Karen Sharpe

Karen Sharpe

Sharpe with daughter Katharine, 2011
Born Karen Kay Sharpe
(1934-09-20) September 20, 1934
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Residence Los Angeles, California
Occupation Film and television actress and producer
Years active 1952-1966
Television Johnny Ringo
Spouse(s) Chester Stevens (1957-1962)
Stanley Kramer (1966-2001) (his death)
Children Jennifer Kramer
Katharine Kramer[1]

Karen Sharpe (born September 20, 1934), is an American former actress of film and television, who appeared on screen from 1952 to 1966. She is the surviving third wife of producer/director Stanley Kramer, to whom she was married from 1966 until his death in 2001. She has since been the caretaker of the Kramer estate and legacy.

Early years

Karen Kay Sharpe was born in San Antonio, Texas and studied ballet and theater as a child. In 1952, she appeared in Kramer's production of The Sniper, directed by Edward Dmytryk. She spoke three lines in the film while sitting on a drugstore stool and did not personally meet Kramer at that time. That same year, she was cast uncredited as the younger sister of Janice Rule in the film Holiday for Sinners, opposite William Campbell. In 1953, she appeared as Lucy Colfax in the John Payne-Jan Sterling film, The Vanquished.[2]

Director William A. Wellman cast Sharpe in the 1954 Warner Brothers airline disaster film The High and the Mighty, starring John Wayne, Robert Stack, and again including William Campbell and Jan Sterling. Karen played Nell Buck, a young bride who overcomes fear of death through passion for her new husband, Milo, played by John Smith.[3] Her performance in The High and the Mighty propelled Sharpe to the 1954 Golden Globe Award for "New Star of the Year".[2]

In 1955, she played the part of Stella Atkins in the western film, Man with the Gun, starring Robert Mitchum, Henry Hull, John Lupton, and again Jan Sterling.[4]

Television work

In 1959-1960, Sharpe was cast in eighteen episodes as the girlfriend, Laura Thomas, in the CBS western series, Johnny Ringo, starring Don Durant in the title role of a fictitious gunfighter turned small-town sheriff. Johnny Ringo was the first series produced by Aaron Spelling. Her other co-stars were Terence De Marney as her father, Case Thomas, and Mark Goddard as the deputy, Cully.[2]

In 1961, Sharpe and William Campbell appeared together in the episode "Never Walk Alone" of ABC's western series, Stagecoach West. In the story line, Campbell's character, Cole Eldredge, newly released from prison, is framed for train robbery and murder. Sharpe plays Eldredge's fiancee, Ruby Walker, who begins to question the motivation of series character Luke Perry (Wayne Rogers) as he seeks to find the missing Eldredge.[5]

Her other ABC appearances were on 77 Sunset Strip (twice), Hawaiian Eye, Burke's Law, The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse,[2] and the short-lived western, The Dakotas, as Angela Manning in "Crisis at High Banjo", with fellow guest-star Warren Stevens.[6]

Later in 1961, seven years after The High and the Mighty, Sharpe was reunited with John Smith in his NBC western series, Laramie. She portrayed Madge Barrington, the daughter of a Colonel John Barrington, played by George Macready, and presumably modeled on John Chivington of the 1864 Sand Creek massacre in Colorado. In the story line Barrington escapes while facing a court martial at Fort Laramie for his subsequent role in the Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota in 1890. The episode reveals that Slim Sherman was present at Wounded Knee and testified against Barrington. Madge takes Slim hostage and presents papers which she contends justify her father's harsh policies against the Indians. Slim manages to escape but is trapped by the Sioux and must negotiate with the Indians to escape massacre.[7]

Sharpe appeared in many other television series in the 1950s and early 1960s, including CBS's Racket Squad, Lux Video Theatre, Playhouse 90, General Electric Theater, The West Point Story, The Millionaire (in the lead role in "The Anitra Dellano Story"), Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Perry Mason (the title character in the 1958 episode, "The Case of the Hesitant Hostess"), The Smothers Brothers Show, and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C..

She appeared in the CBS westerns, Rawhide in 1962 in the episode "Gold Fever", and again in 1963 in the episode "Incident of the Black Ace", Gunsmoke, Trackdown (as Edith Collins in "The Young Gun"), The Texan (as Jessie Martin in "Private Account"), and Yancy Derringer (as Patricia Lee in "Game of Chance"). She guest starred in David Janssen's Richard Diamond, Private Detective in "Echo of Laughter", one of the last segments of that series aired on CBS before it switched to NBC for its final year.[2]

Besides Laramie, Sharpe appeared on several other NBC series, including Fireside Theater, Cameo Theatre, Hallmark Hall of Fame, The Ford Television Theatre, Matinee Theater (seven times), The Loretta Young Show, Bonanza, Overland Trail, The Americans, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Sharpe appeared twice on NBC's I Dream of Jeannie, with Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman, in the role of Melissa Stone, the pilot episode "The Lady In The Bottle" and in "Jeannie and the Marriage Caper."[2]

Sharpe was cast in several syndicated television series too, including The Range Rider, Death Valley Days, and the American Civil War drama, The Gray Ghost. She appeared on Studio 57, when it was broadcast in 1954 on the former DuMont Television Network.[2]

In 1955, she played the role of Clara Bryant Ford in the television film A Story About Henry Ford, based on the automobile mogul, played by Arthur Franz. That same year, she played Martha Custis Washington in the television film, The Courtship of George Washington and Martha Custis, with Marshall Thompson, nine years Sharpe's senior, cast as Washington.[2]

Sharpe today

Her last roles on a regular series were as Barbara Bosley in "The Night of the Flaming Ghost" and as Rose Murphy in "The Night of the Ready-Made Corpse", both on CBS in 1966 on Robert Conrad's The Wild Wild West.[2]

She appeared in Jerry Lewis's 1964 film, The Disorderly Orderly, during which time she met Stanley Kramer, who was also directing Ship of Fools on the Paramount Studios lot. They began dating and married on September 1, 1966. She stopped acting to devote full-time to her family, including two children, and to serve as assistant to her husband in the film industry. She also became a producer. Since his death after some thirty-five years of marriage, Sharpe maintains the Stanley Kramer Library. She established the Stanley Kramer Award at the Producer's Guild and the Stanley Kramer Fellowship Award in Directing through the University of California, Los Angeles. Both designations honor the works of socially conscious young filmmakers.[2]

Selected filmography


  1. "Karen Sharpe - The Private Life and Times of Karen Sharpe. Karen Sharpe Pictures". Glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com. Retrieved 2016-10-25.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Karen Sharpe". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  3. "The High and the Mighty". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  4. "Man with the Gun". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  5. ""Never Walk Alone" on Stagecoach West, April 18, 1961". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  6. ""Crisis at High Banjo" on The Dakotas, February 23, 1963". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  7. "Laramie: "Handful of Fire", December 5, 1961". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 22, 2012.
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