Wednesday, October 12, 2011

façade: Inger Stevens

Inger Stevens, circa 1963

Inger Stevens' star - and sweet face - twinkled brightly but briefly from the late 1950s to 1970 when she died at age 36, reportedly a suicide.

She was one of those curious stars whose troubled personal life contrasted sharply with her public persona, which was probably best defined by her role as a plucky Swedish governess opposite William Windom (and the invaluable Cathleen Nesbitt) on the popular TV series, "The Farmer's Daughter," a sitcom with a realistic edge.

Stevens made her film debut in 1957 in the very small Bing Crosby vehicle, "Man on Fire," directed by Ranald MacDougall. She had just turned 20 when she was cast and 22 when it was released, immediately following it with an eclectic collection of titles - Andrew L. Stone's "Cry Terror!" (1958), with James Mason; Anthony Quinn's "The Buccaneer" (1958), with Charlton Heston; MacDougall's "The World, the Flesh and the Devil" (1959) with Harry Belafonte and Mel Ferrer, and an Emmy-nominated role opposite Peter Falk in David Friedkin's "The Price of Tomatoes" (1962), a playlet on Dick Powell's anthology series.

During this period, Stevens reportedly had doomed affairs with most of her leading men, including Crosby, Mason and Quinn.

After interrupting her screen work to do "The Farmer's Daughter," Stevens returned to films in, among others, Gene Kelly's "A Guide for the Married Man" (1967), John Guillermin's "House of Cards" (1968) and, opposite Quinn, in Daniel Mann's "A Dream of Kings" (1969), finally a role worthy of her talents. But it was too little too late.

In less than a year, the ultimately enigmatic Inger Stevens was dead - another Hollywood casualty but also a tragic missed opportunity.

Fourteen years is way too brief a career.


Richard said...

Inger Stevens may be forgotten by the masses now, but she left an indelible impression on me. She is much missed. Caught her in "The Bucaneer" recently on Turner, by the way.

Greg said...

Inger Stevens was hot stuff to us growing boys in the '60s. Besides The Farmer's Daughter, I most remember her from her '60s movies such as Hang 'Em High, Madigan and Firecreek, but I'll bet some folks know her only from the classic Twilight Zone episode "The Hitch-Hiker."

I've never even heard of A Dream of Kings. Looks interesting.

joe baltake said...

Ah, yes, "The Hitchhiker."