Hollywood actress Stella Stevens has died aged 84, her family confirmed on Friday. Stevens, who was best known for her roles in The Poseidon Adventure and The Nutty Professor, was battling Alzheimer's disease before she passed. News of her death was confirmed by her son Andrew Stevens on Friday.
Stevens worked in television, too, on series such as Murder She Wrote and Magnum, P.I. The blonde beauty made her film debut in 1959 and went on to co-star with some of Hollywood's biggest names like Elvis Presley and Dean Martin. Stevens, a former Playboy Playmate, did more than just perform in movies and on television. She also wrote, directed, and produced.
Death of a Star
Her friend and manager, Maria Calabrese, said: "It was an honor and a privilege to have worked with Stella, who was one of the most wonderful and gifted people."
Born in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1938, Estelle Caro Eggleston married electrician Noble Herman Stevens when she was 16 and gave birth to Andrew, her first and only child.
She divorced two years later and started modeling and acting. She first attracted attention in the Memphis State College production of Bus Stop while she was still a student, and the positive reviews propelled her to Hollywood.
Her very first part was as a chorus girl in the 1959 Bing Crosby film Say One for Me.
Her six-month contract with 20th Century Fox was subsequently dropped but she soon signed with Paramount and went on to win the 1960 Golden Globe for Best New Star for her work in Say One for Me.
Stevens was named Playmate of the Month by Playboy magazine in 1960, beginning a relationship that lasted the entire decade as she was featured in countless pictorials.
However, the partnership was not a memorable and happy one. In an interview with Bright Lights Film Magazine in 2004, Stella called her work with Playboy a "mistake." "First of all," she said, "they lied to me when they told me they would pay me $5,000. I had been dropped from my contract at 20th Century Fox, didn't know a soul in Los Angeles, had a child to support...So I did it."
"Then when I did it, they paid me half of the money, and if I wanted the other $2,500 I would have to work as a hostess for Playboy parties.
"I said, 'Shove it, I will not!' I truly hate that institution."
Stevens, instead, continued to focus on acting and followed up the 1962 Elvis film Girls! Girls! Girls!. She also received praise for her performance in her next film, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, which she shared a screen with Glenn Ford and Shirley Jones.
However, Stevens later claimed that she didn't like the storyline for the 1962 film Girls! Girls! Girls! in which she starred opposite Presley, but Paramount insisted she was contractually bound to work in the movie.
She was offered a role opposite Montgomery Clift, the 1950s movie heartthrob and Oscar winner, in Too Late Blues, but Clift was eventually replaced.
In 1963, Stevens played a student of Jerry Lewis' inept university lecturer in the sci-fi comedy The Nutty Professor. This is considered one of her most enduring portrayals.
In an effort to win her over, he creates a potion to turn himself into a captivating hunk. The Poseidon Adventure, a shipwreck movie that became one of the biggest blockbusters of 1972, also featured Stevens as one-half of a newlywed couple. Her character died a horrible death.
Stevens simultaneously maintained a television career throughout the 1970s and 1980s, making appearances in Hart to Hart, The Love Boat, and Wonder Woman, where she played a Nazi judo champion who believed she could defeat Lynda Carter's title heroine.
She also directed two movies, The American Heroine (1979) and The Ranch (1989), both starring her son.
Her second husband of 37 years, rock musician Bob Kulick, passed away in May 2020.