Anna Sten (December 3, 1908 – November 12, 1993) was a Ukrainian-born actress.
She began her career in stage plays and films in Russia, before travelling to Germany, where she starred in several films. Her success in German films was noticed by the producer Samuel Goldwyn, who brought her to the United States with the aim of creating a new screen personality to rival the popularity of 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.
Life and career
Sten was born Anel Sudakevich on December 3, 1908. Her father was a Russian ballet master who died when she was 12. Sten worked as a waitress until she was discovered at the age of 15 while acting in an amateur play in Kiev. Her discoverer was the influential Russian stage director and instructor Konstantin Stanislavsky, who arranged an audition for her at the Moscow Film Academy. She acted in plays and films in Russia (including Boris Barnet's 1927 comedy The Girl with a Hatbox), then traveled to Germany to appear in films co-produced by German and Russian studios, international productions common in the years prior to World War II.
German and American films
Making a smooth transition to talking pictures, Sten appeared in such German films as Trapeze (1931) and The Brothers 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 the rival of, and possible successor to, Greta Garbo. 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, a somewhat homogenized version of Émile Zola's scandalous nineteenth 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."
Goldwyn's tutoring of Sten is mentioned in Cole Porter's 1934 song "Anything Goes" from the musical of the same name: "If Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction / Instruct Anna Sten in diction / Then Anna shows / Anything goes."
In the 1940s, her movie appearances were in The Man I Love (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. She was married to film producer Eugene Frenke, who flourished in Hollywood after following his wife there in 1932. Most of Anna 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).
Anna Sten died November 12, 1993 at the age of 84.