Born in Sweden on April 28, 1941, this future actress and singer came to America at age 6. She studied at Northwestern University and left for Las Vegas to pursue a career as a singer. She was discovered by George Burns and soon afterward got both a record deal at RCA and a film contract at 20th Century Fox.
In 1961, she had her first taste of stardom when her single "I Just Don't Understand" reached Number Four on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. Her acting debut followed the same year as Bette Davis' daughter in Frank Capra's remake Pocketful of Miracles (1961). She starred in the musical State Fair (1962) a year later before her breakthrough the following year.
With the blockbuster films Bye Bye Birdie (1963) and Viva Las Vegas (1964) (where she starred opposite Elvis Presley), Ann-Margret became a Top 10 Box Office star, teen idol, and Golden Globe winning actress. For the next three years, she was one of the most popular actresses in the world, marketed as Hollywood's top star, and got awarded the infamous nickname "sex kitten."
She subsequently starred in a string of films, most notably The Cincinnati Kid (1965), a critical and box office hit which paired her with fellow superstar Steve McQueen and showcased her infamous sex appeal. Other films, such as Bus Riley's Back in Town (1965) and Murderers' Row (1966) were ripped apart by critics. She couldn't escape being typecast because of her great looks. As a result, her career cooled down in the late 1960s, and she turned to foreign films, Las Vegas sing-and-dance shows and television specials for new projects. But such foreign films as The Tiger and the Pussycat (1967) were not widely released in the U.S., and her mainstream films, such as C.C. and Company (1970), were poorly received by both critics and audiences.
Her floundering career was rescued when she finally overcame her bimbo image with Carnal Knowledge (1971), a controversial success co-starring Jack Nicholson. For this performance she received her first Academy Award nomination and succeeded in changing her image from sex kitten to respected actress. A near-fatal accident at a Lake Tahoe show in 1972 only momentarily stopped her career. She made a recovery and, following her role opposite John Wayne in The Train Robbers (1973), she was Oscar-nominated again for her performance in Tommy (1975), the rock opera film of the British rock band The Who. Afterwards she starred in Magic (1978) with Anthony Hopkins and The Villain (1979) with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Features in the '80s included The Return of the Soldier (1983), Twice in a Lifetime (1985), and less prominently, Lookin' to Get Out (1982), a film now only notable for featuring the screen debut of future superstar Angelina Jolie. Ann-Margret received the first of many Emmy nominations for her performance in Who Will Love My Children? (1983) (TV), and was subsequently hand-picked by Tennessee Williams to star in an adaptation of his play A Streetcar Named Desire (1984) (TV).
One of her biggest commercial successes in years came with Grumpy Old Men (1993), in which she played the object of desire of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, followed by the equally successful sequel, Grumpier Old Men (1995) with Sophia Loren. She continues to act consistently in the 1990s and 2000s, with lead roles in made-for-TV and independent films, and supporting roles in Hollywood mainstream pictures such as Any Given Sunday (1999), Taxi (2004/I), The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006), and The Break-Up (2006).
Married to Roger Smith since 1967, Ann-Margret remains one of Hollywood's top sex symbols and now has iconic and legendary status.