Stevens in 2009
October 1, 1936
Yazoo City, Mississippi, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Noble Herman Stephens (m. 1954–57)|
|Partner(s)||Bob Kulick (1983-)|
Stella Stevens (born Estelle Eggleston; October 1, 1936) is an American film, television, and stage actress. She began her acting career in 1959 and starred in such popular films as Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), The Nutty Professor (1963), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963), The Silencers (1966), Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (1968), The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), and The Poseidon Adventure (1972).
Stevens also appeared in numerous television series, miniseries, and movies, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1960, 1988), Bonanza (1960), The Love Boat (1977, 1983), Hart to Hart (1979), Newhart (1983), Murder, She Wrote (1985), Magnum, P.I. (1986), Highlander: The Series (1995), and Twenty Good Years (2006). In 1960 she won a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress. Stevens has also worked as a film producer, director, and writer. She appeared in three Playboy pictorials, and was Playmate of the Month for January 1960.
She was born Estelle Eggleston in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the only child of Thomas Ellett Eggleston and his wife Dovey Estelle (née Caro). One of her great-grandfathers was Henry Clay Tyler, an early settler from Boston and a jeweler who gave the Yazoo City courthouse cupola its clock.
When Stevens was 4, her parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where they lived on Carrington Road near Highland Street. Her father was an insurance salesman, and her mother was a nurse. Stevens attended St. Anne's Catholic School on Highland Street and Sacred Heart School on Jefferson Avenue, finishing her final year of high school in 1955 at the Memphis Evening School at Memphis Tech High School.
At the age of 18, she married electrician Noble Herman Stephens on December 1, 1954, probably in Memphis. They had one child, Herman Andrew Stephens, who would later be known as actor/producer Andrew Stevens. He is Stella's only child. The couple divorced in 1957 but Stella and her son retained a variation of her ex-husband's surname as their own professional surnames. While studying at Memphis State College, she became interested in acting and modeling. According to her official biography, "Her schooling in Memphis, included a couple of years at Memphis State University, where she was noticed in the school play Bus Stop. The [Memphis] Press-Scimitar review of that performance in Memphis sparked her career."
|Playboy centerfold appearance|
|Preceded by||Ellen Stratton|
|Succeeded by||Susie Scott|
|Height||5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)|
|Weight||118 lb (54 kg; 8.4 st)|
Stevens made her film debut in Say One for Me (1959), a modest musical produced by and starring Bing Crosby, appearing in the minor role of a chorus girl. Stevens' contract with 20th Century-Fox was dropped after six months. After winning the role of Appassionata Von Climax in the musical Li'l Abner (1959), she signed a contract with Paramount Pictures (1959-1963). In 1960, she won the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress for her performance in Say One for Me, sharing the distinction with fellow up-and-comers Tuesday Weld, Angie Dickinson, and Janet Munro.
Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s Stevens achieved success as a model. When high-speed Ektachrome film was introduced in 1959, Stevens was the first person ever photographed for a formal portrait by the light of a single candle and several reflectors for the cover of a photography magazine. In January 1960 she was Playboy magazine's Playmate of the Month, and was also featured in Playboy pictorials in 1965 and 1968. She was included in Playboy magazine's 100 Sexiest Stars of the 20th Century, appeared at number 27. During the 1960s she was one of the most photographed women in the world.
In 1962, Stevens starred opposite Elvis Presley in Girls! Girls! Girls!. The following year she appeared in two successful comedy films: Jerry Lewis's The Nutty Professor (1963), as his student and love interest Stella Purdy, and in Vincente Minnelli's The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963) playing the would-be "Miss Montana" beauty queen. In 1964, she signed a contract with Columbia Pictures (1964–1968). Following appearances in Synanon (1965) and The Secret of My Success (1965), Stevens starred as a sexy but clumsy government agent opposite Dean Martin in the Matt Helm spy spoof The Silencers (1966). Her final film for Columbia was Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (1968) in which she played "Sister George".
In 1970, Stevens starred opposite Jason Robards in Sam Peckinpah's The Ballad of Cable Hogue, for which she received positive reviews. In his review in The New York Times, Roger Greenspun wrote, "But it is Stella Stevens, at last in a role good enough for her, who most wonderfully sustains and enlightens the action." In 1972 she starred in Irwin Allen's hugely successful disaster film The Poseidon Adventure with Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Roddy McDowall, and Shelley Winters. Stevens played the role of Linda Rogo, the "refreshingly outspoken" ex-prostitute wife of Borgnine's character.
Although she continued to appear in feature films for the next four decades, Stevens shifted the focus of her career to television series, miniseries, and movies.
Stevens appeared in several top television shows in the 1960s, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1960), General Electric Theater (1960, 1961), and Ben Casey (1964). One of her earliest television appearances was in a 1960 episode of Bonanza, "Silent Thunder", playing a deaf mute. In the early 1970s she began working regularly in television series, miniseries, and movies. She appeared in episodes of such popular series as Banacek (1973) and Police Story (1975), as well as the pilot films for Wonder Woman (1975), The Love Boat (1977) and Hart to Hart (1979). In 1979, she appeared along with son Andrew Stevens in the The Oregon Trail (1977) episode "Hannah's Girl".
In the 1980s, she continued to work regularly in series such as Newhart (1983), The Love Boat (1983), Fantasy Island (1983), Highway to Heaven (1984), Murder, She Wrote (1985), Magnum, P.I. (1986), and Father Dowling Mysteries (1987). Stevens appears in 34 episodes of the prime-time soap opera Flamingo Road (1981–82), as Lute-Mae Sanders, the former madam of a brothel. From 1989 to 1990, she had a role on Santa Barbara as Phyllis Blake. Her string of appearances in popular television series continued into the 1990s with The Commish (1993), Burke's Law (1994), Highlander: The Series (1995), Silk Stalkings (1996), and General Hospital (1996, 1999). She also appeared in the critically acclaimed miniseries, In Cold Blood (1996). Her television career continued into the 2000s when she appeared in an episode of Twenty Good Years (2006).
Stevens appeared in several stage productions, including a touring production of an all-female version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple opposite Sandy Dennis. Stevens played the Oscar Madison character. She produced and directed two films, The Ranch (1989) and The American Heroine (1979). In 1999, she co-wrote a novel titled, Razzle Dazzle, about a Memphis-born singer named Johnny Gault.
In late 1976 Stevens purchased a ranch in Methow Valley near Carlton, Washington, on the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountains. She also opened an art gallery and bakery in the nearby small town of Twisp, Washington.
In 1983 Stevens began a long-term relationship with rock guitarist Bob Kulick; through at least 1990, they shared Stevens' Beverly Hills home. In 2005, Stevens received the Reel Cowboys Silver Spur Award for her contributions to the Western genre.
...a 52-year-old onetime Playboy centerfold...
[I am from] Yazoo City. Hot Coffee is Meridian — it’s on the way to Gulfport and Biloxi. We would stop at this place that had a sign that said 'Hot Coffee', so everybody nicknamed it 'Hot Coffee.'
...says the 39-year-old actress.
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