Jan Sterling

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Jan Sterling
Sterling in 1952
Jane Sterling Adriance

(1921-04-03)April 3, 1921
New York City, U.S.
DiedMarch 26, 2004(2004-03-26) (aged 82)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1938–1988
Known forThe High and the Mighty
Ace in the Hole
Johnny Belinda
(m. 1941; div. 1948)
(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) as well as an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination. Her best performance is often considered to be opposite Kirk Douglas, as the opportunistic wife 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[edit]

Sterling was born in New York City, the daughter of Eleanor Ward (née Deans) and William Allen Adriance Jr, an architect and advertising executive.[2] She had a younger sister, Ann "Mimi" Adriance, a model and businesswoman.[3] 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 on May 6, 1937.[4]

Acting career[edit]

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.[5] For the summer of 1939, Sterling appeared in the summer stock cast at Elitch Theatre, the oldest Summer stock theater in the country, with Jane Wyatt appearing as the season's leading lady.[6]

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.[5] 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.[7] 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 sympathetic character in Sky Full of Moon (1952).[citation needed] In 1950, she was cast as Ruth (the girlfriend of Deputy Roscoe, played by veteran western film star Roscoe Ates) on The Marshal of Gunsight Pass.

Sterling in Split Second (1953)
Sterling in The High and the Mighty (1954)

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. Some of her appearances on American television series include the title character in "The Annie Griffith Story" on Wagon Train in 1959 and "The Selena Hartnell Story" in 1961; and during the 1960s, 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. 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 actor Paul Douglas in 1950 and remained with him until his death in 1959.[8] In the 1970s, she entered into a long-lasting personal relationship with Sam Wanamaker, who was based predominantly in the United Kingdom. Inactive professionally for nearly two decades, she made an appearance at the Cinecon Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2001.

Health and death[edit]

Sterling's later life was marked by illness and injury that included diabetes, a broken hip, and a series of strokes. Her son died of heart failure in December 2003 aged 48. Sterling died three months later, on March 26, 2004, aged 82, at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.[citation needed]


Selected Television appearances[edit]

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Stars over Hollywood A Dime a Dozen[10]
1953 Theatre Guild on the Air The Show-Off[11]


  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. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Ann “Mimi” Welfeld obituary Retrieved October 4, 2022
  4. ^ "Talking Pictures (1968 Pilot), with Allen Ludden" – via www.youtube.com.
  5. ^ a b "Jan Sterling", Internet Broadway Database (IBDB), The Broadway League, New York, N.Y. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  6. ^ "Jan Sterling (1939) – Historic Elitch Theatre". historicelitchtheatre.org. Retrieved March 16, 2024.
  7. ^ "Jan Sterling – The Private Life and Times of Jan Sterling. Jan Sterling Pictures". www.glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com.
  8. ^ Life Magazine. "Paul Douglas: Demon to Daddy". March 12, 1951. p. 118.
  9. ^ Maltin, Leonard. 2008. Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide. Penguin. ISBN 0-452-28978-5, ISBN 978-0-452-28978-9
  10. ^ Kirby, Walter (April 27, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved May 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  11. ^ Kirby, Walter (February 22, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 23, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon

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