May Britt (born 22 March 1934) 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 1960-68.


Maybritt Wilkens, as she was known originally, was discovered as a teenager by Italian filmmakers Carlo Ponti and Mario Soldati in 1951. She was then an assistant to a Stockholm photographer. 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). 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

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. The couple was married by Rabbi William M. Kramer.

Once married, Britt left the movies. She and Davis had one biological child, 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 with her third husband, Lennart Ringquist.

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

1953The UnfaithfulsLiliana Capacci Rodgers
1953Jolanda, the Daughter of the Black CorsairJolandaAlternative title: Jolanda la figlia del corsaro nero
1953La lupaMaria Maricchia
1953Funniest Show on EarthBrigitte, la domatrice
1953The Ship of Condemned WomenConsuelo
1954Vergine modernaClaudia BardiAlternative title: Modern Virgin
1955Cavalleria rusticanaSantuzzaAlternative title: Fatal Desire (US)
1955Ça va barderGina
1955L'ultimo amanteMaria Spanisch
1955RevelationNadia Ulianova
1956War and PeaceSonia Rostova
1958The Young LionsGretchen Hardenberg
1958The HuntersKristina Abbott
1959The Blue AngelLola-Lola
1960Murder, Inc.Eadie Collins
1977HauntsIngridAlternative title: The Veil
1968The Danny Thomas HourAnna1 episode
1969Mission: ImpossibleEva Gollan1 episode
1971The Most Deadly GameLili1 episode
The Partners1 episode
1988ProbeHelga1 episode