In 1960, she won the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress for her performance in Say One for Me, Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s Stevens achieved success as a model.
She was included in Playboy magazine's 100 Sexiest Stars of the 20th Century, appeared at number 27. The following year she appeared in two successful comedy films: Jerry Lewis's The Nutty Professor (1963), as his student and love interest Stella Purdy, and in Vincente Minnelli's The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963) playing the would-be "Miss Montana" beauty queen.Her television career continued into the 2000s when she appeared in an episode of Twenty Good Years (2006).Stevens appeared in several stage productions, including a touring production of an all-female version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple opposite Sandy Dennis. She produced and directed two films, The Ranch (1989) and The American Heroine (1979).Stevens' contract with 20th Century-Fox was dropped after six months.After winning the role of Appassionata Von Climax in the musical Li'l Abner (1959), she signed a contract with Paramount Pictures (1959-1963).
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They had one child, Herman Andrew Stephens, who would later be known as actor/producer Andrew Stevens. The couple divorced in 1957 but Stella and her son retained a variation of her ex-husband's surname as their own professional surnames.While studying at Memphis State College, she became interested in acting and modeling.In his review in The New York Times, Roger Greenspun wrote, "But it is Stella Stevens, at last in a role good enough for her, who most wonderfully sustains and enlightens the action." In 1972 she starred in Irwin Allen's hugely successful disaster film The Poseidon Adventure with Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Roddy Mc Dowall, and Shelley Winters.Stevens played the role of Linda Rogo, the "refreshingly outspoken" ex-prostitute wife of Borgnine's character.In 1960 she won a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress. Anne's Catholic School on Highland Street and Sacred Heart School on Jefferson Avenue, finishing her final year of high school in 1955 at the Memphis Evening School at Memphis Tech High School.
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At the age of 16, she married electrician Noble Herman Stephens on December 1, 1954, probably in Memphis.
Stevens's father contributed substantially to the son's early education by providing their home with an extensive library and by encouraging reading.
At age twelve Stevens entered public school for boys and began studying classics in Greek and Latin.
Her final film for Columbia was Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (1968) in which she played "Sister George".
In 1970, Stevens starred opposite Jason Robards in Sam Peckinpah's The Ballad of Cable Hogue, for which she received positive reviews.