Anna Sten (Ukrainian: А́нна Стен; born Anna Petrivna Fesak, December 3, 1908 – November 12, 1993) was a Ukrainian-born American actress.[2] She began her career in stage plays and films in the Soviet Union before traveling to Germany, where she starred in several films. Her performances were noticed by film producer Samuel Goldwyn, who brought her to the United States with the aim of creating a new screen personality to rival Greta Garbo. After a few unsuccessful films, Goldwyn released her from her contract. She continued to act occasionally until her final film appearance in 1962.[3]

Anna Sten
Anna Sten Publicity Photo 1934.jpg
Anna Sten publicity photo, 1934
Anna Petrivna Fesak

(1908-12-03)December 3, 1908[1]
DiedNovember 12, 1993(1993-11-12) (aged 84)
New York City, U.S.
Years active1926–64
Spouse(s)Boris Sten (Bernstein)
Fedor Ozep (1927–1931)
Eugene Frenke (1932–1984)

Early life and educationEdit

Sten was born December 3, 1908, in Kyiv, then part of the Russian Empire.[4][5] There are other conflicting dates of birth: 1910 and 1906 from self-written dates in application forms from college. Her mother, Alexandra, listed Anna's birthdate as October 29, 1906, upon her arrival in the United States, although some of the discrepancies may be owing from the switch from the Julian calendar (still used in the Russian Empire up to 1918) to the Gregorian calendar. According to the official biography, her father was born into a Cossack family, worked as a theater artist and producer. Her mother was a Swede by birth and was a ballerina. In Kyiv in the middle of the 1920s she married entertainer and variety actor Boris Sten (né Bernstein), and took his stage name as her own.

In most foreign sources her maiden names are Stenska and Sudakevich, or a combination thereof (such as a common variant Anel (Anyushka) Stenska-Sudakevich or Annel (Anjuschka) Stenskaja Sudakewitsch), which is why Sten has been mistakenly identified with the Russian actress Anel Sudakevich, who starred in Soviet cinema at the same time and with some of the same directors as Anna Sten. The actresses have often been confused for one another.

Sten received her education at Kyiv State Theatre College, worked as a reporter and simultaneously played in Kyiv Maly Theater, attended classes at the studio theater where she worked within the Stanislavsky System. In 1926, she successfully passed her exams in the first working Proletcult theater in Moscow.


In 1926, after completing her studies at Kiev theater school, Sten was invited by Ukrainian film director Viktor Turin to appear in his film Provokator, based on the book by Ukrainian writer Oles Dosvitnyi.[Note 1] Sten was discovered by the Russian stage director and instructor Konstantin Stanislavsky, who arranged an audition for her at the Moscow Film Academy.[citation needed] Sten went on to act in other plays and films in Ukraine and Russia, including Boris Barnet's comedy The Girl with a Hatbox (1927). She and her husband, Russian film director Fedor Ozep, traveled to Germany to appear in a film co-produced by German and Soviet studios, The Yellow Ticket (1928). After the film was completed, Anna Sten and her husband decided not to return to the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

Gary Cooper and Anna Sten publicity photo for The Wedding Night, 1935

Making a smooth transition to talking pictures, Sten appeared in such German films as Salto Mortale (1931) and The Murderer Dimitri Karamazov (1931) until she came to the attention of American movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn. Goldwyn was looking for a foreign-born actress that he could build up as a rival to Greta Garbo, and possible successor to Vilma Bánky, with whom Goldwyn had great success in the silent era. For two years after bringing Sten to America, Goldwyn had his new star tutored in English and taught Hollywood screen acting methods. He poured a great deal of time and money into Sten's first American film, Nana (1934), a somewhat homogenized version of Émile Zola's scandalous 19th century novel. But the film was not successful at the box office, nor were her two subsequent Goldwyn films, We Live Again (1934) and The Wedding Night (1935), playing opposite Gary Cooper. Reluctantly, Goldwyn dissolved his contract with his "new Garbo".[3] Goldwyn's tutoring of Sten is mentioned in Cole Porter's 1934 song "Anything Goes" from the musical of the same name: "When Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction / Instruct Anna Sten in diction / Then Anna shows / Anything goes."

In the 1940s, Sten appeared in several films, including The Man I Married (1940), So Ends Our Night (1941), Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas (1943), They Came to Blow Up America (1943), Three Russian Girls (1943), and Let's Live a Little (1948). Sten continued making films in the United States and England, but none of them were successful. Attempting to rectify this situation by studying at The Actors Studio,[4][6] Sten appeared in several television series during the 1950s, including The Red Skelton Show (1956), The Walter Winchell File (1957), and Adventures in Paradise (1959).

Later lifeEdit

Most of Sten's later film appearances were favors to her husband. She had an uncredited bit in the Frenke-produced Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), and a full lead in her final film (also produced by Frenke), The Nun and the Sergeant (1962).

Sten died on November 12, 1993, in New York City at the age of 84.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Sten was married to film producer Eugene Frenke, who flourished in Hollywood after following his wife there in 1932. Anna Sten had a daughter Anya Sten who was a student at the Monticello School in Los Angeles in the early 1930s.

Complete filmographyEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1926 Predatel Prostitute
1926 Miss Mend Typist Uncredited, The Adventures of the Three Reporters
1927 The Girl with a Hatbox Natasha Moscow That Weeps and Laughs
Devushka s korobkoy
1928 The Yellow Ticket Maria
1928 My Son Olga Surina
1928 The White Eagle Governor's wife
1928 Yego kar'yera Lipa student
1929 Golden Beak Varenka
1930 Bookkeeper Kremke Kremke's daughter
1931 The Murderer Dimitri Karamazov Gruschenka
1931 The Brothers Karamazov
1931 Salto Mortale Marina
1931 Bombs on Monte Carlo Königin Yola I. von Pontenero Bomben auf Monte Carlo
1932 Storms of Passion Russen-Annya
1934 Nana Nana
1934 We Live Again Katusha Maslova
1935 The Wedding Night Manya Novak
1936 A Woman Alone Maria Krasnova
1939 Exile Express Nadine Nikolas
1940 The Man I Married Frieda Heinkel
1941 So Ends Our Night Lilo
1943 Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas Lubitca Mihailovitch
1943 They Came to Blow Up America Frau Reiter
1943 Three Russian Girls Natasha
1948 Let's Live a Little Michele Bennett
1955 Soldier of Fortune Madame Dupree
1956 Runaway Daughters Ruth Barton
1962 The Nun and the Sergeant Nun
Year Series Role Episode
1956 The Red Skelton Show Queen of Livonia "County Fair or Minister of Agriculture"
1957 The Walter Winchell File Frieda "The Cupcake"
1959 Adventures in Paradise Antonia "The Bamboo Curtain"
1964 Arrest and Trial Mrs. Van de Heuven "Modus Operandi", (final appearance)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ A newly restored version of Viktor Turin's film Provokator was shown at the Silent Films Festival in Pordenone, Italy in October 2012.
  1. ^ Subject to dispute
  2. ^ Peter Rollberg (2009). Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Cinema. US: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 666–667. ISBN 978-0-8108-6072-8.
  3. ^ a b c Pace, Eric (November 15, 1993). "Anna Sten Is Dead; Film Actress Touted As Another Garbo". The New York Times. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Shipman, David (November 19, 1993). "Obituary: Anna Sten". The Independent. Archived from the original on May 7, 2022. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  5. ^ "Anna Sten Biography". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  6. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 280. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.

External linksEdit