Jill St. John is one of those entertainers who has lived the life many picture when they imagine the glamorous existence of the Hollywood elite. The actress got her most significant role in 1971 when she became the first American ever to play a Bond girl, starring alongside Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever.
St. John soon became known for her jet-setting lifestyle, traveling the world as she dated a host of famous men. At one point, she even dated Frank Sinatra, before settling with Robert Wagner in the ’90s. The couple has been steady and stable ever since – and now, at 82 years old, the bombshell Bond chick is still as beautiful as ever.
Here’s all you need to know about the lovely Jill St. John!
There are very few people who haven’t heard of James Bond. The many films about agent 007, based on Ian Flemming’s famous book series, are watched by millions of people worldwide each year. Over the past few decades, several legendary actors have portrayed the British secret service agent, including Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and Roger Moore.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about the James Bond franchise is that portraying 007 makes the chosen lead actor a part of film history, no matter what the viewers think. Moreover, those actors or actresses playing the villains also claim an eternal spot in the James Bond Universe – the same, it must be said, goes for ‘Bond girls’.
Many famous actresses have been cast as Bond girls throughout the years. These include Halle Berry, Ursula Andress, Barbara Bach, Isabella Scorupco, Daniela Bianchi, Honor Blackman, and Grace Jones.
The Bond girls’ role in the 007 films has always been of significant interest to audiences, as well as often being pivotal for the films themselves. The role is “officially” classified as being a love interest or female companion to James Bond. However, the part itself has been portrayed in many different ways. One common factor is that Bond girl are always intelligent and witty and, of course, usually adept in combat.
Bond girls have often been seen as trendsetters and many of the actresses to have starred in the role – under character names such as Pussy Galore, Tiffany Case, and Honey Rider– have been afforded a significant boost in their careers.
In my mind, every Bond girl has brought something different to the table. Yet Jill St. John, who starred as Tiffany Case in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, might rank among the best Bond girls to ever grace our screens.
Jill St. John – early life & career
St. John’s career enjoyed an upswing after she starred in the film. At the time, she had been working in show-business for more than twenty years, despite being only 31 years of age. Since then she’s had a long and successful career, and at 82 she’s still going strong. Let’s look closer at her life, what she’s doing now – and how she looks today.
Jill St. John was born Jill Oppenheimer in Los Angeles, California, on August 19, 1940. Her father, Edward Oppenheimer, owned a restaurant, but that was not a path Jill ever planned on following.
Instead, as early as five years of age, she began her career as an actress. St. John was a regular on the radio show One Man’s Family, and at age nine, she made her television debut in the ABC series Sandy Dreams. Jill toured with Marta Raye a year later in Annie Get Your Gun, and appeared as Missie Cratchit in the TV movie The Christmas Carol.
It wasn’t only acting that came to be a real passion for Jill as a child. She studied at the Children’s Ballet Company with Natalie Wood and Stephanie Powers. Jill and Natalie’s paths would cross later in life, though not in a way anyone would’ve expected.
Jill St. John moved on to study at the Hollywood Professional School as a teenager. She had already had many experiences in the entertainment industry, and it was clear that she wanted to pursue a career in acting.
She graduated in 1955 and moved on to study at UCLA. For those paying attention, Jill was only 15 years of age when she began studying at the university. By all accounts she was an exceptionally gifted teenager, with a reported IQ of 162.
“If I hadn’t stopped my education for an acting career, I would be doing something very important today. I would have been a marine biologist,” Jill told the Central Associated Press in 1971.
Married twice before her 20th birthday
But school was never the right environment for St. John. After just one year, she decided to drop out after being signed by Universal Pictures. By the time her short stay at UCLA had come to an end, she had already made guest appearances on shows such as Cavalcade of America, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, and Sky King.
Jill St. John. was never shy of saying what was on her mind or caring about what others thought of her. She loved the Hollywood lifestyle, the luxury and travel, and this would become more apparent later in her career.
Meanwhile, her love life also started early. At 17, she married for the first time, to Neil Dubin. The couple reportedly married three times because they didn’t know if they’d done it correctly. Sadly, their union lasted only a year.
At 19, Jill married for a second time, this time to millionaire Lance Reventlow, son of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton. Three years after tying the knot, she lost her beloved husband in a devastating plane crash.
“Much of Lance stayed with me,” Jill said. “We remained friends as long as he lived.”
In the 1960s, Jill St. John married her third husband, singer Jack Jones. Sadly, they ended their marriage only two years later. In 1990, she tied the knot with a fourth husband, whom she’s been married to for over 30 years. But we’ll get back to that in a bit.
