Mai Zetterling

Active - 1936 - 1993  |   Born - May 24, 1925 in Västerås  |   Died - Mar 17, 1994   |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Swedish-born Mai Zetterling found acting as an escape from an impoverished childhood, and after training at Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theater School, she made her debut on stage and screen at the age of 16. Her movie career took over when she was cast as the teenage girl victimized by a sadistic teacher in Torment (1944), a picture directed by Alf Sjoberg that was scripted by Ingmar Bergman, which became a major success among critics all over the world. She went to England in 1946 to star in the drama Frieda, about the plight of a European immigrant living in England during the postwar period. She was then signed by the Rank Organisation which tried to turn her into a major star. Unfortunately, she came to England at a time when the film industry was in a period of upheaval and retrenchment, and her films -- which included Quartet (1948) and The Bad Lord Byron (1949) -- never really succeeded. After the failure of The Romantic Age, she began setting her sights elsewhere from Rank. The early '60s saw Zetterling appear opposite Peter Sellers in what was probably the most interesting of his late-British successes, Any Number Can Play. By that time, she was concentrating on directing as well as acting, having made the documentary The War Game, which won a prize at the 1963 Venice Film Festival. Her feature films Loving Couples and Night Games (the latter based on her own novel) established Zetterling as one of the most-respected women filmmakers of her generation, and the fact that her work frequently dealt with issues of special interest to women put her at the forefront of the feminist movement. She continued making occasional appearances as an actress into the 1990s, most notably an extremely popular turn as the grandmother in the Jim Henson-directed fantasy The Witches (1990).

Movie Highlights

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  • Gjorde filmdebut 1941 i dramat Lasse-Maja; genombrottet kom tre år senare med rollen som Bertha Olsson i Alf Sjöbergs drama Hets.
  • Flyttade till London i slutet av 1940-talet och kom därefter att till största delen verka i Storbritannien.
  • Spelade mot Peter Sellers i 1962 års komedi Bara två kan leka så.
  • Debuterade som långfilmsregissör med Älskande par 1963; både den och flera av de kommande filmerna möttes av kritik på grund av sin frispråkighet.
  • Skrev manus till och regisserade 1986 års drama Amorosa med Stina Ekblad och Erland Josephson i huvudrollerna.
  • Två år efter hennes död kom dokumentärfilmen I rollerna tre, med de tre skådespelerskor som medverkat i hennes drama Flickorna (1968), Gunnel Lindblom, Harriet Andersson och Bibi Andersson.