Olive Sturgess

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Olive Dora Sturgess
Born (1933-10-08) October 8, 1933 (age 86)
ResidenceLos Angeles, California
NationalityCanadian
Alma materUniversity of British Columbia
OccupationFormer actress
Spouse(s)Dale Anderson
ChildrenAt least one daughter
RelativesJoan Benham (cousin)

Olive Dora Sturgess (born October 8, 1933) is a Canadian former actress of American television and three films. Though most of her appearances were in westerns, her longest-running role was as Carol Henning in 12 of the 155 episodes of NBC's situation comedy The Bob Cummings Show, which aired between 1956 and 1959.

Early years[edit]

A native of Ocean Falls in British Columbia,[1] Sturgess attended the University of British Columbia. During her time there she acted at the Totem Theater in Vancouver.[2]

Television[edit]

Sturgess portrayed an 18-year-old actress in a production of "Tender Is the Night" on Front Row Center in September 1955.[3] Her other credited roles in 1955 included Kathy Gresham in the episode "Take My Hand" of the anthology television series, Studio 57, Mia Caroll in "Time Out for Ginger" of CBS's Shower of Stars, Midge Miller in "The Iris Miller Story" of CBS's The Millionaire, and Linda in "Sock's Teenage Problem" of Jackie Cooper's NBC sitcom, The People's Choice. In 1957, she was cast as Mary Lambert in the episode "John Wesley Hardin" about the western outlaw on NBC's Tales of Wells Fargo, starring Dale Robertson. That same year she portrayed Fran Celane in "The Case of the Sullky Girl" on CBS's Perry Mason, with Raymond Burr.[4]

In 1958, Sturgess played Kathy Donovan, the daughter of a western fort commander, in the episode "Renegades" of the ABC/Warner Brothers western series Cheyenne, starring Clint Walker in the title role. Sturgess described Clint Walker as a vegetarian as early as 1958 long before natural foods became of much national interest.[5]

Sturgess also appeared in other ABC/WB series, Lawman, Maverick (two episodes), Bronco, Hawaiian Eye,[4] and Sugarfoot, in the latter as Olive Turner in the 1958 episode "Short Range". In filming this episode in 1957, she reportedly developed a crush on series star Will Hutchins:[1] "I had a mad crush on Will Hutchins. He was so handsome, so charming. I wonder why that show went off the air [in 1961] — it was good."[5]

She appeared twice each on The Donna Reed Show, Thriller,[4] Wagon Train, Bonanza, and The Rebel, starring Nick Adams, whom she twice dated.[1] Adams introduced her to Natalie Wood, who encouraged Sturgess in the pursuit of her burgeoning acting career. In The Rebel episode "The Pit", Sturgess volunteered her real life nephew, Leonard Sturgess, for the part of a six-month-old baby needed in the script.[5] On one of her Wagon Train episodes, "Wagons Ho!" (September 28, 1960), an NBC season premiere, she and Mickey Rooney were cast as a young married couple, Samuel T. and Melanie Evans, with Ellen Corby as Aunt 'Em.[6] Sturgess had to wear the lowest of heels so as not to tower over Rooney, whom she called "a professional". Her experience with the short Rooney was the opposite of the 6'4" Clint Walker in Cheyenne. Wagon Train star Ward Bond, who died a few weeks after the airing of "Wagons Ho!", was in her words "hard to get to know but good to work with."[5] On Bonanza Sturgess found Dan Blocker, who played Eric "Hoss" Cartwright, had "terrible language, foul language — it just came out!"[5]

In 1959, she portrayed Mary MacNamara in the episode of the same name in the NBC children's western series set in a fictitious Montana town, Buckskin, with Tom Nolan. She guest-starred too in the ABC western series, Destry with John Gavin, whom Sturgess noted later went into Republican politics: "He was interesting. Such a handsome man!"[5] She was cast too on NBC's Laramie, The Man and the Challenge, Outlaws, Wide Country, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and The Virginian, and CBS's Rawhide, Have Gun - Will Travel, The Texan, General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald W. Reagan, and the detective series, Checkmate, as Felice O'Neill in the 1962 episode, "Brooding Fixation".[4] Sturgess described Earl Holliman of The Wide Country, a western drama about rodeo riders, as "such a good actor — a very down to earth person. That's why he goes on and on!"[5]

Three times in 1960 and 1961, Sturgess was cast as May McBean on NBC's The Tall Man, with Barry Sullivan and Clu Gulager; May is one of the daughters of the crusty Pa McBean, played by Andy Clyde. She played Allie in the 1961 episode "Big Game Hunter" of the short-lived CBS sitcom Bringing Up Buddy, starring Frank Aletter in the title role; Diana Masters in "Shy Alfie" of CBS's The Danny Thomas Show, and Elsie Barton in "Race Against the Stork" on CBS's Petticoat Junction.[4]

Film[edit]

Her film roles included that of Nancy Kettle in The Kettles in the Ozarks (1956) with Marjorie Main and Arthur Hunnicutt; Estelle Craven in The Raven (1963), with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Jack Nicholson, and Bonnie Young in Requiem for a Gunfighter (1965), with Rod Cameron and producer Alex Gordon. Sturgess recalled that Cameron, who had starred in three earlier syndicated crime series, was "making sort of a comeback at this time. He was very gracious; very kind. You can see it in him in the scene [in Requiem] when we are having dinner—his look. He was a professional. ..."[5]

Later years[edit]

Sturgess was offered a part in NBC's Flipper with Brian Kelly but declined to come to Florida for the interview. She had married musician Dale Anderson and had a baby whom she could not leave for the possibility of appearing on Flipper.[5]

In 1965, Sturgess played a nurse on Richard Chamberlain's Dr. Kildare; her last two acting roles were also those of a nurse in Ironside with Raymond Burr in 1969 and the ABC police drama, The Rookies in 1973 and 1974.[4]

Sturgess was also involved in rodeos and was grand marshal of the rodeo in Whittier, California.[5]

Reflecting on her years as an actress, Sturgess said:

In those days they had good stories. Mary Tyler Moore said it exactly right. 'Writing for television today is like writing shorthand. There's no depth to anything.' We used to have stories that had a beginning, middle, and an end; that made you feel good after watching them. Not those terrible shallow shows of today. We had stories that were genuine; stories of the West done with humor or drama and romance. A good show you looked forward to seeing. You really felt good when you saw the television shows of those days.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Olive Sturgess". glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
  2. ^ "Actress Queen". The Ottawa Citizen. Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. October 6, 1952. p. 1. Retrieved August 20, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  3. ^ Daugherty, Julia (September 7, 1955). "Scott Fitzgerald Story On Front Row Center". The Indianapolis Star. Indiana, Indianapolis. p. 15. Retrieved August 20, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Olive Sturgess". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mike Fitzgerald. "Olive Sturgess". westernclippings.com. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
  6. ^ "Wagons Ho!". Internet Movie Data Base. September 28, 1960. Retrieved September 5, 2014.

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