Jill St. John
Jill St. John (born Jill Arlyn Oppenheim; August 19, 1940) is an American actress. She is best known for playing Tiffany Case, first American Bond girl of the 007 franchise, in Diamonds Are Forever. Additional performances in film include The Lost World, Tender Is the Night, Come Blow Your Horn, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination, Who's Minding the Store?, The Oscar, Tony Rome, Sitting Target and The Concrete Jungle.
Jill St. John
Jill St. John in 1964
Jill Arlyn Oppenheim
August 19, 1940
|Education||Hollywood Professional School|
|Years active||1949–2002, 2014|
On television, St. John has appeared in such top rated shows as Batman, The Big Valley, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Hart to Hart, Vega$, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Magnum, P.I. and Seinfeld. During her Hollywood heyday she was almost equally famous for her high-profile social life and frequent romantic associations with prominent public figures. St. John is married to actor Robert Wagner and has known him since she was 18 years old. They share credits on nearly a dozen screen and stage productions, notably the miniseries remake of Around the World in 80 Days.
St. John was born Jill Arlyn Oppenheim in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Edward (1912–1986), a prosperous restaurant owner, and Betty Oppenheim (née Goldberg, 1912–1998), who became her stage mother.
As a young girl, St. John was a member of the Children's Ballet Company with Natalie Wood and Stefanie Powers. All three would later marry or co-star with actor Robert Wagner. Her mother Betty changed Jill's last name to the more 'Hollywood-sounding' St. John during her adolescence.
St. John began acting on radio at age six, and made her screen debut in December 1949, at age nine, in The Christmas Carol, the first full-length TV movie. She was in the TV show Sandy Dreams that same year.
At age 11, she appeared in two episodes of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. She had a small role in the film Thunder in the East (1951) and was in episodes of Sky King, Fireside Theatre, and Cavalcade of America.
She attended Powers Professional School and received her high school diploma from Hollywood Professional School in the spring of 1955 at age 14. At age 15, St. John enrolled at UCLA's Extension School.
During this time, she appeared on a large number of radio shows, notably One Man's Family.
In May 1957, St. John was 16 when Universal Pictures signed her to a contract for seven years starting at $200 a week. Her major studio film debut was in Summer Love (1958) starring John Saxon. She also appeared on TV in episodes of The Christophers, Schlitz Playhouse, and The DuPont Show of the Month (an adaptation of Junior Miss). She said her idol was Kay Kendall.
20th Century FoxEdit
St John then signed a contract with 20th Century Fox who tried to build her into a star. She played the daughter of Clifton Webb in The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959) and Holiday for Lovers (1959), then was put in an adventure movie, The Lost World (1960).
"Nothing but starlet parts," she later said. "You know, the daughter, the niece, the girlfriend."
St. John had a key role in Come Blow Your Horn (1963), where she starred opposite Frank Sinatra. She received a Golden Globe Award nomination as Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her performance in the film.
"I'm a comedienne," she said in 1963. "I've never pretended to be a dramatic actress. But I'm very funny."
She followed this with a series of comedies: Who's Minding the Store? (1963) with Jerry Lewis, Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963) with Dean Martin and Honeymoon Hotel (1964) with Robert Morse and Nancy Kwan.
"Now I play the sexy comedienne, which is my forte" she said in 1964. "Comedy is what I've always wanted to do."
She guest-starred on television shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Burke's Law, The Rogues, and Theatre of Stars. In 1964, she guest-starred in the episode "Take a Walk Through the Cemetery" of the drama series Mr. Broadway. She also appeared in some variety specials with Bob Hope.
In 1966, she said her goal "was to be at a point where I have so proved myself as an actress that I can be more discriminating in the roles I choose. I want to be able to choose the parts I know I can do next."
She was reunited with Sinatra in Tony Rome (1967) and did a TV movie The Spy Killer (1968), which was popular enough for the sequel Foreign Exchange (1970). She guested on The Name of the Game. Decisions! Decisions! (1971) was a TV movie St. John did with Bob Newhart and Jean Simmons.
St. John's most famous role was as diamond smuggler Tiffany Case, the love interest of James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), where she starred opposite Sean Connery. She was the first American to play a Bond girl. The character of Tiffany is argumentative, abrasive, loud, and brash when compared to previous Bond girls who were more demure.
