The daughter of an ambitious but relatively benign "stage mama," Los Angeles-native Jill St. John was acting on stage at age 5, and on radio from the time she could read; in the late '40s Jill was a regular on the marathon soap opera One Man's Family. Jill's mother changed the girl's name from Oppenheim to St. John when she was 11, and (via surgery) changed her nose from Romanesque to turned-up when Jill was 16. By that time, Jill had been attending UCLA for two full years; she was assessed by experts as having an IQ of 162. Jill wanted to be a comedienne like her idol, Kay Kendall; but when she was signed for a 20th Century-Fox contract in 1958, it was on the basis of her pulchritude rather than her comic timing. After a series of non-descript heroines in such pictures as Holiday for Lovers (1959) and The Lost World (1960), Jill came into her own on the TV guest star circuit. She was most frequently seen on the specials of comedian Bob Hope (ever the connoiseur of feminine beauty) and was also shown to good advantage in a couple of Frank Sinatra films. Virtually all of Jill's film assignments contrived to get her into the skimpiest of swimwear; in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds are Forever, Jill spent at least three-quarters of the picture in brief bikinis. Though not as active on screen in the '80s and '90s as she'd been before, Jill kept busy as the "in house" cooking expert on the daytime TV series Good Morning America and as the food columnist of the USA Weekend newspaper supplement; she has also published several well-received cookbooks. Jil's hobbies have ranged from collecting model trains to dating such high-profile celebrities as Henry Kissinger. Thrice married, Jill St. John was wed in 1990 to actor Robert Wagner, a longtime friend and coworker.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- At 5, she was a regular on the radio series One Man's Family.
- Toured with Martha Raye in Annie Get Your Gun at 10.
- Studied at the Panaieff Ballet Center in Hollywood, where classmates included Natalie Wood and Stefanie Powers.
- Graduated from high school at age 14.
- Was signed to a contract by Universal Studios at 16.
- Married her first husband, linen heir Neil Dubin, three times because they were concerned about the legality of the marriages.
- Once ran the designer-sweater business Smith-St. John Ltd.
- Was the first American Bond girl when she played Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).
- In the 1980s, she hosted monthly cooking spots on ABC's Good Morning America, wrote a monthly column for USA Weekend magazine and published several cookbooks.
- Has appeared with husband Robert Wagner in six movies and a number of TV series, including the famous "The Yada Yada" episode of Seinfeld.
- Has lived in Hollywood, Paris, London, Aspen and Honolulu.