Stella Stevens was one of the most dazzling stars of 1960s Hollywood. With her flowing blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and voluptuously curvy figure, she captivated audiences in films like The Nutty Professor, The Silencers, and The Poseidon Adventure. She was a versatile actress who could play comedy, drama, romance, and action with equal flair. She was also a model who graced the pages of Playboy magazine. And a producer who founded her own production company.
But behind the glamorous image, there was a woman who struggled with the sexism and limitations of the film industry. She had dreams of being more than a bombshell. But often found herself typecast or overlooked by male directors and producers.
In this video, we will explore the life and career of Stella Stevens. From her humble beginnings in Mississippi to her rise to fame in Hollywood. We will also reveal which film role she hated the most and why she regretted taking it. You might be surprised by her answer!
Facts Verse Presents: Stella Stevens Revealed Her Most Hated Movie Role
Stella Steven’s Rise To Fame
Stella Stevens was born as Estelle Caro Eggleston on the first of October, 1938, in Yazoo City, Mississippi. She was the sole child of Thomas Ellett Eggleston, an insurance salesman, and Dovey Estelle Caro, a registered nurse. When she was four, Stella’s family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where she grew up. She attended Memphis State College and studied music and drama.
Stella had a tumultuous personal life from an early age. She married an electrician named Noble Herman Stephens when she was 16 years old. And gave birth to their son Herman Andrew Stevens six months later. The couple divorced in 1957, but Stella and her son kept using a variation of his surname as their stage names.
Stella began her career as a model and appeared in several magazines, including Playboy. She also won several beauty contests and was crowned Miss Tennessee USA in 1959. Not long after that, she caught the attention of Hollywood producers and signed her first contract with 20th Century Fox that same year. However, she was dropped after six months and moved to Paramount Pictures.
Stella’s Film Career
At Paramount, Stella got her first big break as Appassionata Von Climax in the 1959 musical comedy Li’l Abner, which was based on the comic strip by Al Capp. She then appeared in several TV shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, General Electric Theatre, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, Ben Casey, The Fugitive, Route 66, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Batman.
Stella’s film career took off in the early 1960s when she starred opposite Jerry Lewis in 1963s The Nutty Professor, a spoof of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . In that film, she played Stella Purdy, a college student who falls for Lewis’ nerdy alter ego, Julius Kelp. The film was a huge hit and firmly established Stella as a leading lady and a sex symbol.
She continued to work with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, such as Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Glenn Ford, Tony Curtis, James Garner, George Peppard, Robert Vaughn, Lee Marvin, Telly Savalas, and Ernest Borgnine. Some of her most notable films include The Silencers, Where Angels Go Trouble Follows!, The Ballad of Cable Hogue and The Poseidon Adventure.
Stella also ventured into producing and directing films through her own company Solitaire Productions. She made her directorial debut with The Ranch, a comedy about four women who run a brothel in Nevada. She also produced several films starring her son Andrew Stevens such as Massacre at Central High, Las Vegas Lady, and Day of the Animals.
Stella’s Most Hated Role
Elvis Presley was not only the King of Rock and Roll, but he was also a star of the silver screen. He starred in 31 feature films between 1956 and 1969, most of which were musicals that showcased his singing and dancing talents.
Especially when Presley was at the peak of his popularity, one of the most significant career boosts that a young up-and-coming actress could receive was being cast alongside him in one of his films. A few actresses who shared the screen with “The King” include Judy Tyler, Delores Hart, Shelley Fabares, and Nancy Sinatra.
While many women would have given just about anything to link up with the “Blue Suede Shoes’ singer, Stella Stevens was one of the few actresses who did not want to work with Elvis Presley. In fact, she hated her role as Ross Carpenter’s love interest in 1962s Girls! Girls! Girls!, a musical comedy about a fisherman who sings and romances his way through Hawaii. Stella was forced to take the part by her studio Paramount, who wanted to cash in on Elvis’ popularity. She later described it as “the worst piece of sh*t” that she ever did and “a nightmare”.
