Karen Sharpe

Karen Kay 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.

Karen Sharpe
Sharpe in 2011
Karen Kay Sharpe

(1934-09-20) September 20, 1934
ResidenceLos Angeles, California
OccupationFilm and television actress and producer
Years active1952-1966
TelevisionJohnny Ringo
Spouse(s)Chester Stevens (1957-62; divorced)
Stanley Kramer (1966-2001; his death)
RelativesJennifer Kramer (daughter), Katharine Kramer (daughter)[1]

Early years

Karen Kay Sharpe[2] was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1934. According to the federal census of 1940, her parents, Howard and Dorothy Sharp (spelled with no "e") were both natives of Indiana.[3] That census also documents that in 1940, the family continued to reside in San Antonio and her father worked then as a sales manager for a local electric company.[3]

As a child, Karen studied ballet and dancing. Her desire to be an actress led her to California, where she hoped "to be discovered on a drug store stool, like Lana Turner ...".[4] In Los Angeles, Sharpe studied dancing with Adolph Bolm.[5]

Early career

While acting in plays, Sharpe was discovered by a talent scout from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. Her screen test at MGM was unsuccessful, as were later screen tests with Columbia and Universal. She worked as a model, posing for magazine covers and doing commercials.[4]


In 1952, at the age of 18, Sharpe appeared in Stanley 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.[6]

Director William A. Wellman cast Sharpe in the 1954 airline disaster film The High and the Mighty, which was distributed by Warner Bros. In the film she portrays Nell Buck, a young bride who overcomes her fear of death through passion for her new husband, Milo, played by John Smith.[7] Her performance in The High and the Mighty propelled Sharpe to the 1954 Golden Globe Award for "New Star of the Year-Actress".[8] In 1955, she played Stella Atkins in the western film, Man with the Gun.[9]


Sharpe's initial venture into television was on The Angel and the Devil, a children's program produced by Hal Roach. She went on to work on other Roach productions while still in her teens.[4]

During the 1959-1960 television season, Sharpe was cast as Laura Thomas, the girlfriend of the title character, in 18 episodes of the CBS Western series Johnny Ringo, starring Don Durant as a fictitious gunfighter turned small-town sheriff. Johnny Ringo was the first series produced by Aaron Spelling.[6] In 1961, she appeared in the episode "Never Walk Alone" of ABC's Western series Stagecoach West, performing in the role of Ruby Walker.[10] Her other ABC appearances were on 77 Sunset Strip (twice), Hawaiian Eye, Burke's Law, The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse,[6] and The Dakotas.[11]

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 Colonel John Barrington, played by George Macready, whose character was presumably modeled after John Chivington of the 1864 Sand Creek massacre in Colorado. In the storyline, 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 that 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.[12]

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 twice on the CBS Western Rawhide, in that series' 1962 episode "Gold Fever" and in its 1963 episode "Incident of the Black Ace". She also guest-starred on several other CBS Westerns: Gunsmoke, in the episode "Sweet and Sour"; Trackdown, playing Edith Collins in "The Young Gun"; The Texan, as the character Jessie Martin in "Private Account"; and on Yancy Derringer, performing as Patricia Lee in "Game of Chance". In yet another television genre, she also guest-starred on David Janssen's contemporary crime drama Richard Diamond, Private Detective in "Echo of Laughter", one of the last episodes of that series broadcast on CBS before it switched to NBC for its final year of production.[6]

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.[6]

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. In 1955, she played the role of Clara Bryant Ford in the television film A Story About Henry Ford, based on the automobile mogul, who was portrayed 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.[6]

Sharpe's last roles on a regular series were in two episodes of The Wild Wild West. 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 lot of Paramount Studios.

