Jan Sterling

Last updated
Jan Sterling
Jan Sterling in Split Second trailer.jpg
in Split Second (1953)
Jane Sterling Adriance

(1921-04-03)April 3, 1921
DiedMarch 26, 2004(2004-03-26) (aged 82)
Resting place St Paul's, Covent Garden, England
OccupationActress of stage, film and television
Years active1947–1988
John Merivale
(m. 1941;div. 1948)

Paul Douglas
(m. 1950;died 1959)

Jan Sterling (born Jane Sterling Adriance, April 3, 1921 – March 26, 2004) was an American film, television and stage actress.


At her most active in films during the 1950s (immediately prior to which she had joined the Actors Studio), [1] Sterling received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in The High and the Mighty (1954), and she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the same performance. Her best performance is often recognized [2] as the "opportunistic wife" [3] opposite Kirk Douglas in Billy Wilder's 1951 Ace in the Hole . Although her career declined during the 1960s, she continued to play occasional television and theatre roles. [ citation needed ]

Early life

Born in New York City, Sterling was the daughter of Eleanor Ward (née Deans) and William Allen Adriance Jr, an architect and advertising executive. [4] She had a younger sister, Ann "Mimi" Adriance, a model and businesswoman. [5] Jane grew up in a wealthy household and attended private schools before moving with her family to Europe and South America. In London and Paris she was schooled by private tutors, and in London she attended Fay Compton's dramatic school. During the taping of the pilot of a game show in 1968, she told the story of having been sent airfare to fly back to the United States; seeing some lingerie she liked in a shop window, she used the last of her money to buy it, then traded in the airfare and booked aboard a steamship. Midway through the voyage, she found out that the airship she had originally been booked on, the Hindenburg, had been destroyed in a massive fire upon arriving in New Jersey. [6]

Acting career

As a teenager, she returned to the borough of Manhattan, and using variations of her given name, including "Jane Adriance" and "Jane Sterling", she began her acting career in 1938 by performing on Broadway as the character Chris Faringdon in Bachelor Born. [7] She then appeared in a variety of other Broadway productions during the 1940s, such as When We Were Married, This Rock, and The Rugged Path. [7] In 1947 she made her film debut in Tycoon , billed as Jane Darian. Ruth Gordon reportedly insisted she change her stage name, and they agreed upon Jan Sterling. [8] She played a prominent supporting role in Johnny Belinda (1948). Alternating between films and television, Sterling appeared in several television anthology series during the 1950s, and played film roles in Caged (1950), Mystery Street (1950), Union Station (1950), The Mating Season (1951), Ace in the Hole (1951), Flesh and Fury (1952), The High and the Mighty (1954), Female on the Beach (1955), and High School Confidential (1958).

Often cast as hard and determined characters, she played a more sympathetic character in Sky Full of Moon (1952).[ citation needed ] In 1950, she was cast as "Ruth" on ABC's The Marshal of Gunsight Pass , with Russell Hayden and Eddie Dean. Sterling's character was the girlfriend of Deputy Roscoe, played by veteran western film star Roscoe Ates. The series was telecast live from a primitive studio lot at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, California. [9]

Sterling in The High and the Mighty JanSterlingHighandMightyTrailerScreenshot1954.jpg
Sterling in The High and the Mighty

In 1954, Sterling was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in The High and the Mighty . Later that year, she travelled to Britain to play the role of Julia in the first film version of George Orwell's 1984 , despite being several months pregnant at the time. During the following years, she appeared regularly in films. [9] Some of her appearances on American television series during the 1960s include a guest-starring role on Riverboat , her performance as Dianne Jordan in a 1960 Bonanza episode ("The Blood Line"), her portrayal of Nurse Murdoch in the 1963 episode "Millions of Faces" on ABC's Breaking Point , and her performance in the 1967 episode "Eleven Miles to Eden" of NBC's The Road West . [9]

In late 1968, Sterling began portraying the conniving "Miss Foss" on The Guiding Light . After performing in the 1969 film The Minx, she curtailed her appearances in films and on television but continued to work on stage. She did, however, return to television in 1979 to portray the wife of President Herbert Hoover in Backstairs at the White House , and in 1981 Sterling made her last film appearance playing Walter Matthau's wife in the First Monday in October .


Sterling was married twice. In 1941 she wed actor John Merivale, a union that ended in divorce seven years later. She then married another actor, Paul Douglas, in 1950 and remained with him until his death in 1959. [10] In the 1970s, she entered into a long-lasting personal relationship with Sam Wanamaker. Inactive professionally for nearly two decades, she made an appearance at the Cinecon Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2001.


Sterling's later life was marked by illness and injury that included diabetes, a broken hip and a series of strokes. Her son, at age 48, died of heart failure in December 2003. Sterling died three months later, just eight days before her 83rd birthday, in the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles. [4]


Radio appearances

1952 Stars over Hollywood A Dime a Dozen [12]
1953 Theatre Guild on the Air The Show-Off [13]

Related Research Articles

James Whitmore American actor

James Allen Whitmore Jr. was an American film, theatre, and television actor. During his career, Whitmore won three of the four EGOT honors: a Tony, a Grammy, and an Emmy. Whitmore also won a Golden Globe and was nominated for two Academy Awards.

Shelley Winters actress (1920-2006)

Shelley Winters was an American actress whose career spanned almost six decades.

Kim Stanley American actress

Kim Stanley was an American actress, primarily in television and theatre, but with occasional film performances.

