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Elaine Stewart, Glamorous Star of 'Brigadoon' and Game Shows, Dies at 81

Elaine Stewart
Elaine Stewart

Former model starred opposite Kirk Douglas, Richard Widmark, Jimmy Stewart and Alex Trebek.

Elaine Stewart, an alluring leading lady of the 1950s who went on to serve as a co-hostess of two hit game shows in the ’70s, died Monday at her home in Beverly Hills after a long illness. She was 81.

In a pair of 1954 films, Stewart starred opposite Gene Kelly and Van Johnson as nonstop talkative socialite Jane Ashton in Brigadoon and played a sexy harem princess in The Adventures of Hajji Baba, with John Derek as the title character.

The former model and Montclair, N.J., native also appeared with Kirk Douglas in the classic Hollywood insider soap The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and with Richard Widmark and Karl Malden in the basic-training set Take the High Ground! (1953).

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In all, Stewart appeared in 18 films in the ’50s and graced the cover of Life magazine on March 22, 1953, in a cover story with the headline, “Budding Starlet Visits the Folks in Jersey.”

On Dec. 31, 1964, Stewart married prolific game show creator Merrill Heatter (she earlier was married to actor Bill Carter) and retired from show business to start a family. But in 1972, she returned to TV as the co-hostess of the Heatter-Quigley game show Gambit, and the pairing of Stewart and emcee Wink Martindale gave CBS a daytime hit. Later, Stewart joined Alex Trebek for NBC nighttime game show High Rollers.

Born Elsy Steinberg on May 31, 1930, Stewart beat out hundreds of young models in 1952 to earn a photo layout in See Magazine, winning the title of “Miss See,” and was signed by MGM to a film contract. That year, she landed her first film role in the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy Sailor Beware.

Other film credits include Young Bess (1953) and Night Passage (1957), which starred her future Beverly Hills neighbor and fellow dog walker Jimmy Stewart. In the ’60s, she appeared in such TV dramas as Bat Masterson, The Third Man, Burke’s Law and Perry Mason.

In addition to Heatter, her husband of 46 years, Stewart is survived by their children Stewart and Gabrielle.