Personal life

In 1957, Sharpe married actor Chester Marshall Jr. In 1961, Sharpe sued for divorce a second time, following an earlier suit and subsequent reconciliation.[13] Marshall asked for alimony when their divorce case was heard in 1962.[14] The divorce was granted on September 18, 1962, with Marshall's request for alimony having been dropped.[15]

Kramer and Sharpe married on September 1, 1966, in Beverly Hills, California.[16] She later stopped acting to devote full time to her family, including the couple's two children, and to serve as assistant to her husband in the film industry.[6]


When Sharpe's father died, she inherited his businesses — aluminum siding, air conditioning, and moving and storage operations — and left acting to run them. Four years later, in 1965, she sold the business for a profit and returned to acting.[17]

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 showcase and honor the works of socially conscious young filmmakers.[6]


In 1959, Modern Screen magazine gave Sharpe its Golden Key Award, designating her as "one of the most promising young actresses in show business."[18]



Year Title Role Notes
1952The SniperMillieUncredited[19][20]
1952Holiday for SinnersJill Corvier - Susan's younger sisterUncredited
1952Strange FascinationJune Fowler
1952Army BoundJane Harris
1952Bomba and the Jungle GirlLinda Wardcited in film series
1952Ellis in FreedomlandFemale Model
1953The VanquishedLucy ColfaxUncredited
1953Mexican ManhuntLinda Morgan
1954The High and the MightyNell Buck
1955Mad at the WorldTess
1955Man with the GunStella Atkins
1956Man in the VaultBetty Turner
1958Tarawa BeachheadPaula Nelson
1964The Disorderly OrderlyJulie Blair


  1. "Karen Sharpe - The Private Life and Times of Karen Sharpe. Karen Sharpe Pictures". Glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com. Retrieved 2016-10-25.
  2. "Texas Oilman Sued On Cruelty Charge". Daily Press. Virginia, Newport News. Associated Press. February 27, 1953. p. 23. Retrieved January 12, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  3. "The Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940", Block 423, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas; enumeration date April 23, 1940. Bureau of the Census, United States Department of Commerce. Digital copy of original enumeration page available at FamilySearch, a free online genealogical database provided as a public service by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  4. Fitzgerald, Michael G.; Magers, Boyd (2006). Ladies of the Western: Interviews with Fifty-One More Actresses from the Silent Era to the Television Westerns of the 1950s and 1960s. McFarland. pp. 251–255. ISBN 9780786426560. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  5. "Karen Shape Daughter Of Former Andersonian". Anderson Daily Bulletin. Indiana, Anderson. July 9, 1962. p. 4. Retrieved January 12, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  6. "Karen Sharpe". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  7. "The High and the Mighty". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  8. "Karen Sharpe". Golden Globe Awards. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on 13 January 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  9. "Man with the Gun". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  10. ""Never Walk Alone" on Stagecoach West, April 18, 1961". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  11. ""Crisis at High Banjo" on The Dakotas, February 23, 1963". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  12. "Laramie: "Handful of Fire", December 5, 1961". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 22, 2012.
  13. "Actress Karen Sharpe Again Files for Divorce". The Journal Times. Wisconsin, Racine. Associated Press. May 2, 1961. p. 15. Retrieved January 12, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  14. "Husband Of Actress Is Seeking Alimony". The Odessa American. Texas, Odessa. United Press International. September 13, 1962. p. 32. Retrieved January 12, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  15. "Karen Sharpe Gets Divorce". The Akron Beacon Journal. Ohio, Akron. Associated Press. September 19, 1962. p. 13. Retrieved January 12, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  16. "Actress Karen Sharpe Marries Hollywood Producer-Director". Anderson Herald. Indiana, Anderson. September 7, 1966. p. 5. Retrieved January 12, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  17. Scott, Vernon (June 28, 1965). "Sharpe Deal Turned This Starlet into a Business Tycoon". Philadelphia Daily News. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. United Press International. p. 29. Retrieved January 12, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  18. Diltz, Douglas (February 21, 1960). "Actress Karen Sharpe Seeks Equal Starring Status for Girls". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Hawaii, Honolulu. United Press International. p. 91. Retrieved January 12, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  19. Filmography of Karen Sharpe, The American Film Institute (AFI), Los Angeles; retrieved July 27, 2017.
  20. "Karen Sharpe", IMDb.com; retrieved July 27, 2017.
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