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11 Powerhouse Swedish Actresses Americans Adore

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    Admit it, you know the stereotype of the Swedish beauty: buxom, blonde, blue-eyed and clad in a fur-trimmed bikini. Perhaps there are many Scandinavian ladies who willingly embody this beer commercial image, but the reality is that a very different kind of import from the wintry European country has fascinated American cinephiles for generations. It's a tradition that goes back to Greta Garbo's silent movie days.

    This year, Alicia Vikander has been making waves with her striking looks and impressive performances in movies like Testament of Youth and Ex Machina. Next, we'll see her play a genius East German mechanic in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Meanwhile, Rebecca Ferguson, the half-Swedish, half-British star of the mini-series The White Queen, is getting a lot of next-big-thing buzz from her turn in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.

    What do these actresses have in common with Bond Girls, Oscar nominees, a Trophy Wife and the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? It's not all about their awesome cheekbones. We expect it must be something about surviving those harsh winters that enables them to swing from ice queens, and ingénues, to really intense heroines.

    By the way, while we're focusing on the Swedish ladies in this list, we can't ignore that the country produces some mighty fine men, too. Hats off to Stellan and Alexander Skarsgård, Joel Kinnaman, Martin Wallström (Mr. Robot's creepy tech villain), and old-school hottie Dolph Lundgren. Now, back to your female counterparts.

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    Greta Garbo (1905-1990)

    Came to America: At the behest of MGM's Louis B. Mayer, who, depending on which story you read, either liked her look, or wanted to hire her mentor, who insisted she come along with the package.

    Why We Love Her:
    When young Greta Garbo (nee Gustafsson) made her way from Stockholm to Los Angeles in 1925, she didn't even speak English, which wasn't too much of a problem for silent films. Her piercing eyes and exquisite bone structure first helped her play a knowing seductress, but when she transitioned into sound, she was also able to expand her roles. Her accent meant she was cast as all kinds of regal beauties, from Russians in Anna Karenina, Ninotchka, and Grand Hotel, to the exotic (and actually Dutch) Mata Hari. Despite such success, she hated fame and the Hollywood system so much, she quit acting in 1941, and became even more famous for being a recluse in the middle of New York City.

    Watch Grand Hotel on Amazon.

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    Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982)

    Came to America:
    Already a star in Sweden, she was hired in 1939 by famous producer David O. Selznick (Gone With the Wind) to remake her Swedish movie Intermezzo in English ... a language she didn't speak at the time.

    Why We Love Her:
    Well, in addition to her serious eyebrow game, she had the chops to hold her own against Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. She went on to give everyone chills in three Hitchcock films (Spellbound, Notorious, Under Capricorn). She was also pretty ballsy in her personal life, having a public affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini while still married to her first husband, which actually got her denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

    Watch Casablanca on Amazon.

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    Anita Ekberg (1931-2015)

    Came to America: In 1950, after winning Miss Sweden and becoming a finalist in Miss Universe, she was granted a "starlet" contract with Universal Studios.

    Why We Love Her:
    It's all about that part she got in War and Peace, right? Just kidding. No one remembers all the movies Ekberg made in the States. It was her bombshell performance cooing over a kitten and dancing in Rome's Trevi Fountain in La Dolce Vita that made her a sex symbol for the ages. "I'm very proud of my breasts, as every woman should be," she said of the stir she caused.

    Watch La Dolce Vita on iTunes.

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    Ann-Margret (1941- )

    Came to America: At age 5, she and her mother followed their father to Chicago, where he was working.

    Why We Love Her:
    Despite her heritage, she grew up to be the perfect, perky, All-American Teenager in Bye Bye Birdie (1963). And after playing a girl swooning over an Elvis-like character in that musical, she landed the real deal in Viva Las Vegas the next year (and dated him IRL, too). Of course, for some of us, she is also the forever dance hall owner Medda Larkson from Newsies.

    Watch Bye Bye Birdie on Amazon.

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    Britt Ekland (1942- )

    Came to America: First, she was an aspiring theater actress traveling through Europe, and after landing in London for a film, she met and married Peter Sellers in 1963. He, in turn, lent her the fame to get to Hollywood.

    Why We Love Her:
    She looks like a proto Scarlett Johansson with her big, innocent eyes, pouty lips, and, of course, the kind of body that made it somehow appropriate that she spend most of her time in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) in a bikini. After their divorce, Sellers snarkily called her "a professional girlfriend and an amateur actress." And while she was known to have dated a lot of famous men (Warren Beatty, Rod Stewart), she's absolutely adorable in 1968's The Night They Raided Minksy's as an Amish girl who winds up in a burlesque show, where she invents the striptease in 1925. Also, we need to hunt down the aerobics video she made at age 51.

    Watch The Night They Raided Minksy's on Youtube.