Inger Stevens was born in Stockholm, Sweden, as Inger Stensland. She was an insecure and often ill child. She was 9 years old when her parents divorced, and she moved with her father to New York City. At age 13, she and her father moved to Manhattan, Kansas, where she attended Manhattan High School. At 16 years old, she worked in the Kansas City burlesque shows. At age 18, she left Kansas for New York City to work as a chorus girl and in the Garment District. Simultaneously, she took classes at the Actors Studio.
She appeared on television programs and commercials and in plays, until she finally got her big chance in the movie Man on Fire, with Bing Crosby.
Her first husband was her agent, Anthony Soglio, to whom she was married from 1955 to 1957. From 1961 to her death, she was secretly married to Ike Jones, a black American actor. She also was romantically involved with Crosby, Anthony Quinn, Dean Martin, Harry Belafonte, Mario Lanza, among numerous others, and Burt Reynolds, shortly before her suicide.
A houseguest found Ms. Stevens lying face down on her kitchen floor on the morning of April 30, 1970, having overdosed on Tedral (a combination drug of theophylline, ephedrine and phenobarbital, commonly prescribed in the treatment of breathing trouble associated with asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and other such illnesses), washed down with alcohol. Ms. Stevens had attempted suicide once before in 1959 when her reported romance with Bing Crosby ended. After an autopsy, her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.