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Roger Smith

When Hollywood arrived in Valsjobyn

The Olssons' girl, the one who sang so beautiful in church many years ago, came back home to Valsjobyn, in Jamtland County the other day. Since she left, she has become a movie-star and almost engaged to Elvis Presley. People left their houses, and came out to the big field, waved and cheered and said: 'It's great when things go well for the gilrs from the village!'

Many Swedish people changed their minds last week about Hollywood-star Ann-Margret, 22, last week. They can't quite understand why the Americans insist on calling her 'Miss Dynamite', The Animal', 'The Hottest Thing in Hollywood' and stuff like that. They don't understand why she is portrayed as such a sex-symbol, who make American mothers have their children leave the room when Daddy listens to her latest recordings. They can't understand how she has managed to bedazzle big stars such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Eddie Fisher.

Film-critics found her pretty, hot-tempered and talented, actually more so than they had expected. The press fell for her niceness and her never failing patience. Back home in Valsjobyn, people thought she was still the fresh, healthy, girl, who left for America with her mother Anna several years ago.

In short, Ann-Margret was a different girl than expected on her short triumphant trip to the old country. She was definetely more 'simple Swedish' than 'sexy Hollywood'. The average-swede felt proud for her and said: 'The Swedish woman is still the best thing we have for export to the U.S. and elsewhere.'

But of course it's the same Ann-Margret who chocks the Americans and dazzles the Swedes. It's just that she has so many sides that it's quite confusing to keep them apart. She's all at once the American tomboy, who loves to play baseball, all mothers darling who love to snuggle up in the couch with Scoobie - the terrier - and the sex-pot who make the lightsetters forget their job when she acts shoots a film.

The Public Relations people, of course, have made her hide the shy girl in public appearances. The girl who made Eddie Fisher say darling in Swedish. It's the other Ann-Margret, the sexy animal they have created, simply because it sells.

The story about this girl - actually more wild than tame - and her career is quite fantastic. It gives you a good hint on the making of a Hollywood star.

The story about the simple girl from Jamtland who became a moviestar and rich - rumour says she soon will be very rich - is the story about the girl who wanted to start a career and the boy who took the big chance. And made it!

But this is also a story about hard work, sacrifices, fortune, and simple luck.

It really started 3 years ago. Ann-Margret was on her way to an agent, and made a wrong turn. She ended up with Bobby Roberts, who was new in the business. He had just given up life as a tap-dancer. He became her new manager, and he would make her a STAR!

He thought she had everything. She was pretty, could sing, and she had rhythm. And she was Swedish. Swedish girls and Swedish sin, an unbeatable combination.

Ann-Margret had nothing against it: 'If it's good for my career, I don't mind if everyone thinks I'm sexy.'

When her second film had opened, nightclub-owners and television-companies wanted her. The big networks started to wave $1,000-bills before her eyes, they wanted to put her in American living-rooms. Her singing, and especially her dancing in 'Bye Bye Birdie', had created a buzz.

Life Magazine did a 12-page special with a cover in color on the coming star. That didn't exactly slow her career down, quite the opposite.

After all this publicity, Roberts came up with his next idea, imported from France. He asked himself, who is the most sought-after star on American television? The answer was: Brigitte Bardot. 'B.B. has always said no to appearing on TV, even when offered huge amounts of money', Roberts went on, 'They can almost pay anything to have her'.

The nice-looking Roberts needed money, and the red-headed Ann-Margret - red is much better than brown in show-business - neede money also. They went through all offers from the television-companies. $10,000 was a huge sum of money to them. Money was also waiting with nighclub-owners. Considering this, Ann-Margret said: 'Let's go for it!'

She was all for it. She was to be the hard-to-get, sex-pot from Hollywood. The one everyone talked about, but never got to see. The one who said no to the TV-companies.

Well, she signed three contracts and did Ed Sullivan, Andy Williams and Jack Benny. Then she just disappeared.

'Bye Bye Birdie' has been mentioned a lot, and I met one of the biggest agents in the U.S. a while ago, and he said: 'Ann-Margret will be a huge star in a few years.' Noone really took him seriously then, because that's what they all say.

Not until last spring. Suddenly Ann-Margret became a household name in the U.S.

She appeared at the Academy Awards in Hollywood and sang one of the songs whowere up for an Oscar as Best Song. 40 million Americans saw a very young, and very shy girl appear. But when the orchestra hit the first note, she changed into this wild creature who sang 'Bachelor in Paradise' with her whole body. The name ANN-MARGRET was born.

'But how did it really happen that she got this chance?'

'It was quite simple', Roberts says. 'I knew one of the arrangers and showed him a clip from 'Bye Bye Birdie'. That was all that was needed. He went for it, and that was it.'

'What about all the offers you turned down?'

The successful manager answers: 'No, I never worried, I knew what she could do. And I was sure that she would get better offers, well-paid offers.'

And the came the success of 'Bye Bye Birdie' and now the road is wide open...

Ann-Margret confirms this, and she tells me that she is under contract with four major studios, for six films. She must be the only one in the business who has such a deal. And sure, she's a star. Even if she says humbly: 'I dreamn of becoming a star, a real filmstar.'

While waiting for those days, she works as hard as ever, and puts all romantic offers aside, and spends most of her time with her mother Anna and father Gustav.

The Olssons' have worked very hard to make a star out of their Ann-Margret. Her mother worked extra as a cleaning-lady to be able to pay for her daughter's piano- and singing lessons. And her father often drove the young girl when she had engagements on weekends.

Now she pays the back. Three weeks ago she bought a house - with four bedrooms - in Beverly Hills. And while in Sweden, she bought Swedish furniture and glass in Stockholm. 'I want to buy everything I see', she said on one of her shopping sprees in the city where she was born. And these days she can almost afford it .

Of course she has made a fantastic career. No wonder the old women of Valsjobyn got tears in their eys when she paid them a visit, who would ever had dreamed that Anna's little girl would be a big star in America, back when she was singing in church right here in this village?

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By Svante Feuk

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