American actress Stella Stevens died on Friday at the age of 84. Her son, producer and actor Andrew Stevens, said the cause of death was Alzheimer’s disease. The son has one of the roles that Stella Stevens, one of the “blonde bombshells” of the 1960s, who shone in films alongside Elvis Presley or Jerry Lewis, aspired to — one that would put her behind the camera, writing or directing, as pointed out by the New York Times.
Born in the state of Mississippi in 1938, under the name of Estelle Caro Eggleston, at the age of 15 she married a classmate, Herman Stephens, and a year later their son was born; she got divorced at 17, as listed by the magazine Hollywood Reporterbut kept the nickname that, with a twist on his first name, would give him his professional name.
Stella Stevens modeled for playboyworked with 20th Century Fox at the dawn of the “studio system” and his best known roles were in films such as The Crazy Nights of Dr. jerryll (1963), with Lewis, or in Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), alongside Elvis Presley — a film that Hollywood Reporter says that the actress herself hated it.
He made a long career based on comedy but also played roles in dramas such as Prisoners of the Night (1961), by John Cassavetes, or variations of prostitutes or ex-prostitutes in The Ballad of the Desert (1970), by Sam Peckinpah, and 48 Hours of Anguish (1966), as well as in the film The Adventure of Poseidon (1972), opposite Ernest Borgnine. He also filmed with Vincente Minnelli in Daddy’s Brides (1963), for example, and appeared opposite Dean Martin in two films.
Television audiences continued to see her years away—three episodes of The Love Boattwo of Fantasy Islandone of An Angel on Earth, another of Crime, She Saidplus one of bonanzaamong more than a hundred roles that made up a career in which, this year, he voiced a squirrel in The Quackers: Duck Island.
O New York Times contextualizes her career in a stardom that placed her alongside other “starlets” like Brigitte Bardot or Raquel Welch, who died this week, but also remembers how her creative aspirations were stifled by the studio system and the sexism of the industry — “I wish I had been an author-director”, she said in 1994 to film historian Michael G. Ankerichin an interview that marked the 40 years of Poseidon. “Suddenly I was sidetracked to become an actress sexy. Once sexy, couldn’t do anything else. There was nothing legitimate I could do.”