Jan Sterling

Active - 1948 - 1982  |   Born - Apr 3, 1921   |   Died - Mar 26, 2004   |   Genres - Drama, Crime

Share on

Born into a prosperous New York family, Jan Sterling was educated in private schools before heading to England, where she studied acting with Fay Compton. Billed as Jane Sterling, she made her first Broadway appearance at the age of fifteen; she went on to appear in such major stage offerings as Panama Hattie, Over 21 and Present Laughter. In 1947, she made her movie bow--billed as Jane Darian for the first and last time in her career--in RKO's Tycoon. Seldom cast in passive roles, Sterling was at her best in parts calling for hard-bitten, sometimes hard-boiled determination. In Billy Wilder's searing The Big Carnival (1951), she played Lorraine, the slatternly, opportunistic wife of cave-in victim Richard Benedict, summing up her philosophy of life with the classic line "I don't go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons." In 1954, Jan was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Sally McKee, a mail-order bride with a questionable past, in The High and the Mighty. In a prime example of giving one's all to one's art, Sterling submitted to having her eyebrows shaved off for a crucial scene; her brows never grew back, and she was required to pencil them in for the rest of her career. Also in 1954, Sterling travelled to England to play Julia in the first film version of George Orwell's 1984; though her character was a member of "The Anti-Sex League," Sterling was several months pregnant at the time. Having no qualms about shuttling between films and television, she showed up in nearly all the major live anthologies of the 1950s. She was also a panelist on such quiz programs as You're In the Picture (1961) and Made in America (1964). Married twice, Sterling's second husband was actor Paul Douglas. Jan Sterling retired from films in favor of the stage in 1969; she returned before the cameras in 1976 to portray Mrs. Herbert Hoover in the TV miniseries Backstairs at the White House.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography