Sten, Anna (1908–1993)

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Sten, Anna (1908–1993)

Russian-born actress. Born Annel (Anjuschka) Stenskaja Sudakevich on December 3, 1908, in Kiev, Russia (now in Ukraine); died in New York City on November 12, 1993; married Fedor Ozep (a director), around 1930 (divorced); married Dr. Eugene Frenke (a director-producer, divorced).

Selected filmography:

The Girl With the Hat Box (When Moscow Laughs, USSR, 1927); Earth in Chains (The Yellow Ticket or The Yellow Pass, USSR, 1928); The House on Trubnaya Square (USSR, 1928); The White Eagle (The Lash of the Czar, USSR, 1928); The Heir to Genghis Khan (Tempest Over Asia or Storm Over Asia, USSR, 1928); Der Mörder Dimitri Karamasoff (Karamazov or The Murderer Dimitri Karamazov or The Brothers Karamazov, Ger., 1931); Bomben auf Monte Carlo (Monte Carlo Madness, Ger., 1931); Salto Mortale (Trapeze, Ger., 1931); Stürme der Leidenschaft (Tempest, Ger., 1932); Nana (US, 1934); We Live Again (Resurrection, US, 1934); The Wedding Night (US, 1935); A Woman Alone (Two Who Dared, U.K., 1936); Exile Express (US, 1939); The Man I Married (US, 1940); So Ends Our Night (US, 1941); Chetniks (US, 1943); Three Russian Girls (US, 1944); Let's Live a Little (US, 1948); Soldier of Fortune (US, 1955); Runaway Daughters (US, 1956); The Nun and the Sergeant (US, 1962).

The daughter of a Russian ballet master and a Swedish mother, actress Anna Sten was reportedly spotted by Constantin Stanislavski while appearing in an amateur play in Kiev; thus began her acting career with the famed Moscow Art Theater. Beginning in 1927, she acted in a number of Russian films, including the comedies The Girl With the Hat Box (1927) and The Yellow Ticket (1928), then made her way to Germany. Her performance as Grushenka in the film The Brothers Karamazov (1931) caught the attention of Samuel Goldwyn, who brought her to America with the hope of turning her into a second Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich . Goldwyn spent the better part of two years grooming Sten for stardom, teaching her English and subjecting her to one of the most lavish publicity campaigns ever undertaken in Hollywood. Her debut film, an adaptation of Émile Zola's Nana (1934), costarred Phillips Holmes and was directed by Dorothy Arzner , one of the few women directors of the studio era. American audiences, however, never warmed to the Russian beauty, who became known in the industry as "Goldwyn's Folly." All of her American films were box-office disappointments, including her 1935 pairing with Gary Cooper in The Wedding Night.

Sten, who was married twice, to director Fedor Ozep and to director-producer Dr. Eugene Frenke, went on to perform in a few additional films, then devoted her time to a semiprofessional career as a painter. She held successful solo shows in Los Angeles and New York, and her works were part of an exhibition that toured Europe under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution. The actress made her home in Manhattan, where she pursued her continuing interest in acting by occasionally attending classes at the Actors Studio. In 1960, she appeared briefly as Jenny in The Threepenny Opera, and later toured with the production. Sten died in Manhattan in November 1993.


Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Lamparski, Richard. Whatever Became of …? 1st & 2nd series. NY: Crown, 1967.

"Obituary," in The Day [New London, CT]. November 15, 1993.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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