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Nutty Professor & Poseidon Adventure star Stella Stevens dead at 84

Her son, actor Andrew Stevens, says she’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

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Stella Stevens, who appeared alongside Elvis Presley in “Girls! Girls! Girls!” and starred alongside Jerry Lewis in “The Nutty Professor” and “The Poseidon Adventure,” passed away on Friday in Los Angeles.

According to her son, Andrew Stevens, she had been battling Alzheimer’s disease. She was 84 years old. Although “Girls! Girls! Girls!” (1962) was one of the more ordinary Elvis films, and the role did not offer many opportunities for Stevens to shine, she earned praise for her performance in “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” (1963).

The movie is a story about a widower who is romantically attracted to one woman while his son wants him to marry another. According to Variety, “Stella Stevens delivers a stunning comedic performance as a smart yet inhibited woman from Montana. It’s an outstanding portrayal of a quirky character.”

Although female leads in Jerry Lewis films were often overlooked, Stella Stevens received high praise from The New York Times for her role as a smitten blonde student in The Nutty Professor (1963).

In The Silencers (1966), the first of the Matt Helm spy spoofs, Stevens was described as the clumsiest femme fatale to ever grace the screen by the Watching the Detectives website in a 2010 review.

In Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (1968), a sequel to The Trouble With Angels, Stevens played a hip, streetwise nun who clashes with Rosalind Russell’s Mother Superior character. Stevens also made a memorable impression in Sam Peckinpah’s 1970 Western The Ballad of Cable Hogue as the individualistic town prostitute, Hildy.

In the 1972 disaster film, The Poseidon Adventure, Stevens held her own in a large ensemble cast that included Gene Hackman, Red Buttons, and Shelley Winters. Despite the success of The Poseidon Adventure, Stevens’ feature-film career did not take off and she transitioned to B movies, TV movies, and guest appearances.

However, she did have the opportunity to play the villain in Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975), portraying the venomous Dragon Lady with relish.

During the 1970s, Stella Stevens appeared on television, including the sequel to the TV movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” called “Wanted: The Sundance Woman” (1976), which starred Katharine Ross. Stevens later took on a series-regular role in the prime-time soap “Flamingo Road” (1980), set in a small town in Florida and featuring Morgan Fairchild and Mark Harmon.

Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after only 38 episodes in 1980-82. Stevens then made guest appearances on several TV shows such as Newhart, Hotel, Highway to Heaven, Night Court, Magnum, P.I., In the Heat of the Night, The Commish, Highlander, HBO’s Arli$$, and Nash Bridges.

She also acted in several TV movies such as “The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion!” (1997) and “Tales From the Hollywood Hills: A Table at Ciro’s”. Additionally, she had a 66-episode run on the daytime soap “Santa Barbara” in 1989-90 and recurred on “General Hospital” from 1996-99 as Jake. In addition to her work in television and film, Stevens appeared occasionally on stage, including in a touring production of an all-female version of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” in which she played the Oscar Madison character, while Sandy Dennis played the Felix Ungar character.

Stevens was also known for her advocacy of animal rights and her efforts towards cat adoptions. She raised horses and llamas at her ranch in Twisp, Wash.

Stevens’ partner, rock guitarist Bob Kulick, passed away in 2020, with whom she was together for almost 40 years.

She is survived by her son, Andrew Stevens, who is a film producer, director, and actor, as well as three grandchildren.


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