Inger Stevens couldn’t have played a villain if she wanted to. She was far too sincere and nurturing in nature, and evoked instant sympathy the second the cameras were rolling. Her earliest roles were that of the ‘damsel in distress’ variety. She was almost always portraying fragile young women who were desperately in need of protection from the big scary world.
Her later leading roles showed that she had learned a thing or two throughout her journey in the entertainment industry. She grew tremendously as an actress revealing herself to be a mature, almost sagely adept performer.
As beautiful as she undeniably was, her talent was her most admirable quality. She committed a great deal of her time and energy with fierce determination dedicated to building a meaningful career; based on more than just her dazzling good looks.
Much like the equally lovely Natalie Wood, Inger grew more exquisitely beautiful and sensual with age. That youthful veneer that initially lured in viewers evolved into a fully developed, sophisticated, and sexy image that was difficult to ignore.
After appearing on a popular TV sitcom in the mid-60s, Inger quickly became a household name. Suddenly her career seemed to be steadily rising to new heights And in her final film. She even displayed a bit of Oscar worthiness in her delicate, and highly moving performance.
By Spring of 1970, famed television Aaron Spelling counted himself as one of Inger’s biggest admirers. After co-starring with Burt Reynolds – with whom she shared an off-screen relationship – in the made-for-TV film Run Simon. Spelling cast her without hesitation for his new drama series Zig Zag which set to premiere in the fall. All things considered, 35-year-old Inger Stevens seemed to be on top of the world.
But sadly, she would become a tragic and wildly regrettable Hollywood statistic. Underneath that sunny disposition and glamorous exterior, she forced to contend with some deep-seated personal unhappiness. After her death, the public seemed to maintain a curious fascination with her after it became abundantly clear that the real Inger was a lot more chaotic than the Halcyon beauties that she typically portrayed on camera.
In fact, she’s a bit of a mystery. After the sudden and unexpected death of Inger Stevens, the public suddenly wanted to know everything about her. At the very least, they wanted to make sense of her life and puzzling death.
An Insiders Persepective
William T. Patterson published his biography ‘The Farmer’s Daughter Remembered: The Biography of Actress Inger Stevens, in 2000. In it, he provided some answers to some of the more disturbing lingering questions, but not to all of them.
Patterson chose to take a more positive approach to opening up her story to the public. He staked the claim that the majority of information that had previously published about Inger was either untrue or highly distorted. We’ll touch on Patterson’s insights a bit more in just a bit, so bear with us.
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And don’t go anywhere so soon. Stick around to see why many people think Inger Stevens’ death was a murder not a suicide as the record states.
Inger’s Painful Early Years
The root of Inger’s unhappiness likely can traced back to her troubled childhood. She was born Inger Stensland in Stockholm on October 18, 1934. She named after Ingeborg, a Norse Princess. Inger was the daughter of Per Gustaf, a high school teacher, and Lisbet Stensland. Her parents married just six months before she was born.
She had a brother named Ola who also went by Carl and another named Peter who were respectively born two and four years after her.
Inger was a shy, quiet and introverted girl who was first drawn to acting after witnessing her father’s performance as Ebenezer Scrooge in a local amateur theater show.
When she was four, Inger’s family moved to Mora, which is about 200 miles northwest of Stockholm. Although just two years later, her mother abandoned the family to go run off with another man. Lisbet ended up marrying that man and they moved back to Stockholm. She ended up taking her youngest son Peter with her in the move as well.
Confused and angry, Inger and Ola stayed behind with their stern and emotionally distant father. When World War II broke out, their dad decided to promptly move to the United States. But he didn’t take his kids with him. Instead, he left them in the care of a family maid basically forcing them to fend for themselves. Eventually, Inger and her brother moved in with their aunt, stage actress Karin Stensland Junker and her family in Lidingo.
After finalizing his divorce from his wife through the mail; Per Stensland summoned his two oldest children In 1944 after marrying an American woman. And finding steady work as an educator at Columbia University in New York City. He then relocated the family to Manhattan, Kansas.
Inger Began To Break Free From her Broken Family
Inger was unhappy with her home life and ran away from home when she was 16. She found her way to Kansas City where she found work as a waitress. And eventually as a dancer in a burlesque show. Her father eventually tracked her down and dragged her back home where she graduated from high school before leaving yet again for New York City.
It was while she was living in the Big Apple that she met her first husband, Anthony Soglio. He was a talent agent who signed her to a contract and changed her last name to Stevens so that she sounded more American. They married in 1955 but separated just a few months later. They finalized their divorce in 1958. It believed for the longest time that she never remarried. Although there’s a popular subject speculation about her romantic relationship while she was alive and after her death; it discovered that she had secretly married another man.
