The legendary Swedish actor/director Hasse Ekman has died at the age of 88. As the director of 41 feature films - from comedies and thrillers to love stories and melodramas - Ekman was one of Sweden's most prolific film makers.

After his debut 1940 with comedy Med Dej I Mina Armar, Ekman soon became the great young hope of Swedish film. A couple of years later a competitor for the limelight emerged in Ingmar Bergman, a rivalry which became a driving force for both of them in the years to come.

Between 1945 and 1950, Ekman made some of his most successful films, including Wandering With The Moon, The Girl From The Third Row and Girl With Hyacinths. Bergman described the last-mentioned film as "an absolute masterpiece."

Among his 51 parts as an actor, Hasse Ekman also starred in a number of Bergman's films, including Sawdust And Tinsel (1953).

Ekman was the third of Sweden's great actors/film makers to die this year. Earlier this month actor, director and academician Keve Hjelm died at 81, and in January actress Ingrid Thulin passed away at 75. Not least remembered for their roles in Ingmar Bergman's films, the deaths of Ekman, Hjelm and Thulin mark an end of an important epoch of Swedish film history.