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Jan Sterling

One of Hollywood's most talented and versatile stars, often cool and stunning blonde in Hollywood film noir movies of the 1940s and '50s, the actrees Jan Sterling ensured audiences of a real good time with her sexy roles in soaps, crime action and comedies.

Jan Sterling was born Jane Sterling Adriance on April 3, 1921, in New York City, NY, into a prosperous family. Sterling was educated in private schools before heading to Europe with her family. She was schooled by private tutors in London and Paris, and was enrolled in Fay Compton's dramatic school in London. As a teenager she returned to Manhattan, and billed as Jane Sterling, made her first Broadway appearance in Bachelor Born and went on to appear in such major stage offerings as Panama Hattie, Over 21 and Present Laughter. In 1947, she made her movies debut in Tycoon, now billed as Jane Darian. Seldom cast in passive roles, Sterling was at her best in parts calling for hard-bitten, sometimes hard-boiled determination. Then, the actrees Ruth Gordon insisted she change her stage name and the two hit upon 'Jan Sterling'. In 1948 she broke into films supporting the Academy Award winner Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda, in a key, emotional role. Shuttling between films and television, she showed up in nearly all the major live anthologies of the 1950s, stood out in such 'bad girl' film roles in Caged (1950), The Big Carnival [aka 'Ace in the Hole'] (1951), Flesh and Fury (1952), The Human Jungle (1954), and Female on the Beach (1955), while making a more sympathetic impression in Sky Full of Moon (1952).

In 1954 Sterling was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for her great performance in The High and the Mighty. Also the same year, she travelled to England to play the role of Julia in the first film version of George Orwell's 1984, despite being several months pregnant at the time. During the following years, she appears regularly in movies like Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Kathy O, and The Female Animal.

Married and divorced to actor John Merivale in the 40s, Sterling's career slipped down after the death of her second husband, actor Paul Douglas, in 1959. She retired from films in favor of the stage in 1969 and returned before the cameras in 1976 to portray Mrs. Herbert Hoover in the TV miniseries Backstairs at the White House. In the 70s she entered into a strong personal relationship with actor Sam Wanamaker. They never married but stayed together until his death in 1993. Inactive for nearly two decades, she made an appearance at the Cinecon Film Festival in Los Angeles in the fall of 2001.

After a long bout with diabetes, a broken hip, and a number of strokes, Jan Sterling died on March 26, 2004, in Los Angeles, California, a few days before her 84th birthday.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

Jan Sterling Facts

Birth NameJane Sterling Adriance
BirthdayApril 3, 1921
BirthplaceNew York, New York, USA
Date of deathMarch 26, 2004 (age 82)
Height5' 6" (1m68)  How tall is Jan Sterling compared to you?
Awards1955 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Motion Picture (for The High & The Mighty)

Selected Filmography

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story
The High and the Mighty
Female on the Beach
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