• 19 August 1940
  •  Los Angeles, California, USA

Jill St. John


An incredible piece of 1960s eye candy, Jill St. John absolutely smoldered on the big screen, a trendy, cosmopolitan presence in lightweight comedy, spirited adventure and spy intrigue who appeared alongside some of Hollywood's most handsome male specimens. Although she was seldom called upon to do much more than frolic in the sun and/or playfully taunt and tempt her leading man as needed, this tangerine-topped stunner managed to do her job very, very well. A remarkably bright woman in real life, she was smart enough to play the Hollywood game to her advantage and did so for nearly two decades before looking elsewhere for fun and contentment. Jill St. John was born Jill Arlyn Oppenheim on August 19, 1940, in Los Angeles, California, to Betty (Goldberg) and Edward Lou Oppenheim, a restaurant owner. Her father was of German Jewish descent, and her maternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine and Romania. Jill was on stage and radio from age five, prodded by a typical stage mother. Making her TV debut in a production of "A Christmas Carol," Jill began blossoming and attracting the right kind of attention in her late teens. She signed with Universal Pictures at age 16 and made her movie debut in Summer Love (1958) starring then-hot John Saxon. Moving ahead, she filled the bill as an exuberant, slightly dingy teen and as well as shapely love interest in such innocuous but fun films as The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959) and Holiday for Lovers (1959), Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963), Un chef de rayon explosif (1963) and Honeymoon Hotel (1964). Whether the extremely photogenic Jill had talent (and she did!) or not never seemed to be a fundamental issue with casting agents. By the late 1960s she had matured into a classy, ravishing redhead equipped with a knockout figure and sly, suggestive one-liners that had her male co-stars (and audiences) panting for more. She skillfully traded sexy quips with Anthony Franciosa in the engaging TV pilot to the hit series The Name of the Game (1968) and scored a major coup as tantalizing "Bond girl" Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) opposite Sean Connery's popular "007" character. She also co-starred with Bob Hope in the dismal Eight on the Lam (1967), but the connection allowed her to be included in a number of the comedian's NBC specials over the years. A part of Frank Sinatra's "in" crowd, she co-starred with him in both Come Blow Your Horn (1963) and Tony Rome (1967). On camera, Jill's glossy, jet-setting femme fatales had a delightful tongue-in-cheek quality to them. Off-camera, she lived the life of a jet-setter too and was known for her various romantic excursions with such eligibles as Sinatra and even Henry Kissinger. Of her four marriages (she never had children), which included millionaire Neil Dublin, the late sports car racer Lance Reventlow, son of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, and popular easy-listening crooner Jack Jones, she found her soul mate in her fourth husband, actor Robert Wagner, whom she married in 1990 following an eight-year courtship. Jill worked with Wagner decades before in the soapy drama Banning (1967) as well as the TV movie How I Spent My Summer Vacation (1967). Abandoning acting out of boredom, she has returned only on rare occasions. She played against type as a crazed warden in the prison drama The Concrete Jungle (1982) and has had some fun cameos alongside Wagner both on film (The Player (1992)) and even TV (Seinfeld (1989)). In the late 1990s they started touring together in A.R. Gurney's popular two-person stage reading of "Love Letters." Jill's lifelong passion for cooking (her parents were restaurateurs) has turned profitable over the years. She has written several cookbooks and actually appeared as a TV chef and "in-house" cooking expert on morning TV (Good Morning America (1975)). She also served as a food columnist for the "USA Weekend" newspaper. She was glimpsed more recently in the films The Calling (2002) and The Trip (2002) and she and Wagner had small roles as Santa and Mrs. Claus in the TV movie Northpole (2014).