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Roger Smith

She's Called "The Animal"

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Background: A small village in the north of Sweden.

Now: Hollywood, with mum and dad closely by.

Mother and father: Anna and Gustav Olsson, electrician.

Looks: Great. From top to toe. There for the nickname "The Animal".

Career: School in Chicago. Amateur theatre, TV-show, Hollywood.

Future: Excellent.

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"'The Animal'? No, I don't like that nickname. Journalists invented it, because they think I wriggle my hips just like Elvis."

The girl who says this, is Sweden's latest star, Ann-Margret Olsson, 21, from Valsjobyn, in the north of Sweden. Well, she doesn't really use her surname. She lost it when she started climbing the career ladder exactly 2 years ago.

"I didn't want mum and dad to be ashamed of me, if I did something stupid", she says.

Ann-Margret lives with her parents, her dad, electrician Gustav Olsson and mum, Anna, in three-room apartment on Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills. She's a sweet, curvacious girl with green eyes and dark brown hair.

She has only done 2 movies, and started on a 3rd one, but she has already reached the top. Movie studios fight for her signature. She has been offered a unique contract - in which the 4 largest studios, MGM, Fox, Paramount and Columbia - share her talent. No wonder life is great!

She's a sensible girl however: "You have to play it cool in this business. As you know it's up and down". I have been called a new Rita Hayworth, I don't really know why. Is it because I have my hair the way I do? They also say that I'm sexy. I may seem sexy, I don't know, I just don't feel it."

Do you have any nicknames you do like?

"Sure, George Stevens who directs my up-coming film 'Bye Bye Birdie' calls me 'Scobie'. Anyway, he's really sweet. He gives me gum and sends me gardenias. In return, I have given him a Dala-horse (Swedish souvenir). Mum still cals me 'Little One'. And so does Eddie Fisher. We have been going out for a while, but only as friends".

And even if the romance isn't serious, he has still given her a bicycle, a transistor TV, perfume from Paris, a jacket from Barcelona and sent flowers to her parents.

Sixteen years have passed since she came to the U.S. She was 5 then. Before that, she was just "Anna Olsson's little girl", back home. Her mother and grand-mother had a cafˆ© and bakery, and her uncle was a great accordion-player, she remembers. Maybe that's how she became interested in show-businesss. Her mother was in a small amateur-theatre group, while she was waiting for her husband to send her a ticket to America. her dad had emigrated a few years earlier.

Ann-Margret, who still speaks Swedish, looks through her photo album and points: "These two boys were my best friends. Look, here we are on the stairs. I wonder if they still remember me? I guess they remember mother, especially since she screamed at them the day she thought I fell into the wishing well. The fact was, I had hidden around the corner".

The family came to the U.S., and first settled outside Chicago, then moved to Winnetka, Illinois. Her dad opened a small electricity business, and Ann-Margret went to school. She was like most kids, except that she sanfg and danced a lot, and did some acting in school.

"Mother liked it and she encouraged me. I think she dreamed of a career in the theatre herself, but she never got the chance. I have later learned that she worked extra time to pay for my lessons.

"I didn't dream of becoming a professional. When we did 'Oklahoma', i didn't get the lead part, so I wasn't that good".

But she entered "The Amateur Hour", which she won. And she sang with a small local band, The Scott Smith Quartet. The quartet had plans, and they talked Ann-Margret in to joining them for a tour, which meant she had to quit school.

So she did. They were promised a job in Las Vegas, but when they got there, realised it was gone. They went to Reno instead. There, several band leaders, such as ray Anthony and Hoagy Carmichael, noticed her. She was sent to Vegas a second time - this time alone - to do a small part on comedian George Burns' TV show.

This, in turn, led to a TV show with Jack Benny on April 2, 1961, and it's the turning point of her career so far. Life Magazine portrayed her, and 20th Century Fox was the first movie studio to talk to her.

She got a part in Frank capra's "Pocketful of Miracles", a speaking part, even if she first of all was a sing- and dance star.

"Well, it wasn't a big part, but what counted was it was a part in a Frank capra film - he was so well-known - and I got to act along with Bette Davis!"

At the same time she cut her first album, "On the Way Up", which did great. She the started doing film number 2 with Fox, "State Fair" with Pat Boone and Bobby Darin.

She says about her success: "I have been lucky. Tomorrow it could be all over. I will not behave like I'm a superstar, and I will never have superstar manners".

Today, she can pick and choose among offers. Fred Astaire has noticed her and he wants her to dance with him on his TV show.

"He asked me to dinner, and I was so nervous I could die. And one day he came to Columbia to see me act. Imagine me dancing with HIM!"

Columbia wants her for yet another film, "Under the Yum-Yum Tree", with Jack Lemmon. MGM offers her a part in a comedy starring Glenn Ford. Paramount has three parts for her.

"Tomorrow I'm auditioning for a starring part along with James Stewart in 'Take Her, She's Mine' at Fox. Then, Elvis wants me in his next film".

Privately, Ann-Margret rather stays at home with her parents and dips her cookies in her coffee. She'd rather twist with her dad than at a big movie party.

"I have the most fun when we three are together", she says. "It's great having parents who stand firmly with both feet on the ground".

When she moved to Hollywood, she missed her parents so much, it just came natural, for Gustav to give up his business and move along. Sometimes, he now helps out on movie sets.

You can't miss he's a proud father: "Who would have thought it? Imagine when I met her and her mother in New York, when they came from Sweden. She was just a little girl in her white coat. She was so fascinated by the Rockefellar Center, that we had to drag her back. Today she's a movie star!"

Our new star does seldom go to night clubs. That doesn't mean men don't find her attractive. Among her "steady" dates are Eddie Fisher, Ty Hardin (from the TV series "Bronco"), orchestra leader Ray Anthony. When she's on a date, she is always back before midnight.

"Well, you have to, if you're working. And I love to work. I'm absolutely not about to get married. I was engaged once, to Burt Sugarman. Maybe I thought then that marriage would save me from the nightlife. But now I have mum and dad instead, and that's good enough for me!"

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By Ingrid Clairmont

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