Stella Stevens

  1. Elsa Martinelli, Hatari! 1961.    For the typical Haward Hawks lady in the safari pack, The Grey Fox wanted a Jean Harlow-Red-Dust type. Hence: Stella! Then, he went all Italian: Claudia Cardinale or his agent Charles Feldman’s client.
  2. Martha Hyer, The Carpetbaggers, 1963.     In agreement with the Paramount powers-that-were, Stella quit the studio after losing the Jennie Denton role to Hyer… who just happened to be the lover (and future widow) of the studio’s VIP – very important producer – Hal B Wallis.   They were wed in 1966 until his death 20 years later.
  3. Sandra Dee, That Funny Feeling, 1965.    Due for Stella one year earlier ,it cashed on the newlyweds:  “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee” and her singer-hubby Bobby Darin.
  4. Carroll Baker, Sylvia, 1964.  The second of three films originally promised to the Paramount contract player. The other two were The Carpetbaggers and Harlow. They stank, too.  She refused The Oscar in 1965 and quit Paramount forles tawdry  treatment at Columbia until flying solo for a final total of 141 screen roles during 1959-2010. The script said Sylvia West was 25, Baker was 33 and Stevens was 26. Go figure.  
  5. Carroll Baker, Harlow, 1965.    
    Stella would have perfect. Baker was not even adequate. But she was under contract to producer Joseph E  Levine and to Joe she was a sex-symbol. (He was 60!). And she’d  had been the Harlowesque Rina Marlowe in Levine’s The Carpetbaggers . Nothing to boast about…  Jayne, Marilyn and Mamie Van Doren were the more inevitable blondes seen for the trashiest of Hollywood biopix. Marilyn threw up when reading a previously rotten Fox version. “I hope they don’t do that  to me  after I’ve  gone.” (They did).  Only true elements were the names of Harlow, her impotent, second husband (played by Peter Lawford, suffering impotency problems, himself) , her mother, stepfather and agent (who’d helped write the Irving Schulman book). The rest was 250% bullshit. MGM was Majestic, the head Metro lion, Louis B Mayer was re-named Everett Redman, Clark Gable and Howard Hughes became Jack Harrison  and Richard Manly in a script having her dying from pneumonia, not uremic poisoning. None of her real films were even alluded to, just fake titles like Luscious Lady, Sin City and The Blonde Virgin. Sad.

  6. Jill St John, The Oscar, 1965.   After the three horrors she managed  to escape with her  dignity intact,  it appeared that Stella, alone in Hollywood,  could see that constant rewriting had ruined Harlan Ellison’s script. In scathng mode, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called it “another distressing example of Hollywood fouling its nest – professionally, socially, commercially and especially artistically.”
  7. Inger Stevens, A Time for Killing, 1966.  Even Stevens…  Very dificult to choose between them – two of my favourites. Easy, said producer and (uncredited) co-director Roger Corman, choosing Stella over Inger as Glenn Ford’s missionary lover for an extremely  tepid, tired Western.
  8. Angie Dickinson, Point Blank, 1967.  An absolutely perfect movie… Lee Marvin gave the script – on Hunter by Donald E Westlake (as Richard Stark) to John Boorman in London. They made an ace team – Marvin won total creative control  from MGM and handed it  to John!  Their sole disagreement, and that did not last, was when Marvin fancied the chanteuse as Chris (Peggy had been terrific  in Pete Kelly’s Blues, 1954), but he agreed to Angie (they’d been together in The Killers, 1963). Metro production chief Robert Weitman had wanted Lee Remick.  Or Stella Stevens… compensated (barely) with Sol Madrid.  Marvin and Angie hadn’t gelled during The Killers, 1963, but Boorman was The Boss. And John  often told  how Angie was asked if she dressed for men or women. “I dress for women,” she said. “I undress for men.”
  9. Dyan Cannon, Doctors’ Wives, 1970.  What did Stella expect?  Producer  Mike Frankovich had already made two Cannon films (!):  Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 1968;  The Love Machine, 1970. Murdered in the opening eight minuteson by her brain-surgeon husband for being in bed with the wrong doctor, Dyan still had top billing – but only alphabetically. “In the space of only a few minutes [she] projects such verve, such clarity in her role of a nymphomaniac doctor’s wife that it is disappointing how her role comes to an end so quickly,” noted Athanasios Jonacas @ Cinematic…  while somehow comparing the seedy drama to our Carry Ons.
  10. Ali MacGraw, The Getaway, 1972.    When director Peter Bogdanovich (and his lady, Cybill Shepherd) fell out of the mix, Sam Peckinpah moved in and wanted his Cable Hoguestar Stella Stevens, Angie Dickinson or Dyan Cannon as Steve McQueen’s missus. Except Paramount boss Robert Evans wanted a change of image for his missus. “I can see it now – McQueen & MacGraw.” Huge mistake. Ali ran off with her co-star.,  McQueen & McQueen.  They were wed during 1973-1978.  Ali “despised” her performance. “I really couldn’t look at it.” She was not alone. 
  11. Dyan Cannon, Heaven Can Wait, 1977.   And she  lost again to Cannon as Mrs Farnsworthg  Warden.  Which led to an immediate added joke (from Buck Hnry?) when Cannon declares she should be canonised for killing him!   PS The star-producer-co-director Warren  Beatty had Paul McCartney write a song – Did We Meet Somewhere Before?  And never used it! 



 Birth year: 1938Death year: 2023Other name: Casting Calls:  7