Jill St John

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Jill St John Pencil Portrait
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“Men I like, have two things in common – they are smart and they have power.”

Boasting an IQ of 162 herself, it’s unlikely Jill St. John was joking when she made this statement. Her list of affluent husbands is a long one, and boyfriends even longer. This after all, is the woman who once famously admitted that “the longest period of celibacy for Jill St. John is the shortest distance between two lovers.”

Demonstrating a more romantic edge to her personality, she was also once quoted as saying that “I love the idea of belonging to one man, and having one man belong to me.” Unfortunately, by the time she finally settled down with her fourth husband – the actor Robert Wagner – she was courting press controversy by involving herself with a man whose wife had died under mysterious circumstances. Furthermore, a 2014 US biography of the late Sidney Korshak, known in Hollywood as “the Fixer”, would allege that at the height of secret negotiations to end the Vietnam war in 1972, Henry Kissinger, the US secretary of state, was sharing the actress’s bed with the aforementioned Hollywood lawyer notorious for his mobster connections. While Kissinger’s relationship with St John was widely reported — to the dismay of President Nixon, who thought his secretary of state received too much publicity for his fondness for beautiful women — only a few Hollywood insiders were aware of her links to Korshak, a man thirty three years her senior.

I suspect the former Bond girl is taking it all in her stride. Hollywood stars are phlegmatic by nature – they know the past ALWAYS catches up with them.

She’s also been smart enough to recognise her own good fortune. Interviewed by ‘The Miami News’ (9th August 1971), the actress was moved to say:

“It’s difficult not to be jealous of me,” I am so incredibly lucky, and so many wonderful, nifty, marvelous things happen to me.” On the cusp of her best known role in the 007 epic “Diamonds are Forever,” St John confessed to some discontentment, planning to just “take off,” in an effort to avois the ‘golden rut.’

Owning up to a difficult childhood as an actress; two brief marriages – to Lance Reventlow and singer Jack Jones; and dozens of vacuous sexpot roles in forgettable films – she was frank enough to admit that; “It made my lines easier to remember; they were always the same.”

St John was, by thye age of 30, surviving in style. She had a magnificent home on a hilltop in Beverly Hills with a view of the valley and an interior crammed with antiques. There was a string of boyfriends, ranging from titled royalty to President Nixon’s special adviser for national security, Henry Kissinger. Of Kissinger, she said at the time: _“He’s a friend for life.”_Then there was her swinging jet-set existence, trotting about the globe when the urge took her.

“I lead a great life,” she said. “I’d be the last one to bitch about it. I travel around, and ski in the winter and go to all the best watering holds. The only difference between me and the rest of the people at these places is that I work the rest of the year.”

Tellingly, she conceded that she had a dearth of female friends, a not uncommon situation for a single woman who seemlingly has everything. In the same featurette, she would tell of giving a luncheon party by her swimming pool for a few lady friends. Apparently, they were barely seated when “great things started happening.” Roses arrived from a suitor; another boyfriend phoned; her agent called with a movie. The women apparently all rounded on her saying “We hate you.”

St John was briefly married in the late 60’s to the singer Jack Jones. Still touring the world, Jones himself has been married six times, and their wedding in October 1967 was his second and her third. Naturally, it’s none of our business why they marriage failed, especially as neither party has ever gone into print at any great length about it. At the time of their early ’69 separation, Jones cited his extensive toouring schedule as a primary factor. I simply wonder what happens to famous people when they start courting. Self obsessed by nature, do they lie about their respective future career commitments and their appetite for them, or are they simply swept along by the euphoria of the initial attraction? St John couldn’t sing and Jones showed little appretite for acting – joint projects were therefore out of the question – so what on earth made them believe the union could work? It’s apparent that any form of compromise was impossible, St John flying to to Mexico for a quickie divorce. “They are such good friends,” her spokesman was moved to say at the time, “They want to clean it up right away.”

An incredible piece of 1960s eye candy, Jill St. John absolutely smouldered on the big screen, a trendy presence in lightweight comedy, spirited adventure and spy intrigue who appeared alongside some of Hollywood’s most handsome male specimens. Although she was not called upon to do much more than frolic in the sun and playfully taunt and tempt 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. The list of recommended movies is not intended therefore, to pay homage to a unique acting talent, but rather to demonstrate the art of delivering precisely WHAT is required WHEN it is required, demonstrating therefore, the required acumen to sustain a long working life in Hollywood.

Recommended viewing

The Lost World (1960)

Who's minding the store? (1963)

The Liquidator (1965)

The Oscar (1966)

Savaged by the critics, “The Oscar” never recovered from its initial test screenings, its unintentionally funny moments undermining what was originally envisaged as a cinema verite tale of machiavellian backstabbing in tinseltown.

Stephen Boyd is Frankie Fane, a total bastard from the get-go, singularly focused and quite prepared to trample over anyone in his quest for Hollywood’s greatest prize.

The final irony is that despite “The Oscar’s” poor critical reception, it did actually receive two Academy Award nominations – one for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and one for Best Costume Design by the legendary Edith Head – though neither won in its category.

When “The Oscar” opened theatrically, it was savaged by most critics; TIME magazine perhaps best encapsulating the film’s widespread condemnation with its initial review:

“Even at its awful best, this mindless epic will hardly win anything but booby prizes…The probable Oscar winners: Least Believable Performance by a Supporting Actor: to Singer Tony Bennett, who plays the star’s stooge as though someone had half-persuaded him that a crooner can burst into tears as easily as he bursts into song. Least Performance by an Actor: Stephen Boyd, who literally wrings his hands in moments of crisis. His portrait of a snaky, sniveling contender at the Oscar countdown should be shown exclusively in theatres that have doctors and nurses stationed in the lobby to attend viewers who laugh themselves sick.”


A monstrously entertaining romp with a veritable who’s who collection of stars, it’s impossible to be indifferent about the movie. Best of all, there’s a bemused Tony Bennett and the slinky Miss St John in an early striptease scene. Go on, break out the popcorn, lie back and revel in the hackneyed dialogue – you’ll thank me for it!

Batman Tv Series (1966-67)

Tony Rome (1967)

Filming during the day and performing at the Fountainbleau at night, one wonders when Sinatra ever slept. Nevertheless, there’s no sleepwalking through this movie – an enjoyable, well-crafted story about a private detective whose simple job to take a young woman home from a hotel, turns into an intricate case involving stolen jewels, a shady doctor and several corpses.

Along the way, Rome meets a host of interesting characters such as Ann Archer (Jill St. John), an attractive red headed divorcee, who has some of the film’s best lines. When our private eye first meets her, she is called a slut by another character and turning towards Tony, responds, “Slut – that’s just a nickname. Only my dearest friends use it.” A few minutes later she tells him, “Every man you meet thinks you want to play slap and tickle.”

She’s sassy, sexy, confident and witheringly humorous throughout – one of St John’s best supporting roles.

Diamonds are forever (1971)