So, why you might ask did Stella loathe her role so much? Well, for one thing, she had no chemistry with Elvis. She said he was “cold” and “distant” and that they never talked or rehearsed together. She also felt he was more interested in his entourage than his co-star. For another thing, she had no respect for the film’s script or the songs. She said they were “stupid” and “boring” and lamented the fact that she had to lip-sync to someone else’s voice. She also complained that her character was “dumb” and “unrealistic”.
Stella desperately wanted to do more challenging and meaningful roles than merely being Elvis’ arm candy. She said that she “wanted to be an actress more than anything else in life” and that she “wanted to be good at it.” Furthermore, she felt that working with Elvis was holding her back from achieving her potential. She later was quoted as saying that: “[Elvis] didn’t help me at all. He didn’t hurt me either, but he didn’t help me.” She also said, “I don’t think he ever helped anybody but himself.”
Stella’s Later Years
Stella Stevens had a promising start in Hollywood, starring with some of the biggest names in the industry. She was a Playboy centerfold, a sex symbol, and a versatile actress who could do comedy, drama, and action roles with equal success. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in The Nutty Professor and garnered even more critical acclaim for her performance in The Poseidon Adventure.
While she was at one point one of the most sought-after starlets of her time, eventually her career began to decline after the 1970s. In later interviews, she said she got too old for Hollywood and that they did not want women over 40. She also blamed sexism and typecasting for limiting her opportunities. She complained that they always wanted her to play dumb blondes or sexy women and that they did not take her seriously as an actress or as a filmmaker.
Despite these hurdles and setbacks, Stella did not give up on her passion for acting and filmmaking. She continued to work in low-budget films, TV shows, and stage plays. She also became a producer and director of her own films, such as 1989s The Ranch and 1997s The American Heroine. In later interviews, she said she loved making movies and that she did not care about fame or money but about art and expression.
Stella sadly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. She spent her last years under the care of her son Andrew Stevens, who is also an actor and producer. She died on February 17, 2023, at the age of 84, leaving behind a legacy of films that showcased her beauty, charm, and talent.
Alzheimer’s Stripped Her Of Her Dignity
Coping with and ultimately dying of Alzheimer’s disease was a living nightmare for Stella. It is a progressive brain disorder that causes memory loss, confusion, personality changes and eventually death. Stella suffered from stage seven Alzheimer’s disease which is the most severe stage where patients lose their ability to communicate, recognize their loved ones or perform basic tasks.
Shortly after receiving her diagnosis, Stella moved to an Alzheimer’s care facility in Los Angeles where she received round-the-clock care from nurses and doctors. Her son Andrew visited her regularly but he said it was nothing short of heartbreaking to see his mother deteriorate. He said Alzheimer’s disease affected not only his mother but his grandmother and great aunt as well.
Anyone that’s ever known someone who has diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease will tell you that it’s something that ends up taking a significant toll on everyone else around, from friends to family. It’s a horrifically cruel disease that essentially robs one of all of their dignity.
Stella lost most of her memories of her life and career due to Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, she could not remember working with Elvis Presley or Jerry Lewis or being in Playboy magazine. She could not remember making movies or directing films or nominated for awards. Neither could she not remember who she was or what she had done.
As we already mentioned, Stella died peacefully in her sleep on February 17, 2023, after battling with the disease for more than a decade. Her son Andrew said he was grateful that she did not suffer any more pain or confusion. He also said he hoped that people would remember his mother as a talented actress who brought joy to millions of fans around the world.
Stella Stevens was a remarkable actress who left behind a legacy of memorable performances in comedy, drama, and action genres. She was also a trailblazer who overcame hardship and adversity in her personal and professional life.
Stevens was an inspiration for many aspiring actresses who wanted to break into Hollywood. She proved that with talent, determination and courage, one can triumph over any obstacle and achieve their dreams. She will forever remembered as a beautiful, talented and strong woman who left an indelible mark on cinema history. She’ll no doubt also remembered for being one of the only stars who hated working with Elvis Presley!
Did you know that Stella Stevens felt like she was forced into appearing in Elvis’s Presley’s 1962 musical Girls! Girls! Girls! and that she thought the film also had a terrible script? Let us know in the comments. And as always, thanks for watching!