Hollywood actress whose voluptuous figure also earned her fame as a model
ELAINE Stewart, who has died aged 81, became a prominent Hollywood leading lady in the Fifties, starring opposite Gene Kelly and Van Johnson in Brigadoon and as a voluptuous harem princess in The Adventures of Hajji Baba (both 1954).
Her figure also earned her fame as a glamour model, and she posed for Playboy and Photoplay. In March 1953, she was the cover girl in Life magazine.
When Elaine Stewart was cast in the fourth lead for Brigadoon in November 1953, it was reported that she was more enthusiastic about working with the director Vincente Minnelli than with Gene Kelly, with whom she had appeared, uncredited, in a bit part in Singin' In The Rain (1952).
Minnelli had hoped to shoot Brigadoon on location in Scotland -- Brigadoon is a mythical Highland village reputed to appear only once every 100 years -- but the unpredictable weather made that impossible. Even when some suitable "highlands" were found in Northern California's Big Sur, the studio insisted that Brigadoon be shot indoors on soundstages.
Elaine Stewart's second big appearance, in The Adventures of Hajji Baba, a swashbuckling Arabian Nights adventure, was less fraught. Produced by Walter Wanger with exotic settings, lush colour, dozens of alluring harem girls, a haunting score by Dimitri Tiomkin and a theme sung by Nat King Cole, Elaine Stewart featured as a caliph's sultry daughter rescued by a barber (John Derek) from a villainous suitor, and winning her for himself.
She also appeared with Kirk Douglas in the classic drama about the Hollywood studio machine, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and with Richard Widmark and Karl Malden in Take the High Ground! (1953) set in a US army training unit. In all, Elaine Stewart appeared in 18 films.
She retired from showbusiness in the Sixties to start a family. But in 1972 she returned to American television screens as the co-hostess of the game show Gambit, with Wink Martindale, which became a daytime hit. Later, Elaine Stewart joined Alex Trebek on an evening game show, High Rollers.
Elaine Stewart was born Elsy Steinberg on May 31, 1930 at Montclair, New Jersey. In 1952, when she was 22, she beat hundreds of young models to earn a picture spread in See magazine, winning the title of "Miss See", and she was signed to a film contract by MGM.
In the same year, she landed her first film role in the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy Sailor Beware.
Her other film credits include Young Bess (1953) and Night Passage (1957), starring James Stewart, who later became her neighbour and fellow dog-walker in Beverly Hills. In the Sixties, she appeared in such television dramas as Bat Masterson, The Third Man, Burke's Law and Perry Mason.
Elaine Stewart, who divorced her first husband, the actor Bill Carter, in 1963, married the prolific game show creator Merrill Heatter the following year. He and their two children, Stewart and Gabrielle, survive her.