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Stella Stevens remembers ARNOLD

Stella Stevens as Karen in Arnold

Stella Stevens was kind and gracious enough to answer a few questions
regarding her participation in the film.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to talk about ARNOLD, Stella. Can you first tell me how you got the role of Karen in the film?

A: The producer was Andrew J. Fenady.  His brother, Georg Fenady, directed ARNOLD.  I had met Andrew on the Paramount lot, and we liked each other instantly.  We shared a mutual love and respect for MOVIES, and COMEDY.  He gave me the script to read and I was delighted with the genre, and the jokes.  I was thrilled he had chosen me for Karen.

Q: You were very busy in films and tv at the time, doing three theatrical films and a tv movie in between The Poseidon Adventure and ARNOLD. After what had to be a hectic and grueling shoot on POSEIDON, how was it doing a comedy/thriller like ARNOLD?

A: I was elated!  Nothing is more thrilling for an actor than to have a writer want you to play a character hešs created.  I wanted  to knock Andrew out with my portrayal of Karen. On the set, his brother, Georg,  was fast, and funny, and congenial.  We all had a lot of fun, cast and crew alike, working for this bright and thorough director, who puffed on a pipe.  No temper tantrums ever!

Q: ARNOLD has to be one of the most unique films you've ever starred in. How would you describe the movie?

A: ARNOLD is a Dark and Gothic Comedy, about a wealthy cosmetics mogul who dies and leaves all his money AND his perfectly preserved body in a casket which plays tapes of his voice, to his mistress, Karen.  I play Karen. I do have first billing in the movie, and I am very proud to have had headlined such a glorious group of actors.  Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester, Farley Granger, Patric Knowles, John McGiver, Bernard Fox, Jamie Farr, Norman Stuart, Ben Wright, Victor Buono, AND Shani Wallis!  WOW!  I was having the time of my life.

Q: What sort of prepping did you do for the role of Karen? She's quite a delightful character, although the audience isn't quite aware of her golddigging ways right at the start.

A: The appearance of innocence was her strongest weapon, and she played it well for a while.  Preparation was always overseen by the Fenady brothers.  In the  wardrobe department , they both were meticulous in approving the chosen garments, and the undergarments beneath, but they never got to see me naked in the shower.  Only Farley Granger got that view.

Q: This might sound a bit strange, but ever since I first saw ARNOLD as a kid, I've always noticed that your wardrobe in the film seemed to be designed to showcase your, uh "assets", so to speak. :-) Any comment about Karen's dresses?

A: Havenšt you noticed that all "Gothic" costumes are very sexy?  Even the underwear was custom made for my body. As for my assets, "If you got 'em, flaunt 'em !

Q: You're in almost every scene in the film. Was the shoot an easy one or a difficult one, and how long did you actually work on the film?

A: We shot on a Soundstage on the Paramount lot.  I was comfortable there at one of my early "Home Studios" where I had been under contract.  We did some exteriors at this Castle  above Sunset Boulevard, even closer to my home.  Everything ran smoothly, and I believe the film shot about five weeks.  We were all sad when it was over.  It had been a great fun experience, and we were proud of our work.

Q: Jamie Farr has told me that, as far as he recalled, everyone stuck to the script. Was that so for yourself, or were you allowed any improv or input into your character?

A:  Georg was always open to input, but it was not often necessary.  The script was full of good ideas. We did stick to the script, but all embellished the written words with their own unique personalities. I remember Elsa leaving through a door and turning right,  walking out of vision in the door frame. Then came back through the background walking to the left, where she should have gone.  Well, Georg yelled "Cut!", and everyone on the set, including Georg, broke up laughing and he said to Elsa, "Brilliant", and to the crew, "Print it."

Q: Speaking of Jamie, after his wonderful pantomime performance as Dybbi under all that makeup, what was your reaction the first time you saw him as Klinger on M*A*S*H*...especially Klinger in one of his dresses? Had you seen M*A*S*H* at the time you and Jamie started your scenes together?

A: I always thought Jaime Farr was outrageous, and Išm right!  There is nothing this man cannot get away with in comedy.  I have caught up with MASH in reruns, and LOVE Jaime's ridiculous garments. I think he must have been influenced by Milton Berle, who made a helluva woman himself.

A: ATTENTION:  At this point, I put in the tape of ARNOLD, and want to mention the writers of the piece.  It was written by Jameson Brewer, and John Fenton Murray, and is wonderfully unique.
It is a dark comedy murder mystery, something fun and scary, with a marvelous mix of characters.

