Stella Stevens, The Nutty Professor and The Poseidon Adventure Actress, Dead at 84

Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Stella Stevens, the actress known for her roles as Stella in The Nutty Professor and as Linda in The Poseidon Adventure, died in Los Angeles on February 17. She was 84. Her son, actor-director-producer Andrew Stevens, confirmed to Variety that his mother had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease prior to her death. Former Kiss member Bruce Kulick, the brother of the late guitarist Bob Kulick, also announced the news on social media. “Legendary actress Stella Stevens, my brother’s longtime partner, passed away this morning from a long illness. She is finally reunited with Bob today,” he tweeted. “She starred in many movies I love. It was very special for my family and I to know her personally. RIP Stella, 1938-2023.”

Born Estelle Eggleston, Stevens got her first big acting break after starring in a Memphis State University production of the play Bus Stop, which was reviewed by a local paper. She made her film debut in the 1959 musical Say One For Me, which also starred Bing Crosby and Debbie Reynolds. That same year, she also landed a role in the musical Li’l Abner. In 1960, she won a New Star of the Year award at the Golden Globes, signed a contract with Paramount Pictures, and became a Playboy Playmate of the Month. Her profile rose again after she reluctantly became Elvis Presley’s co-star in the 1962 movie Girls! Girls! Girls!. Stevens later told Bright Lights in a 2004 interview that she thought the script was “a piece of shit” and refused the part until she was promised a movie with Montgomery Clift. (That project eventually became 1961’s Too Late Blues, though Clift was swapped for Bobby Darin.)

Her other movie credits include The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Slaughter, The Silencers, and more. Stevens also took on plenty of television work, landing roles in Wanted: The Sundance WomanFlamingo Road, Night Court, Highlander, General Hospital, and Magnum, P.I., to name a few. Despite her lengthy acting career, however, Stevens also longed to be a director. Although she did direct a couple films during the course of her career, she told film scholar Michael G. Ankerich in 1994 that the industry viewed her as a “sexpot” because she had posed for Playboy, which made it difficult for her ambitions behind the camera to be taken seriously. Reflecting on her career at the time, she said, “I feel like I’ve just keyed the car, just scratched the surface, and that the whole auto is still sitting there in front of me.”

The Nutty Professor Actress Stella Stevens Dead at 84