May Britt

May Britt
May Britt 1960s2.jpg
Britt in the 1960s
Maybritt Wilkens

(1933-03-22) 22 March 1933 (age 87)
Occupation Actress
Years active 1952–1988
Edwin Gregson
( m. 1958; div. 1959)

Sammy Davis Jr.
( m. 1960; div. 1968)

Lennart Ringquist
( m. 1993; his death 2017)
Children 3

May Britt (born Maybritt Wilkens, 22 March 1933)[1] 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 L'ultimo amante

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.[2] 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.")[2]

In the following years she worked in some ten Cinecittà productions. She also featured in the epic film War and Peace of 1956.

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 retirement

Britt married Edwin Gregson, a college student, in 1958. In 1959 she filed for divorce.[2]

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.[3] The couple was married by Rabbi William M. Kramer.[4] 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. Yet, Harry Belafonte Jr who was married to a white woman at the time was invited to perform. [5][6][7]

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,[8] died in 2017.

In popular culture

May Britt was portrayed by Megan Dodds in the 1998 TV film The Rat Pack, which depicted her marriage to Sammy Davis Jr., played by Don Cheadle.

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
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
1955 Revelation Nadia Ulianova
1956 War and Peace Sonya 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
Year Title Role Notes
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
1988 Probe Helga 1 episode


  1. ^ Profile,; retrieved 29 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Fishgall, Gary (2010). Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr. Simon and Schuster. p. 141. ISBN 9781439131572. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  3. ^ "May Britt Joins Jewish Faith", The New York Times, 18 October 1960, p. 46
  4. ^ Tugend, Tom (17 June 2004). "Rabbi William Kramer Dies at 84]". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
  5. ^ Young, Deborah (10 September 2017). "Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me': Film Review".
  6. ^ Fisher, Luchina (18 April 2014). "Why JFK Refused to Let Sammy Davis Jr. Perform at White House".
  7. ^ Sinatra, N. (1986). Frank Sinatra my father. New York: Pocket Books.
  8. ^ "May Britt - The Private Life and Times of May Britt". Retrieved 22 August 2016.

External links