St. John and Robert Wagner were in Around the World in 80 Days (1989); Something to Believe In (1998); and The Calling (2002). They made brief cameo appearances as themselves in Robert Altman's Hollywood satire The Player (1992).
In 2014, St. John played Mrs. Claus in the TV movie Northpole alongside Wagner, who played the part of Santa Claus. The film marked her first acting role after a 12-year absence from the screen.
In 1972, St. John largely left Hollywood behind and moved to Aspen, Colorado, where she focused on personal interests and cooking.
She eventually developed her interest in cooking into becoming a culinary personality, appearing in monthly cooking segments on ABC-TV's Good Morning America and with a column in USA Weekend magazine through the 1980s. This culminated in authoring The Jill St. John Cookbook (1987), a healthy, but not health food, collection of recipes and some anecdotes.
St. John also developed a handmade Angora sweater business, and became interested in orchid growing, skiing, hiking, river rafting, camping, and gardening. In 1987, she said "I'm a mountain gal now. I love the outdoors and I love harvesting and using fresh vegetables and herbs."
St. John has been married four times:
- Neil Dubin (May 12, 1957 – July 3, 1958; divorced) St. John was 16 years old when they eloped in Yuma, Arizona. Dubin was heir to a linen fortune. St. John complained that he harassed and ridiculed her.
- Lance Reventlow (March 24, 1960 – October 30, 1963; divorced) Reventlow was the son of Barbara Hutton, heir to the F. W. Woolworth fortune. St. John received a settlement of $86,000. Despite their divorce and subsequent remarriages, she refers to Reventlow as "my late husband" in interviews.
- Jack Jones (October 14, 1967 – February 28, 1969; divorced) Jones said demands on his singing career and the traveling involved contributed to the breakup.
- Robert Wagner (May 26, 1990 – present) The couple first met in 1959 when they were contract players at 20th Century Fox, and have been together since Valentine's Day 1982.
In between marriages, St. John dated entertainment, sports, and political personalities including Ben Barnes, Gianni Bulgari, Sammy Cahn, Michael Caine, Oleg Cassini, Barry Coe, Sean Connery, Ahmet Ertegun, Robert Evans, Glenn Ford, David Frost, Bill Hudson, Henry Kissinger, Sidney Korshak, Sandy Koufax, Peter Lawford, George Lazenby, Trini López, Tom Mankiewicz, George Montgomery, Jack Nicholson, Ogden Mills Phipps, Roman Polanski, Alejandro Rey, Tom Selleck, Frank Sinatra, U Thant, Robert Vaughn, Giovanni Volpi and Adam West. St. John was also romantically linked with criminal court judge Jerome M. Becker, ski instructor Ricky Head, Olympic ski champion Brownie Barnes, plastic surgeon Steven Zax, investment broker Lenny Ross, Chicago businessman Delbert W. Coleman and Brazilian entrepreneur Francisco "Baby" Pignatari. She was engaged to Miami real estate developer Robert Blum in 1974, but called off the engagement.
She has three stepdaughters:
- Katie Wagner, born 1964 to Wagner and Marion Marshall
- Natasha Gregson, born 1970 to Richard Gregson and Natalie Wood, but raised in the Wagner/St. John household after Wood died
- Courtney Wagner, born 1974 to Wagner and Wood
It’s claimed that St. John has an IQ of 162.
In August 2007, Wagner and St. John sold the Brentwood ranchette they'd lived on since 1983, for a reported $14 million and relocated to their vacation home in Aspen. They retain a condo in L.A.
Mutual animosity between St. John and her husband's former sister-in-law, actress Lana Wood, dates back to 1971, when Sean Connery was simultaneously involved with both women during the filming of Diamonds Are Forever. The pair's half-century feud has been highlighted by two well-documented public altercations: one in September 1999, when St. John refused to be photographed with Wood at a Bond girl reunion for Vanity Fair magazine, and another in February 2016, when Wood crashed an event honoring St. John in Palm Springs and confronted Wagner over the reopened death case of her sister Natalie, who mysteriously drowned in 1981 while yachting with Wagner off the coast of Santa Catalina Island.