In the 1960s, Jill St. John had become a classy, dazzling redhead. She had roles in films such as Honeymoon Hotel and the hit television series The Name of the Game. Jill’s seductive looks and one-liners had turned her into an actress that directors were fighting to have in their films.
In 1971, she was to land her most prominent role yet, one which would also earn her a place in movie history.
Jill St. John as Tiffany Case in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’
Jill St. John got the role as the Bond girl Tiffany Case, a glamorous jewelry smuggler, in the 007 film Diamonds Are Forever. She starred alongside the legendary Sean Connery.
“She’s a very smart lady,” Jill said of Tiffany. “She’s a survivor… In some ways, she’s a lot like me.”
“It’s the best break in my film career, which anybody would admit hasn’t been exactly stupendous up to now,” she told the North American Newspaper Alliance in 1971.
“When I first got the role, I said to myself,’ Gee, I’m going to be in a Bond film.’ But I really flipped out when I found I was going to be with the real James Bond.”
The performance didn’t earn her an Academy Award, but that didn’t matter. Jill had cemented her place in movie history as the first American to play a Bond girl – and for his part, Sean Connery loved working with her.
“When Jill St. John walks into a movie, she doesn’t need to sing, dance or toot a horn,” Connery once said. “She makes music wherever she goes.”
The role of Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever brought Jill St. John money and fame. She was single then, but dated several men throughout the 1970s. That included South American millionaire playboy Francisco Pignatari, Italian jewelry magnet Gianna Bulgari, and American diplomat Henry Kissinger. At one point, she was even romantically linked with Frank Sinatra.
“‘I worked once a year so my name wouldn’t be forgotten”
“I’ve been getting tied down, and I refuse to be,” Jill said then. “I must have the full freedom to come and go as I please. My house in Beverly Hills is much too large for one person, and the responsibility of looking after it has become a stone around my neck.”
She added: “I no longer need to act in films to pay my bills. I’ve had good fortune in my investments, and I can afford to wait forever, if necessary, or a role that appeals to me.”
Jill St. John decided to sell her house to do other things in life that were more fun to her. She traveled worldwide, visited all the European fashion shows, and chose to enjoy a quiet life in Aspen, Colorado.
“I took time off just to enjoy living,’ Jill said. “I worked once a year so my name wouldn’t be forgotten. And I launched my Smith-St. John sweater company. I made some investments, and I traveled all over,” she told UPI in 1983.
“The six-year respite was good for me. I love skiing, hiking, and rafting, but it got to be too much of a good thing, I began to lose touch with show business. I don’t even get television reception at my house, I read books.”
Jill St. John added: “Can you believe this? I agreed to appear in an episode of Magnum. P.I and I had never seen the show. When I arrived in Hawaii, I had never laid eyes on Tom Selleck. When I returned to Aspen, I realized that I missed acting and decided to go for a full-time career again. I wanted to make a commitment to acting.”
Jill returned to the acting business, appearing in the 1982 prison drama The Concrete Jungle and later on in some cameo roles, such as in the now-classic 1989 Seinfeld episode “The Yada Yada.” In the show, she acted alongside her then-boyfriend Robert Wagner – who was to become her husband.
Jill St. John & Robert Wagner – a Hollywood love story
Jill St. John met Wagner for the first time back in the 1960s. They were both actors at Fox Studios, but even though they had both endured terrible heartbreak, their marriage remains one of the happiest in Hollywood.
“Along with the rest of the world, she was saddened by the tragic news,” a friend of Jill’s told Closer. “She reached out and sent Robert a nice note and flowers.”
Just months after the terrible accident with Wood, Jill and Robert met at a dinner party hosted by a mutual friend. They found their grief to be a common ground; Jill could empathize with Robert.
“I’ve had friendships with som truly outstanding me. I believe one of the things they like about me is that I never talk about them,” Jill said in 1982.
Jill and Robert didn’t only find each other, but the actress also became a stepmother. She helped raise Robert’s daughters, Courtney, Katie, and Natasha, whom she got along with “beautifully.”
Jill St. John – age, net worth
Still, to this day, Jill and Robert remain happily married. He calls her “Magic,” and considering how many talents she has, it’s easy to understand why. St. John turned to cooking – one of her parents’ big passion – and even appears as a TV chef and cooking expert on Good Morning America.
Moreover, the-now 82-year-old contributed as a food columnist for USA Weekend. Jill later founded the Aunts Club, a Rancho Mirage-based group of extraordinary women who contribute at least $1,000 annually to support a child financially.
“My wife was a Bond girl, in Diamonds Are Forever,” Wagner said. “So I play James Bond in real life every day.”