Hollywood has been graced with an inexhaustible number of talented individuals who have taken to the industry to showcase their creativity. While some of them have gone on to have long and lasting careers in the industry, some have crashed and burnt for a variety of reasons, one of which is drug overdose. In the latter category is Inger Stevens, an actress whose career lasted 16 years.
Stevens had a fairy tale beginning to her career, surviving much childhood adversity to attain a breakthrough in Hollywood. She subsequently went on to thrive across both the TV and movie spheres, a rarity in such time. She also ended up winning several accolades. Given such strides, Inger was poised to have a long and accomplished career in the movie world but that was not to be as her life was prematurely cut short.
Inger Stevens Suffered Abandonment As A Child
Inger Stensland was born on the 18th of October, 1934 in Stockholm, Sweden. She hailed from a family of five, comprising of her father, Per Gustaf, mother, Lisbet Stensland, and two younger brothers – Karl and Peter. Inger spent her formative years in Stockholm and had a less than ideal childhood.
She was frequently ill as a child and to further worsen matters, her mother abandoned the family (subsequently returning to take only Peter) when she was nine years old. As if things couldn’t get any worse, Inger’s dad scored a scholarship to study at Harvard and promptly packed his bags for America, leaving the custody of his remaining two children in the hands of the family maid.
From the family maid, Inger and Karl moved to live with a paternal aunt until their father settled down and paid for them to come over to America. However, by this time, the damage had already been done as this abandonment by both parents made the young Inger develop poor self-image as she felt that she must have been unworthy of love.
She Ran Away From Home At 16
Meanwhile, Inger and her brother landed in America in the year 1944. They settled down with their father and his new wife in New York City for the next four years before eventually relocating to the state of Kansas. In Kansas, Inger Stensland had her studies at Manhattan High School. She was however largely an outcast and this made her unhappy.
She, therefore, ran away at the age of 16 to join burlesque shows in Kansas City. The teenage Inger also worked as a waitress until her father found her and forced her to return home. In Manhattan, the young lady resumed schooling and bided her time until she turned 18 and become a legal adult. Once that happened, she left home for New York City.
Inger Stevens Achieved Success Across The Movie And Theatrical Spheres
In New York City, Inger Stensland found an agent, Anthony Soglio, to help her further her career. Anthony Americanized her surname to Stevens. He also helped her land gigs in commercials and as a chorus girl in Latin Quarters. Whilst doing all this, the determined Inger also trained as an actress at the Actors Studio and scored her debut professional appearance in an episode of the TV series, Kraft Television Theatre, in 1954.
Following that humble start, Inger Stevens went on to land roles in other TV series such as Playhouse 90 and Studio One. She also took part in stage productions such as The Women, Glad Tidings, and Debut and it was her performance in the latter that helped her score her breakthrough role in the 1958 film, Man On Fire.
Man On Fire is a drama about Earl Carleton, a wealthy businessman who attempts to regain custody of his beloved son, Ted, from his ex-wife, Gina. The movie featured the legendary Bing Crosby as Earl while Inger portrayed the role of Nina Wylie, a lady who assists Earl in the custody battle and eventually falls in love with him. Her performance fetched her much praise and she went on to land steady work on other movies such as The Buccaneer, Cry Terror! And The World, The Flesh, and The Devil.
Her Unforgettable Role On The Farmer’s Daughter
The Swedish native also enjoyed a thriving carer on the TV medium, appearing in numerous series. Most of these appearances were however limited to one-off roles but Inger finally turned the corner after she landed a starring role on the ABC sitcom, The Farmer’s Daughter. The show revolved around a widowed American congressman, Glen Morley, and his two sons, Steve and Dany. In the series, Inger portrayed the role of the beguiling Swedish housekeeper, helping to keep the boys in line.
She also falls in love with their father and they end up getting married. The Farmer’s Daughter ran from 1963 to 1966 during which Inger capably helmed the show. Her work fetched her a Primetime Emmy nomination for outstanding continued performance by an actress in a series in 1962. She also received the 1963 Golden Globe Award for Best Female TV Star for her work on the show. Following the end of The Farmer’s Daughter in 1966, Inger Stevens went on to appear in more films and TV series. Overall, she appeared in fifty-five movies and TV shows throughout her career.
Her First Trip Down The Aisle
Inger Stevens was married twice during her lifetime and her first marriage was to her then-agent-turned boyfriend, Anthony Soglio. He was a native of Brooklyn, New York City, and was born on the 17th of February 1924. He grew up in New York and fashioned out a career as a theatrical agent in the entertainment industry. It was in the cause of his work that he crossed paths with Stevens who had newly moved to New York to pursue acting.
Soglio agreed to act as Stevens’ agent and made helpful contributions in kick-starting her career. The two eventually grew romantic and tied the knot in the year 1955. The union was however short-lived as Soglio was quite jealous and possessive, a personality that clashed with his wife’s independent nature. The couple, therefore, split and divorced in the year 1957.
The Actress’s Secret Second Marriage
Although during her lifetime, Inger Stevens was never known to have gotten married again after her divorce from Soglio, it was later revealed after her death that she was secretly married to Ike Jones during her lifetime. Ike Jones is an African-American film producer and actor who made history as the first African-American to graduate from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television. Stevens and Ike got married in Tijuana, Mexico in November 1961.
They remained married until her death but never publicized the union because of feared discrimination, due to Ike Jones’ African-American ethnic origin. Upon the actress’s death, Jones filed to be appointed the administrator of her estate given that she left no will. Many doubted the veracity of his claims but Inger’s brother, Karl, backed him up and he succeeded in court. He eventually used part of his late wife’s estate to open a mental healthcare clinic in a part of Los Angeles. Jones lived to be 84 and eventually passed away in October 2014, as a result of stroke and heart failure.
Succumbing To Her Demons
Inger Stevens died of a drug overdose, one that was medically described as ‘acute barbiturate poisoning’, and her death was ruled a suicide. To make sense of her demise, one needs to go back to the actress’ childhood. Due to that early abandonment by her parents, she grew up with poor self-identity and further complicated it by embarking on relationships with emotionally unavailable men. All these affected her deeply and occasionally made her feel suicidal.
Inger first attempted suicide back in 1959 when a co-star she was dating abandoned her and went back to his wife. She luckily survived and promised not to do such again. The Man on Fire star kept to her promise for about a decade before she overdosed on the 30th of April, 1970. Inger was found on her kitchen floor by her roommate, Lola McNally, who alerted emergency services.
She was taken to the hospital in an ambulance but gave up the ghost on the way. An autopsy report later revealed that the actress had cut herself on her chin. They also found out that she had taken a particular drug which is normally used for physician-assisted suicide. A memorial service was held for the actress and her body was cremated with the ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean.