality.
A year after her final role on television, Zetterling died from cancer in 1994, at the age of 68 in her home in London. Take a look at these beautiful photos to see portraits of a young Mai Zetterling in the 1950s and 1960s.