~~~"Stella Stevens was born to be in movies...and to drive men crazy!"~~~
(Director: Henry Hathaway)
Estelle Caro Eggleston had lived an entirely short but full life before she became the screen siren Stella Stevens. The film actress was born after a short stint at Memphis State College where she was hotly reviewed for her star turn in a stage production of Bus Stop. At age 20 came Stella’s first film, Say One For Me (1958) and then The Blue Angel with Curd Jurgens and Mae Britt. Stella's breakthrough role came as Appassionata von Climax in Li’l Abner and one of the most popular Playboy (January 1960) spreads of all time. The always glamorous, and always chic, Miss Stella Stevens was on her way, and how!!!
The stunning Stella hit the boards running with films like The Silencers with Dean Martin, opposite Glenn Ford in the delightful, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and again with Glenn in the offbeat and compelling character study, Rage. Along with the very dark comedy, The Secret of My Success, with the rather unlikely casting of Stella Stevens, Shirley Jones and Honor Blackman. A more enticing female cast has rarely been seen on celluloid, but the fact that all three survived this film bares testimony to their individual talents as both actresses and screen sirens.
Intermingled with these films are the fun flicks with Elvis Presley in Girls, Girls, Girls surviving Jerry Lewis’ antics in The Nutty Professor and again with Glenn Ford in Advance to the Rear. One of the great injustices is how both the studios and casting directors constantly failed to appreciate Stella’s comic timing. No doubt if she had been working in the 30s or even now then this talent would have been as aptly exploited as Stella’s stellar figure.
Stella has now appeared in over 100 films and TV series along with some fifty TV guest spots. The range of roles during Stella’s fifty years on screen is really quite incredibly diverse and while some of her choices may, in retrospect, appear questionable, the consistency of Stella’s acting rarely varies. I remember, as a teenager, watching Stella shine during the five episodes she made in the hit series, Ben Casey. I also remember her from that Peckinpah western classic, The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970) And whether it’s an early blaxploitation flick like Slaughter (1972) or later films like Blessed you are never in doubt that Stella is giving every scene one hundred percent. And the same principles have always applied to Stella's life and work off screen too.
Like so many of my interviewees, Stella has never been one not to put her abilities to the test. The young woman who started out as an actor and model has added many strings to a rather dazzling bow. Apart from working on stage and screen, Stella has written the raunchy novel Razzle Dazzle, directed two films, has spent many on the Board of Directors for The Hollywood Arts Council, has made 2 CD-Rom games, is a noted horse rider and owns three American Quarter horses. The mother is called Galaxy, her two daughters, who are true sisters, same sire, same dam, are Rebelita and Fallal. Fallal is an archaic English word meaning "a bit of finery." In 2002 she also sang and dances in Sondheim’s musical, Follies, something film audiences have had precious little chance to enjoy. Stella is also famous for her wonderful dinner parties, which date back to the 60s and she’s definitely the hostess with the mostest when it comes to both the cooking and the entertaining.
Considering that Stella was born in the Year of the Tiger, is it any wonder that this sassy voluptuous blonde was voted #27 in the top 100 sexy women of the 20th Century. At sixty- seven and still drop-dead gorgeous this great lady boasts much the same 34D-24-36 figure that have had millions of teenage boys panting for forty-five years. That’s right. Stella keeps those bright-eyed little boys panting until their first mid-life crisis. Then she lets Britney Spears have their remains!!! Most of all Stella both sincerely loves and respects her fans and among her favourite conventions is Chiller across the bridge from NYC in New Jersey every Halloween.
Stella has also always looked after her fans brilliantly by appearing at various memorabilia and autograph conventions, most notably Ray Courts’ shows in LA, and is universally regarded as a terrific catch for collectors, ranging from her early Playboy shots to the many great glam poses, or fun shots like a great scene with Jerry Lewis as the Nutty Professor. Oh, and of course the really cool photos of Stella with co-stars like Elvis Presley and Dean Martin.