Inger’s Future Looked Bright And Promising
After signed to a contract, Inger’s career started picking up steam. She ended up finding success in both the realms of television and film which was a very unusual feat for the time. She appeared in The Farmers Daughter for three years and appeared in hit shows like Bonanza, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Sam Benedict, Route 66, and The Twilight Zone – just to name a few.
In terms of films, Inger landed leading roles in movies like A Guide for the Married Man alongside Walter Matthau, Hang ‘Em High with Clint Eastwood, 5 Card Stud with Dean Martin, and Madigan with Henry Fonda.
Inger’s last movie was the made-for-TV film Run Simon Run. She co-starred in that project with Burt Reynolds. It was about a Native American who was seeking revenge for his brother’s murder. Inger played a social worker who eventually falls for Reynolds and helps him find his enemies. Not only did she and Burt have chemistry on-screen, but they had a romantic fling behind the scenes as well.
In 1970, Inger had fifteen major film credits to her name and an equal quantity of television and theatrical roles under her belt. She overjoyed when Aaron Spelling chose her to co-star in a new TV series, The Most Deadly Game, which cast her as a criminologist solving unusual murders. When the series was gearing up to begin production, Inger seemed busy, content, and successful.
Inger’s Death Sent Shockwaves Throughout The Industry
On the evening of April 29, 1970, right around 7:30 pm, Burt Reynolds left Inger’s house after having gotten into some kind of argument with her. At 11 pm, Stevens placed a phone call to her personal assistant, Chris Bone, and explained that she had just argued with Burt and drank a couple glasses of wine. Stevens told Bone that she was planning on taking a sleeping bill and going to bed.
The following morning, a friend came by her house to visit and found her lying face down on the kitchen floor. She dressed in her nightgown and a pair of tattered slippers. The person who discovered her said that she opened her eyes, tried to say something, and then fell unconscious. She had a cut on her chin covered by a band-aid and some kind of abrasion on her arm. An ambulance arrived and quickly took her to Hollywood Receiving Hospital where she pronounced dead on arrival at 10:30 am.
An autopsy performed at 1:30 pm at the County Coroner’s office after Inger Stevens death. Inger had a blood alcohol level of .17, and it estimated that there were somewhere between 25 and 50 barbiturate pills in her stomach. Her official cause of death was determined to be ‘acute barbiturate intoxication due to ingestion of an overdose’.
The Plot Thickens
A man named Ike Jones stepped forward to claim the body claiming to be Inger’s husband. Inger’s brother Carl and her father and stepmother came to town for her funeral, and a private memorial service was held on May 4th. The following day, Inger’s body was cremated and her ashes were spread into the Pacific Ocean.
It later was revealed that Inger and Ike indeed had gotten married in Tijuana, Mexico on November 18, 1961. Jones was an athlete who attended UCLA. Career-wise, he was a multi-talented individual who worked as a musician, actor, and movie producer. Ike and Inger kept their marriage a secret in fear that it might potentially damage Steven’s career. Jones was black and marriages between black men and white women were not very socially acceptable back in the 60s.
Inger’s family and close friends remained adamant in their belief that she did not commit suicide. They point out that up until the morning of her death, she gave every indication that she was relatively happy with life. She was focused on obtaining both her short and long-term career goals, was getting the kinds of roles that she liked and was staying in the public eye. Sure, she was having some relationship problems, but that wasn’t anything new. And on top of all of that, she had already worn off suicide as a solution for her problems.
Inger’s assistant, Chris Bone, also was skeptical that she killed herself. She believed that if Inger really was going to kill herself then she would have at least worn makeup and dressed up a bit. Stevens had also previously stated that after her first suicide attempt that she would never go down that road again.
William Patterson, the biographer we mentioned earlier, also doubts the official story. After he examined the physical evidence in the room, he noted that the bottle of pills that were found in her room did not belong to her. And the cut on her chin and abrasion on her arm seemed to indicate that someone had become physically violent with her shortly before her death. After looking at the physical evidence in the kitchen, it appeared as if she was in the middle of making her favorite sandwich when she died.
Patterson has a murder suspect in mind but he refuses to disclose their name for legal reasons. His theory is that someone who knew her came over and forced her to swallow enough pills to end her life. The motive, however, for her alleged murder is unclear and can be assumed to be personal.
The truth about what happened to Inger Steven’s may never come to light, but it is such a shame that such a young and talented young woman with such a bright and vibrant future ahead of her would have her light snuffed out at the prime of her career. It doesn’t make sense that she would choose to kill herself when she had so much going for her, but perhaps she just made a drastic decision fueled by temporarily flared emotions that led to morbid consequences.
Anyway, now’s your turn to let your voice be heard. In the comments section below, let us know whether you believe Inger Steven’s killed herself as the official record states, or whether you think she was murdered by some elusive individual.
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