Q: How did you enjoy working with such a great ensemble cast? Several of your costars...Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester, Farley Granger, and Patric Knowles...were already longtime Hollywood legends by then. It must have been fun working with them.

A: I was elated at the whole package of acting talent surrounding me.  It was a film we all enjoyed and were proud to have been a part of.  Roddy Mc Dowell and I worked together four times.  We were lovers in ARNOLD, we both perished in the POSEIDON ADVENTURE. we were the guest star villian team in the pilot of HART TO HART, and enemies in STAR HUNTER.

This was the only time I had the pleasure of working with Elsa Lanchester, but I was a long time fan of hers, and was thrilled with every minute I could work with her. At the end of the shoot she gave me a beautiful floral chiffon scarf which I still treasure.

I was also a big fan of Farley Granger, from his ROSANNA  MC COY and ever after, and loved the
bizarre idea of how we die together in ARNOLD.  He was a good kisser.

Patric Knowles was fun work with as well, although he played the evil lawyer, and we didnšt get to kiss.  John McGiver and Bernard Fox were fun to watch, even though I was not in the scenes, I often went to the set and watched them work.

Q: Have to ask you about the late Norman Stuart, who played Arnold himself. Except for that bizarre dream scene where he's pursuing Karen, Norman just lies there in the coffin all the time, or is periodically seen sitting up. It had to have been difficult for him to remain motionless for so long...Did you or Roddy, or anyone else in the cast, pull any pranks on Norman or do things to make him lose his composure?

A: We often tried!  His concentration was incredible.  When they did close-ups of him, the assistant director would scoot us out of the set, and tell us to have a coffee break until we were called back.
In that way Norman had it easier to remain "dead".  He actually accented his smirk, and slightly changed expressions, and gave several different attitudes because of lighting and camera angles.

Q: Here's a question I've been wondering about for a long time, and haven't had the chance to ask Andrew Fenady about: In that love scene/death scene in the shower with Farley Granger, what did you both have on? :-) Basically, how much were you asked to reveal for the camera (although the film was released with a PG rating)?

A: Only Farley Granger and I know if we were naked or not. What would YOU wear in a shower?

Q: Something else I've always wanted to know: Your first appearance in the film is in the cemetary in the wedding gown, accompanied by the sound of costar Shani Wallis singing the theme song over your entrance. As a kid, when I first saw that scene, I used to think you were supposed to be singing during your entrance. Was there ever a time during the production when it was considered having you actually sing the ARNOLD theme for that scene, or had it always been decided that Shani would be singing?

A:  I would have loved to sing the song, and thought I should have done the voice over, but no one ever asked me, and I was told Shani Wallis was doing it.  What a wonderful idea you present to actually see me singing!  I thought Shani's voice did not go with my character.

Q: Same thing I asked Jamie Farr: When did you last watch yourself in ARNOLD, and how did you see your performance from back then?

A: I was satisfied with how I looked and what I did

Q: ARNOLD was probably (to my knowledge) the first horror/thriller you ever did, and you've been in several horror films over the years since favorite other than ARNOLD is probably THE MANITOU. How do you personally like the horror genre, and what is your favorite type of film to be in?

A: Another horror/comedy I did was called THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS.  I like all  types of movies, as long as they are well-done films of the genre.  My favorite type of film would have to be a Best Picture.  So far, Išm still looking for that one.

Q: What does your family and relatives think of ARNOLD, and how did Andrew like the film when he first saw it?

A: I have no idea.

Q: Did you hang out with any of your costars at the end of a day's shooting, or did everyone pretty much go their own way when the day was done?

A: In pursuing a writing/producing/directing career, I spend more time on sets than most actors. I stay to watch and learn.  Everyone else who can, disappears when they are released.

Q: Have you kept in touch with any of your ARNOLD costars over the years since then?

A: It is difficult for stars to see each other after films are over, as they each have careers, and work in diverse projects.  It is quite common to never see your fellow actors again.

Q: If you were offered a role similar to that of Karen today, would you take it?

A: Send me a script!  It could be even lovelier the second time around, and maybe this time I can sing!

Q: What are you currently involved in, and what can we expect from Stella Stevens in the future?

A: I am currently available at, a website which contains a gallery of decades of collectable photos, filmography, biography, and a Party Page which tells current news in my life, and prints an array of e-mail from my fans.  I have a published novel out in paperback, called RAZZLE DAZZLE, and have written a Western Movie Trilogy  called HARD RIDE.

Thanks for taking the time to talk about ARNOLD with me, Stella. There's definitely many people out there who are fans of the film!

Go back to the ARNOLD index page