Inger Stevens was born Oct. 18, 1933, in Stockholm, Sweden. Her parents separated and she came to the United States to live with her father when she was 13. Inger ran away from home while in high school and ended up in a Kansas City burlesque show where she danced as a "popcorn girl." At 18 she moved to New York and enrolled in the Actors Studio. Soon she had her first acting job and began appearing regularly in television dramas.
Her big break came in 1956, when she auditioned for the role of Bing Crosby's new love interest in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Man on Fire. The movie is a realistic study of a child custody battle between Crosby and his ex-wife, played by Mary Fickett.
"I never thought in a million years that I would get the role in Man on Fire. But I went in there and just sort of did it. It scared the daylights out of me. I had never done a movie before -- and to work on a film with Bing Crosby!"
When Inger was carried off the set with an appendicitis attack, Crosby visited the hospital with flowers every day. They soon became fodder for gossip columnists -- the young bedimpled Swedish beauty and the millionaire widower. Bing's wife of 22 years, Dixie Lee, had died in 1952. Crosby was previously linked with Joan Caulfield, Mona Freeman, Kathryn Grant, Grace Kelly, and Paramount dancer Betty Hannon.
"I thought Bing loved me," Inger told a friend. Her hope to marry Bing apparently continued until the very day Crosby wed Kathryn Grant in October, 1957. Inger was devastated. She had thought Bing's relationship with Grant had ended.
Inger took Bing's rejection hard and, based on Kathryn's biography of Bing, may have threatened both suicide and litigation. Inger later said the reason Bing didn't marry her was because she was not Catholic. (The new Mrs. Crosby, Kathryn, converted to Catholicism before her marriage to Bing.)
"One day he called me up and told me to go buy new drapes and curtains for the Palm Springs house," she said afterwards. "He wanted me to decorate it to my taste. He even told me that it was going to be my house so I had better fix it up the way I liked it. It may not have been a proposal but I sure took it as one. Believe it or not, I was down in the house, supervising some workmen in putting up the new drapes when I heard the news announcement over the radio that Bing had married another girl. I went into a state of shock. It took me months to recover. I actually became physically sick from all the distress."
Later, the Swedish beauty would say, "After you go out with Bing, you're spoiled for young men of say 25 or 26. Being with an older man is a secure feeling for me. There was a big age difference, too. Also I was guilt-ridden because I was dating a man and I wasn't yet divorced."
Inger moved on to star in several more movies as well as the 1960s TV show The Farmer's Daughter. Throughout her career she suffered from frequent bouts of depression and attempted suicides. She eventually succumbed to a drug overdose on the morning of April 30, 1970, at age 36.