15 July 2024

Although not known primarily for her work in horror films, Stefanie Powers’ patrician presence and classic good looks have been felt in a handful of superior movies – both on the big screen and in television.

Born Stefania Zofya Federkiewicz on November 2, 1942 in Hollywood, California, Powers was signed to Columbia at the young age of fifteen. However, it took a few years - and a new maturity - for the actress to take a foothold in the industry.

In 1962’s Experiment In Terror, she was Lee Remick's little sister, kidnapped and held hostage by homicidal Ross Martin in scenic San Francisco. Blake Edwards' solid direction and a scorching score by Henry Mancini helped make the film a promising start of a bright career for the newcomer.

There was much TV work during the sixties. Powers roped parts on Bonanza, McLintock! and Route 66, which then led to yet another “kidnapped” role in Fanatic (1965) AKA Die! Die! My Darling!

The Hammer Films production was Tallulah Bankhead’s entry into the popular “Ladies of the Grand Guinol” cycle - and while the husky voiced veteran chewed up the scenery as a crazed religious fanatic, Powers held her own as the terrorized former fiancé of Bankhead’s deceased son.

A big break came when she was cast in the lead on a television series spinoff - The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (in the fall of 1966). Unfortunately, her beauty and poise couldn’t save the show from lasting more than a season.

It was a setback but in no time, the former brunette (now a fetching redhead) was seen in another Hammer horror: Crescendo (1970). In it, Powers goes to the estate of a dead composer to write a thesis on his work - where she comes face to face with the man’s skeletons…in the form of his “not altogether there” family and their servants.

1971 was a productive year for Stefanie Powers as she starred in a trio of three excellent TV thrillers. The first of these was Five Desperate Women - and it was a whopper. A group of college friends reunite on a deserted resort for what should be a fun and relaxing vacation.

Their enjoyment is soon interrupted by a homicidal maniac - who has escaped from an asylum and murders one of the ladies. Wonderful performances all around...and in a cast the included the likes of Joan Hackett, Julie Sommars and Robert Conrad, Powers stood out as bitchy and cynical Gloria. A real gem and one of the finer early ‘70s examples of Made-for-Television terror.

In Sweet, Sweet Rachel, Powers was entangled in the world of psychic phenomena, as she tries to uncover the facts surrounding the mysterious death of her husband. The film was the pilot for the program The Sixth Sense, which she would later appear in twice.

Paper Man had an interesting premise: a group of pranksters take a credit card issued to a non-existent man into their possession and create a fictional person using the university computer.

At first, all goes well as the four students live off the credit. But they start to meet untimely deaths. Is it something supernatural or is the made up person (the “paper man”) actually real...and is he exacting revenge for the identity theft? Seek this one out and find out for yourself.

Powers worked nonstop throughout the 1970s in television and was featured in practically every single popular show of the era, including The Mod Squad, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, McCloud, Kung Fu, The Rookies, The Streets of San Francisco and The Rockford Files.

In the TV film Night Games (1974), she was a socialite accused of murdering her husband, while Skyway To Death (the same year) saw her trapped in a cable car.

For 1976, she guest-starred on the memorable two-part “Bigfoot” season opener of The Six Million Dollar Man. The role of Shalon (a space traveler/alien) was reprised the following season.

Like a fine wine, Powers became even more beautiful as she approached middle age. And in 1979, she finally achieved great stardom with the project she is most remembered for: the role of Jennifer Hart opposite Robert Wagner in the pilot Hart To Hart and subsequent beloved series that ran for five years. As stated in the opening week after week, she was gorgeous.

These days, Stefanie Powers is still lovely and acts occasionally - while keeping busy with the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, a public charity dedicated to the preservation of wild animals. It continues the important work of the late actor and her former companion.

Crescendo 1970
Die! Die! My Darling! 1965
Experiment in Terror 1962
Five Desperate Women 1971
Night Games 1974
Paper Man 1971
Skyway to Death 1974
Sweet, Sweet Rachel 1971
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