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Jan Sterling Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (15)  | Personal Quotes (5)

Overview (4)

Born in New York City, New York, USA
Died in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (series of strokes)
Birth NameJane Sterling Adriance
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

One of Hollywood's more talented and watchable stars on screen was sullen, strikingly stick-thin 50s actress Jan Sterling who didn't quite reach the top echelon of stardom but certainly ensured audiences of a real good time with her sexy pout and flashy style in soaps, film noir and saucy comedy.

Jan was born Jane Sterling Adriance in Manhattan in 1921 to a well-to-do family. Her father was a prominent advertising executive who divorced her mother when the girl was only eight years old. Her mother remarried (to an oilman) when Jan was still a youngster and the family relocated abroad where Jan was schooled by private tutors in Brazil, then later in London and Paris.

Although both sets of parents disapproved, Jan, who by this time possessed a strong British accent, set her sites on acting and was eventually enrolled in Fay Compton's dramatic school in London. A strong-minded young lady with a heartfelt passion for the arts, she returned to Manhattan to conquer Broadway and by the age of 17 had found her first ingénue role in "Bachelor Born," playing (naturally) a young British lady. Over the next 11 years, Jan dominated Broadway as proper British ladies while billing herself as "Jane Adrian".

One of her highlights was working with the legendary Ruth Gordon in 1942 in Gordon's first play entitled "Over 21." As Billie Dawn in the Chicago company of "Born Yesterday," Jan bowled over the critics and seemed almost a shoo-in to do the 1950 film version but she lost out in the end to Judy Holliday. The ash-blonde broke quickly into films supporting Oscar-winning Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948) in a key, emotional role.

To her absolute delight, she left the docile, ladylike image behind her and was allowed to dig her nails into a florid array of cheap floozies, hard-bitten dames, and lethal schemers and stood out well with 'bad girl' parts in the films Caged (1950), Ace in the Hole (1951), Flesh and Fury (1952), The Human Jungle (1954), and Female on the Beach (1955). In between she occasionally made a nicer, or at least a more sympathetic, impression in the movies Sky Full of Moon (1952) and The High and the Mighty (1954), the latter earning her an Oscar nomination.

Married to and divorced from actor John Merivale in the 1940s, Jan later married gruff film star Paul Douglas in 1950. The couple moved away from the Hollywood scene in Burlington, Vermont. The couple appeared together professionally on occasional TV shows and Douglas revived his "Born Yesterday" Harry Brock role with a stage tour starring Jan in the Billie Dawn part. It and they were a solid hit.

Jan's career slowed down considerably after the sudden death of her 52-year-old second husband in 1959. He suffered a massive heart attack at their Hollywood home. She refocused on stage and TV but at a slower step. Incidental filming occurred on occasion, including support roles in Love in a Goldfish Bowl (1961) and The Incident (1967). She also involved herself in humanitarian causes. In the late 1960s she moved to London, England and in the 70s, she entered into a strong personal relationship with actor Sam Wanamaker. An isolated film role came her way with a small part in First Monday in October (1981). They never married but stayed together until his death in 1993.

Inactive for nearly two decades, Jan made an appearance at the Cinecon Film Festival in Los Angeles in the fall of 2001, still charming audiences at the age of 80. On 26 March 2004, she passed away at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. She was 83.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (2)

Paul Douglas (12 May 1950 - 11 September 1959) ( his death) ( 1 child)
John Merivale (3 May 1941 - 26 August 1947) ( divorced)

Trivia (15)

Some sources give her year of birth 1921, others give 1923.
Gave birth to her only child at age 34, a son Adams Douglas on October 20, 1955. Child's father was her 2nd husband, Paul Douglas.
Known on stage as "Jane Adriance" until the 1940s. Her stage name was suggested by (Ruth Gordon), whose first suggestion was "Amethyst Adriance" because "you should name yourself after a gem." Instead, Sterling chose to drop the Adriance and shorten her first name to "Jan"; her character's name in the play in which she was appearing.
Has resided in London for many years. Was a good friend of the late Sam Wanamaker.
Critics raved about her portrayal of "Billie Dawn" in the Chicago touring company of "Born Yesterday" and Columbia brought Jan out to the West Coast to test for the 1950 film version, Born Yesterday (1950). At one point, she was actually announced to play the part but the role ultimately went to the character's original player on Broadway, Judy Holliday, who went on to win the Oscar.
Made her singing debut in a tour of the musical "Silk Stockings" in 1962.
She was a descendant of two American presidents: John Adams and John Quincy Adams. In their honor, her son, by actor Paul Douglas, was named Adams Douglas.
Her son, Adams Douglas, died of heart failure in December 2003 just three months before her own death in 2004.
In 1968 she received the first annual achievement award of the Century Club, comprised of members of the American-Jewish Congress, which recongized her service in radio and telvision programs for the women's conference of the Jewish Federation-Council of Greater Los Angeles.
In Italy, almost all her films were dubbed by Rosetta Calavetta, except Union Station (1950) and High School Confidential! (1958) where she was dubbed by Dhia Cristiani and Micaela Giustiniani respectively.
She was omitted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from the "In Memoriam" tribute during the telecast of the 77th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, although she once has been nominated for an Oscar in 1955 for her supporting performance in The High and the Mighty (1954).
Son Adams Douglas by actor Paul Douglas later became a programmer at NASA.
In 1941, Jan took over actress Virginia Field's part in the Broadway musical "Panama Hattie" when Field left the show to marry actor Paul Douglas. By 1950 the marriage between Douglas and Field had ended in divorce and Paul married Jan.
On a never-aired game show pilot called "Talking Pictures", Jan revealed that when her dramatic studies ended in London, she traded her ticket for her flight home for passage on a steamship, in order to use the difference to purchase some lingerie. The original ticket was for The Hindenberg. Thus, she claimed that fancy lingerie saved her life.
Friend and mentor of Karen Sharpe.

Personal Quotes (5)

[after eating escargot] Erasers would taste good with this sauce.
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.
I was the original "happy hooker". I've played her in 10 of my 42 movies, and I've played her on television and on the stage.
It was the longest minute of my life. And when the envelope was opened and it was Eva Marie Saint who had won, my heart sank. I really believed then that my place on earth would be complete if only I could have an Oscar. But Claire Trevor was nominated in the same category and the vote split because we were both up for parts we played in the same picture, The High and the Mighty (1954).
You really have to be in Hollywood or New York to be thought of for parts. Then, too, I can't play the roles I once could and I'm not old enough for many of the others. I've lived in London for many years and I couldn't work here, either, because I did not have a work permit until very recently...And my almost total lack of ambition and the fact that I enjoy my life now very much. I'm not aware that I'm missing anything. JS - on the reasons for her professional inactivity

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