10 Things Learned from Jan Sterling’s 1952 Modern Screen Column

This post is a part of TMP’s Historical Context series, where I share excerpts from my vintage magazine collection.

The May 1952 issue of Modern Screen launched a new series for the magazine titled “Take My Word For It.” Each month, the magazine was to choose a “star columnist” for this section, allowing that star to write about anything that came to mind: opinions on politics, comedic essays, beauty tips, romantic advice.

The first star columnist to contribute to the series was Jan Sterling, wife of Paul Douglas and star of 1952’s Flesh and Fury (along with Tony Curtis). Jan’s column is surprisingly candid, so I thought I’d share ten things I learned about this actress from reading her ramblings!

(Image via Doctor Macro)
(Image via Doctor Macro)
  1. She believed in staying true to herself.
    “I don’t hold with the idea that no star should admit to being a Republican for fear of annoying the Democrats, or that if she changes the color of her hair she musn’t ever admit it,” Sterling writes. Instead, she believed in a policy of outspokenness and honesty, which is what makes her column so much fun to read.
  2. She was an independent voter.
    Jan considered herself to be a Democrat, but stated that she planned on voting for Republican candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1952 election, on the condition that he surround himself with respectable, fair people. She voted based on the qualities that she saw in the candidate rather than pledging herself whole-heartedly to the Democratic party and voting only for Democratic candidates.
  3. She didn’t completely buy into society’s expectations of her gender…
    Sterling devotes part of her column to the idea that women should be good cooks. “I am against folks insisting that every girl should be an expert cook… Maybe she’ll marry a man who can work miracles in the kitchen, like I did. No one in their right mind would call my husband, Paul Douglas, a panty-waist, but he’s superb in the kitchen. (Matter of fact, for me he’s superb in any part of the house.)” Saucy!
  4. …but she did take great pride in her appearance.
    She shares a story about having to touch up her hair color while on a trip overseas to entertain troops. Naturally a “dirty blonde,” she applied ammonia and peroxide to her hair with a tooth brush to lighten it, using an army helmet as a wash bin to rinse the mixture out of her hair!
  5. She did not believe in dieting.
    Jan had been overweight as a teenager, but rather than dieting or following weight loss fads, she simply changed her lifestyle. Advocating a method of “self-discipline” for health, she began every morning with a breakfast of eggs, eating vegetable-based dishes for lunch and lean proteins for dinner. She indulged in “fudge sprees” a few times a month to satisfy her sweet tooth.
  6. She believed in facing her fears.
    Sterling offers advice to the timid reader, writing “If you are afraid of anything, I may have a helpful formula: Don’t keep your fears a secret. Admit them. Let those of your friends who are dinner table psychologists work you over. Their advice probably will be next to worthless, but you’ll laugh at what they think they know.”
  7. She was outspoken about her plastic surgery.
    Even today, plastic surgery can be a bit of a taboo and is frequently the subject of gossip. Sterling openly admits to having her nose altered by a plastic surgeon because she was unhappy with its shape. However, she advises readers only to turn to surgery if they’ve given it plenty of thought. “Don’t do it because you have a complex. First you have to get rid of the idea that your nose is ruining your life. Then calculate carefully. If a nose operation will obviously improve your chance for personal happiness, and you can afford it, go ahead… but never without the best surgeons, and not if you are under 20. You may not know your own mind.”
  8. She believed in stern parenting…
    “I don’t agree that children should make friends of their parents,” she writes. “Make mothers and fathers of them, instead. They like it that way.”
  9. …but thought that children should have the freedom to choose their own futures.
    “I am for children rebelling against parents when it comes to choosing careers, if the kids have respectable I.Q.’s. I fought to go to dramatic school, and I’m happy in what I’m doing.”
  10. She was a child of divorce.
    Sterling states that she came from a “broken home” and often acted out as a child, playing her parents against each other and weaseling her way into being spoiled.
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