Stella Stevens, the actress best known for her roles in The Nutty Professor and The Poseidon Adventure and starring opposite Elvis Presley in Girls! Girls! Girls!, died today in Los Angeles after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 84.
Stevens’ passing was confirmed to Deadline by her son, actor-producer Andrew Stevens, and her longtime friend John O’Brien.
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A former Playboy centerfold from January 1960, Stevens was modeling in her hometown of Memphis when she was discovered and given a screen test by 20th Century Fox. She wound up under contract with Paramount and then Columbia through the ’60s, starring opposite Presley in Girls! Girls! Girls!, Dean Martin in How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life, Bobby Darin in Too Late Blues and Glenn Ford in Rage.
She won a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer in 1960 for Say One for Me.
She also played Jerry Lewis’ dream girl in The Nutty Professor and the lippy wife of Ernest Borgnine in The Poseidon Adventure. Her other credits include The Silencers, The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Lil Abner.
Stevens was also a steady presence on television, appearing in dozens of TV movies and guest-starring in more than 40 series, from Bonanza and Ben Casey in the ‘60’s through The Commish and Arli$$ in the ‘90s.
For two seasons in the early ‘80s, she starred in the primetime soap Flamingo Road and later had recurring roles in Santa Barbara and General Hospital. Reportedly, Stevens came to regret her association with Playboy, finding the sexpot label confining.
“I did the best I could with the tools I had and the opportunities given me,” she was once quoted as saying. “I was a divorced mom with a toddler by the time I was 17. And Playboy did as much harm as it helped. But in spite of that rough start, I did OK.”
Along with her son, Stevens is survived by three grandchildren. She was predeceased by her longtime partner, rock musician Bob Kulick.
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