Judith Anderson Australian actress

Dame Frances Margaret Anderson,, known professionally as Judith Anderson, was an Australian actress who had a successful career in stage, film and television. A preeminent stage actress in her era, she won two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award and was also nominated for a Grammy Award and an Academy Award. She is considered one of the 20th century's greatest classical stage actors.

Zachary Scott American actor (1914-1965)

Zachary Scott was an American actor who was most notable for his roles as villains and "mystery men".

Joanne Dru American film and television actress

Joanne Dru was an American film and television actress, known for such films as Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and All the King's Men.

Mildred Dunnock American theater, film and television actress

Mildred Dorothy Dunnock was an American stage and screen actress. She received two Academy Award nominations for her supporting performances in Death of a Salesman (1951) and Baby Doll (1956). Dunnock was also nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award in her career.

Ann Blyth American actress

Ann Marie Blyth is an American retired actress and singer, often cast in Hollywood musicals, but also successful in dramatic roles. For her performance as Veda Pierce in the 1945 film Mildred Pierce, Blyth was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Beulah is an American situation-comedy series that ran on CBS Radio from 1945 to 1954, and on ABC Television from 1950 to 1953. The show is notable for being the first sitcom to star an African American actress, for being ABC TV's first hit situation comedy, and the first hit TV sitcom without a laugh track. The show was controversial for its caricatures of African Americans.

Paul Douglas (actor) American actor

Paul Douglas Fleischer was an American actor.

Beatrice Straight US actress

Beatrice Whitney Straight was an American theatre, film and television actress and a member of the prominent Whitney family. She was an Academy Award and Tony Award winner as well as an Emmy Award nominee.

Colette Janine Marchand was a French prima ballerina and actress. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1952 for her performance as Marie Charlet in Moulin Rouge, directed by John Huston.

Nina Foch Dutch American actress

Nina Foch was a Dutch-born American actress and director who later became an instructor in both subjects. Her career spanned six decades, consisting of over 50 feature films and over 100 television appearances. She was the recipient of numerous accolades, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and a National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress. Foch established herself as a dramatic actress in the late 1940s, often playing cool, aloof sophisticates.

Joan Copeland American actress

Joan Maxine Copeland is an American actress. She is the younger sister of playwright Arthur Miller. She began her career during the mid-1940s, appearing in theatre in New York City, where, shortly thereafter, she would become one of the very first members admitted to the newly formed Actors Studio. She moved into television and film during the 1950s. while still maintaining an active stage career. She is best known for her performances in the 1977 Broadway revival of Pal Joey and her award-winning performance in the 1981 play The American Clock. She has also played a number of prominent roles on various soap operas throughout her career, including Andrea Whiting on Search for Tomorrow and Gwendolyn Lord Abbott on One Life to Live.

Jocelyn Brando American film actress

Jocelyn Brando was an American film, stage, and television actress.

The 27th Academy Awards honored the best films released in 1954. The Best Picture winner, On the Waterfront, was produced by Sam Spiegel and directed by Elia Kazan. It had twelve nominations and eight wins, matching two other films, Gone with the Wind (1939) and From Here to Eternity (1953), though those each had thirteen nominations.

Evelyn Varden American actress

Evelyn Varden was an American character actress.

Joan Chandler American actor

Joan Chandler was an American actress who notably starred in Rope (1948) with James Stewart and Humoresque (1946) with Joan Crawford.

Eve Miller American actress

Eve Miller was an American actress who appeared in 41 films between 1945 and 1961. She was born in Los Angeles, California, and died in Van Nuys, California. She committed suicide at age 50.

Karen Sharpe American former actress of film and television

Karen Kay Sharpe is an American former actress of film and television, who appeared on screen from 1952 to 1966. She is the surviving third wife of producer/director Stanley Kramer, to whom she was married from 1966 until his death in 2001. She has since been the caretaker of the Kramer estate and legacy.


  1. Garfield, David (1980). "Birth of The Actors Studio: 1947-1950". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio . New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. pp.  75, 76. ISBN   0-02-542650-8. The various teachers who taught at the studio over the three-year period between the fall of 1948 and the fall of 1951 brought with them actors they had worked with or students from their private classes... Other prominent actors who joined the studio during this time were Jean Alexander, Beatrice Arthur, Barbara Baxley, Lonny Chapman, Salem Ludwig, Lois Nettleton, Alfred Ryder, Eva Marie Saint, Frank Silvera, Kim Stanley, Jan Sterling, Ray Walston and Dennis Weaver.
  2. Timesonline.co.uk
  3. Bergan, Ronald (March 29, 2004). "Obituary: Jan Sterling" via www.theguardian.com.
  4. 1 2 Willis, John. 2006. Screen World: 2005 Film Annual. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp 387, 453; ISBN   1-55783-667-1, ISBN   978-1-55783-667-0.
  5. Ann Sterling obituary accessed 1-5-2016
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=500&v=dOCptizPE8k
  7. 1 2 "Jan Sterling", Internet Broadway Database (IBDB), The Broadway League, New York, N.Y. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  8. "Jan Sterling - The Private Life and Times of Jan Sterling. Jan Sterling Pictures". www.glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com.
  9. 1 2 3 Jan Sterling on IMDb
  10. Life Magazine. "Paul Douglas: Demon to Daddy". March 12, 1951. p. 118.
  11. Maltin, Leonard. 2008. Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide. Penguin. ISBN   0-452-28978-5, ISBN   978-0-452-28978-9
  12. Kirby, Walter (April 27, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved May 9, 2015 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  13. Kirby, Walter (February 22, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 23, 2015 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg