West News Wire: Stella Stevens, a well-known leading lady in comedies from the 1960s and 1970s, has passed away. She is perhaps best remembered for her role as Jerry Lewis’s love interest in “The Nutty Professor.” She was 84.
Her protracted illness ended on Friday in Los Angeles, according to Stevens’ estate.
Estelle Caro Eggleston, who was born in 1938 in Yazoo City, Mississippi, married when she was 16 years old, gave birth to her sole child, actor and producer Andrew Stevens, when she was 17 years old, and got divorced two years later. While attending Memphis State University, she began modeling and acting. In 1959, she made her film debut in a supporting role in the Bing Crosby musical “Say One for Me,” but she considered “Li’l Abner” to be her big break.
“The head of publicity at Paramount basically made me a worldwide sex symbol,” Stevens told FilmTalk in 2017. “He had me doing a lot of layouts with photographers indoors, outdoors, here and there being seen in different places, going to the best restaurants, meeting with wonderful actors and directors those were the golden years of Hollywood. It was a very exciting time.”
Soon after, she won the New Star Golden Globe, was named Playboy’s Playmate of the Month and got a contract with Paramount Pictures, leading to film work and “Girls! Girls! Girls!” with Elvis Presley, which she only agreed to do because she was promised to a Montgomery Clift movie if she did it. It was a miserable six days of filming, she said, due to the temper of director Norman Taurog, though she said Presley was nice. The Clift picture didn’t pan out either, at least with her promised co-star. It turned into John Cassavetes’ “Too Late Blues,” with Bobby Darrin.
In an interview in 1994, Stevens said that she worried that she didn’t succeed in bringing out the best in her directors and that her ambitions changed.