Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jan Sterling (1921-2004)

Rarely was there an It Girl with so much It.

“I adored Hollywood because I’d always wanted to be a movie star. Maybe in some funny Freudian way, it was my way of getting more attention than my baby sister, who was pretty with curly hair. We all have drives we don’t completely understand.” 

Elmer Batters would love to have photographed
those legs and feet.

[1987 Toronto Star interview on playing bad girl roles] 
“Well, you’ve got to smoke and drink a lot. And you’ve got to be a busty blonde, like me. If you look at the old Hollywood movies, you’ll notice that the nice girls were almost invariably flat-chested.


Looking moody in this publicity shot for Caged (1950).

[1952 Saturday Evening Post interview on her character 
in Ace in the Hole]
“Lorraine Minosa ... was a pretty deplorable person, judged by any standards. She had over-bleached hair, a strident voice and practically no ethics. She happily capitalized on a cave-in accident that threatened the life of her husband, and her reaction to churchgoing was: I never go to church, because kneeling bags my nylons. 

Despite these things, the role appealed to me more than any other Ive played ... It was a difficult, important and interesting part. I couldnt make Lorraine a sympathetic character, but I tried hard to make her an understandable one. Instead of hating her, I wanted audiences to walk out after the show wondering what they might have done if, like Lorraine, they had been in poverty and repeatedly disappointed by life.


Forbidden fruit in Ace in the Hole (1951).

Getting Billy Wilder as a director was like winning a sweepstakes to me, and working with Kirk Douglas was pure pleasure. Kirk and I agreed that in the scenes of violence we would dig right in and make it as real as possible, which was fine except in the scene where he was supposed to choke me with a fur stole. He suggested I say Kirk if he pressed too hard, and I thought that was a good idea — until the choking started. Then I discovered I couldnt say a word, so I just turned purple and passed out.


Rehearsing the choking scene with Kirk Douglas and
Billy Wilder on the set of Ace in the Hole (1951).


[From Sterlings May 1952 Modern Screen Take my 
word for it column]
“Frankly speaking, I believe that movie stars are entitled to speak up in public and give a certain amount of advice. I dont hold with the idea that no star should admit to being a Republican for fear of annoying the Democrats, or that if she changes the color of her hair she mustnt ever admit it ... Im for Ike, even through Im a Democrat, but I wont be unless he surrounds himself with those I believe are the right people.  


Delivering payback to conniving warden Ida Lupino in Women’s Prison
(1955) as scissors-wielding cons Cleo Moore and Vivian Marshall wait their turn.

“I am against folks insisting that every girl should be an expert cook ... Maybe she’ll marry a man who can work miracles in the kitchen, like I did. No one in their right mind would call my husband, Paul Douglas, a panty-waist, but hes superb in the kitchen. (Matter of fact, for me hes superb in any part of the house.) 


Looking pensive in this publicity still for
The Harder They Fall (1956).


“If you are afraid of anything, I may have a helpful formula: Don’t keep your fears a secret. Admit them. Let those of your friends who are dinner table psychologists work you over. Their advice probably will be next to worthless, but youll laugh at what they think they know.


All smiles as she ties the knot with actor 
Paul Douglas in 1950.



My favorite Jan Sterling films: Caged (1950), Mystery Street (1950), Union Station (1950), Appointment with Danger (1951), Ace in the Hole (1951), Womens Prison (1955), Female on the Beach (1955), 1984 (1956), The Harder They Fall (1956), Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957), High School Confidential (1958).


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