Stella Stevens, the actress whose prolific career included leading roles in hit films The Nutty Professor and The Poseidon Adventure, has died at 84.
Deadline confirmed the news from her son Andrew Stevens and longtime friend John O’Brien. The actress reportedly died after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Stevens’ manager Maria Calabrese told Deadline the actress was “one of the most wonderful and gifted people” and “the OG of strong Hollywood women.”
Stevens was born as Estelle Eggleston on October 1, 1938, in Yazoo City, Mississippi. As a teenager she developed an interest in acting and modeling.
She made her film debut in 1959 in the film Say One for Me, opposite Bing Crosby, for which she won the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year. She also starred in the film Li’l Abner and signed a contract with Paramount Pictures.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of actress, director and activist Stella Stevens. More than just a blonde bombshell, the effervescent star held her own in a variety of roles on the big and small screen.@Variety remembers her here: https://t.co/TOpMS4rlf3 pic.twitter.com/41T7HLE315— TCM (@tcm) February 17, 2023
Stevens also had success as a model, and was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month in January 1960. She was featured in the magazine throughout the decade and was later listed in the magazine’s “100 Sexiest Stars of the 20th Century.”
She appeared opposite Elvis Presley in the 1962 film Girls! Girls! Girls!, and had one of her most memorable roles in the original 1963 The Nutty Professor, as the love interest of Jerry Lewis’ character. That same year she also appeared in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
Another one of her most famous roles was in the 1972 disaster film The Poseidon Adventure. She played Linda, the ex-prostitute wife of Ernest Borgnine’s character, one of the group of survivors trying to escape an upside-down cruise liner.
Poseidon Adventure was one of the most successful blockbusters of the decade, and Stevens held her own among an all-star ensemble cast.
Despite that film’s success, Stevens’ career soon shifted to primarily TV roles. One of her most famous television roles was playing a deaf-mute in a classic episode of Bonanza.
She also appeared in shows like The Love Boat, Newhart, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, and Magnum, P.I. She continued acting into the 2000s.
Rest in peace to the great Stella Stevens! So many great performances over her decades-long career.