In recent years, Stella, ha s put together a wonderfully sexy website with dozens of scintillating photos from the 60s to the present day. The site provides collectors the perfect chance to purchase any of her great images lovingly signed by Stella. Collectors are also able to send in their own items for signing (within reason!!!) Stella draws the line with some requests, but possesses such a great sense of humour that some fans never give up trying. You can also buy signed copies of her novel Razzle Dazzle and a range of exotic perfumes and colognes that both the men and women will certainly enjoy (or need) after reading the book!!! You’ll find it all at:
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David: How did your breakthrough role in Li'l Abner come about?
Stella: When I was working on The Blue Angel with Mae Brit and Curd Jurgens, I met with Norman Panama and Mel Frank. I was hoping to land the part of Daisy Mae but their first question to me was "What do you look like with red hair?" I replied, "A red head". They gave me the part of Appassionata Von Climax.
David: What was the funniest moment you had working on a film set?
Stella: When I put hair on my chest, hidden under the furs and Li’l Abner said "Hello" and I exposed all this hair to him. Everyone on the set broke up.
David: Which of your films remains your favourite and which film do you believe represents your best work?
Stella: It's hard to answer the question because in everything I do, I do my best. It depends on the quality of the roles I'm given. Dolly Daily in The Courtship of Eddie's Father is one of my favorite roles, Stella Purdy in The Nutty Professor, Perla in Rage, Linda Rogo in The Poseidon Adventure, the sheriff in No Man's Land [a TV movie], all the episodes of Flamingo Road in which I played Lute Mae, Mama Max in the Dukes of Hazzard Reunion, to name a few. They are all fun, but they don't always turn out the way one hopes they will.
David: When did you sign your first autograph and how did you feel when you were asked?
Stella: Back in the early 60's I was asked to sign many autographs and have been doing it ever since. I do enjoy the adulation of fans who come to openings, and stand in the cold just to get an autograph. The personal experience is nice as opposed to the impersonal experience of signing autographs by mail.
David: Do you collect movie memorabilia or autographs, and, if so, what are some of your treasures?
Stella: I try not to be a collector. I have collected a few things from autograph shows that I don't even have room to hang in my home and they sit in drawers. I do have a Wall of Fame in my powder room which includes many of my friends with whom I've worked.
David: If any person in history could sign their photo for you, who would you ask and what would you have them say in their dedication?
Stella: Oh, Humphrey Bogart. "Here's lookin' at you kid"
David: Have you ever seen forged signatures on your photos? How did you react to this?
Stella: Yes. I just tell people they're not real. Someone had to return a fraudulent picture from eBay.
David: Could you tell us a few of your favourite films and actors please?
Stella: I have too many. From the very first movie I ever saw, Snow White and The Seven Dwarves through to the current day. You must also understand I have been a voting member of the Academy for four decades and must see every film that comes out every year. It is a job to me. I've too many to list.
David: And do you have any funny or unusual stories from working with actors like Jerry Lewis, Shelley Winters or Glenn Ford?
Stella: Jerry Lewis has outtakes in the new DVD of The Nutty Professor. You'll see how much fun we had on the set. I worked with Shelley on 3 pictures. She's a wonderful actress. I did 3 pictures with Glenn Ford as well and he had a great sense of humour during difficult times and is still my friend today.
David: What things in life have brought you the most joy?
Stella: My freedom. And my loved ones.
David: Is there a question that you're still waiting for someone to ask you?
Stella: Yes. How much money do you want for the film you're producing?
David: You have made several film appearances in the last two years and do you enjoy acting as much now as early in your career?
Stella: Of course!!!
David: What does the future hold for Stella Stevens?
Stella: I can only hope, work!
* Please note when using the IMDb that Stella informed me that her birthdate is not 1936, but 1938 despite their refusal to update thier information.
(c) Interview Article David Priol 2006
Photos copyright to their various owners