May Britt (born Maybritt Wilkens, 22 March 1934) is a Swedish actress who had a brief career in the 1950s in Italy and later in the United States. She paused from the screen while she was married to Sammy Davis Jr. from 1960 to 1968.
Britt in the 1960s
22 March 1934
(m. 1958; div. 1959)
Sammy Davis Jr.
(m. 1960; div. 1968)
(m. 1993; his death 2017)
Britt was discovered as a teenager by Italian filmmakers Carlo Ponti and Mario Soldati in 1951. She was then an assistant to a Stockholm photographer. The two filmmakers were in Sweden to cast a young blonde for the title role in Jolanda, the Daughter of the Black Corsair. They came to the studio where she worked to view photographs of models. After meeting her, they offered her the part. May Britt, as she was renamed professionally, moved to Rome. As expected, she made her movie debut as the leading actress in Jolanda, the Daughter of the Black Corsair (1952). (Gary Fishgall, in Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr., wrote of Britt, "... she made her film debut in Le Infideli in 1952.")
In the late 1950s, Britt relocated to Hollywood after signing with 20th Century Fox. She starred in a few movies, including The Young Lions (1958) with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, The Hunters (1958) with Robert Mitchum and Robert Wagner and Murder, Inc. (1960) with Peter Falk, as well as a much-criticized remake of The Blue Angel (1959) in the legendary role first created by Marlene Dietrich in 1930.
Marriage and retirementEdit
Britt married Edwin Gregson, a college student, in 1958. In 1959 she filed for divorce.
She met Sammy Davis Jr. in 1959. They began dating, and, after a brief engagement, were married on 13 November 1960. Their wedding caused controversy. A rumor or myth was that John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy told Frank Sinatra to tell Davis not to marry May until after the 1960 Presidential Election. At that time interracial marriage was forbidden by law in 31 U.S. states, and only in 1967 were those laws (by then down to 17 states) ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to the wedding, Britt converted to Judaism. The couple was married by Rabbi William M. Kramer. It has been confirmed, however, by Sammy and Britt's daughter Tracey, Nancy Sinatra, and documentarian Sam Pollard that this marriage resulted in President Kennedy rejecting an invitation for Davis to perform at his Inauguration.
Once married, Britt left the movies. She and Davis had a daughter, Tracey (born 5 July 1961), and adopted two sons: Mark Sidney Davis (born 1960, adopted 4 June 1963) and Jeff (born 1963). They divorced in 1968 after Davis reportedly had an affair with dancer Lola Falana.
After the divorce, Britt resumed working with sporadic TV guest appearances, the last in 1988. Since then she has been retired and mainly involved in painting. She currently resides in California. Her third husband, Lennart Ringquist, died in 2017.
In popular cultureEdit
|1953||The Unfaithfuls||Liliana Capacci Rodgers|
|1953||Jolanda, the Daughter of the Black Corsair||Jolanda||Alternative title: Jolanda la figlia del corsaro nero|
|1953||Fatal Desire||Santuzza||Alternative title: Cavalleria rusticana|
|1953||La lupa||Maria Maricchia|
|1953||Funniest Show on Earth||Brigitte, la domatrice|
|1953||The Ship of Condemned Women||Consuelo|
|1954||Vergine moderna||Claudia Bardi||Alternative title: Modern Virgin|
|1955||Ça va barder||Gina|
|1955||L'ultimo amante||Maria Spanisch|
|1956||War and Peace||Sonia Rostova|
|1958||The Young Lions||Gretchen Hardenberg|
|1958||The Hunters||Kristina Abbott|
|1959||The Blue Angel||Lola-Lola|
|1960||Murder, Inc.||Eadie Collins|
|1976||Haunts||Ingrid||Alternative title: The Veil|
|1968||The Danny Thomas Hour||Anna||1 episode|
|1969||Mission: Impossible||Eva Gollan||1 episode|
|1971||The Most Deadly Game||Lili||1 episode|
|The Partners||1 episode|
- Profile, Intelius.com; retrieved 29 June 2015.
- Fishgall, Gary (2010). Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr. Simon and Schuster. p. 141. ISBN 9781439131572. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
- "May Britt Joins Jewish Faith", The New York Times, 18 October 1960, p. 46
- Tom Tugend, Rabbi William Kramer Dies at 84, The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, 17 June 2004
- Sinatra, N. (1986). Frank Sinatra my father. New York: Pocket Books.
- "May Britt - The Private Life and Times of May Britt. May Britt Pictures". Glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com. Retrieved 22 August 2016.