- The Christmas Carol (1949)
- Thunder in the East (1951) (uncredited)
- Summer Love (1958)
- The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959)
- Holiday for Lovers (1959)
- The Lost World (1960)
- The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)
- Tender Is the Night (1962)
- Come Blow Your Horn (1963)
- Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963)
- Who's Minding the Store? (1963)
- Honeymoon Hotel (1964)
- The Liquidator (1965)
- The Oscar (1966)
- Fame Is the Name of the Game (1966)
- How I Spent My Summer Vacation (1967)
- Eight on the Lam (1967)
- Banning (1967)
- The King's Pirate (1967)
- Tony Rome (1967)
- The Spy Killer (1969)
- Foreign Exchange (1970)
- Decisions! Decisions! (1971)
- Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
- Sitting Target (1972)
- Old Faithful (1973)
- Saga of Sonora (1973)
- Brenda Starr (1976)
- Telethon (1977)
- Two Guys from Muck (1982)
- Rooster (1982)
- The Concrete Jungle (1982)
- The Act (1984)
- Around the World in 80 Days (1989)
- The Player (1992)
- Out There (1995)
- Something to Believe In (1998)
- The Trip (2002)
- The Calling (2002)
- Northpole (2014)
- Sandy Dreams (1949)
- The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1951–1952)
- Sky King (1952)
- Fireside Theatre (1953)
- Cavalcade of America (1954)
- The Christophers (1957)
- Schlitz Playhouse (1957)
- The DuPont Show of the Month (1957)
- Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (1963–1965)
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964) (uncredited)
- Mr. Broadway (1964)
- Burke's Law (1964)
- The Rogues (1965)
- Batman (1966)
- The Big Valley (1966)
- Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1968–1971)
- The Name of the Game (1969)
- The Red Skelton Hour (1971)
- Hart to Hart (1979)
- The Love Boat (1979–1982)
- Vega$ (1980)
- Fantasy Island (1981–1982)
- Magnum, P.I. (1982)
- Matt Houston (1982)
- Emerald Point N.A.S. (1983–1984)
- Dempsey and Makepeace (1986)
- J.J. Starbuck (1988)
- Seinfeld (1997)
- "The Private Life and Times of Jill St. John".
- "Betty Lou Oppenheim, dead at 85". Variety. April 16, 1998.
- Too Many Jacks for Jill: Hollywood's most irrepressible redhead says she likes the idea of marriage, but... Goldberg, Hyman. Los Angeles Times January 5, 1964: B12.
- Film Beauty, 16, to Save; Her Husband Pays Bills: Jill St. John Explains How She Can Put Away Salary; Court Approves Contract Los Angeles Times May 30, 1957: 2.
- Lovely Jill Goes Up the Hill to Stardom: JILL ST. JOHN 'High-Q' No Problem, Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times September 28, 1958: E1.
- Just Call Her Joyous Fill: And Why Shouldn't She Be Joyous? She Has Beauty, Charm, a Burgeoning Career, and Lance Reventlow for a Husband Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune April 9, 1961: b17.
- Prefty, Bright, Rich Jill St. John Has Fun Smith, Jack. Los Angeles Times October 7, 1963: A1.
- Delicate Balance of TV Censorship Los Angeles Times November 23, 1966: C12.
- Jill's Ready for Better Roles, NORMA LEE BROWNING. Chicago Tribune November 1, 1966: b1.
- Brown, Brigid (November 2012). "The Early Bond Girls: Where Are They Now?". BBC America. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
- Lucky in life and in love: Robert Wagner and Jill St. John Star Together in Love Letters: The Record24 Oct 1996: C10.
- William Rice (December 10, 1987). "Actress Jill St. John Plays Up Cooking Career". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
- ACTRESS BLAMES HIVES ON NAGGING: Jill St. John, 17, Wins Divorce After Telling How Mate Impeded Her Career Los Angeles Times July 4, 1958: 2.
- Jill St. John Is Divorced New York Times October 31, 1963: 27.
- The Paul O'Grady Show, March 17, 2009.
- Field, Matthew; Chowdhury, Ajay (2015). Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films. The History Press. p. 254. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
- "Friends Say It's Love". People.com.
- Reventlow: Do Riches Affect Romantic Life?: Do Reventlow's Riches Affect Romantic Life? Callan, Mary Ann. Los Angeles Times July 15, 1958: A1.
- Wagner, Robert & Eyman, Scott. Pieces of My Heart. Random House, 2010
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