Svelt, Texas-born actress Karen Sharpe was put into ballet shoes as a youngster. Her initial move to California was in the hopes of being a professional ice skater but the lure of being a movie star intervened. She trained as a teen in the theater. Her first screen appearance came at the tender age of 16 in Stanley Kramer's "The Sniper"(1952). Her role consisted of a total of three lines delivered while sitting on a drugstore stool and ordering a cherry phosphate. Although she did not personally meet filmmaker Mr. Kramer at that time, it would be a foreshadowing of a romance that would sweep Mr. Kramer off his feet and consummate in a marriage that would produce two beautiful daughters and span 35 years until Mr. Kramer's passing.
Miss Sharpe earned rent money, and more, as a model on billboards and appeared on such magazine covers as "Cosmopolitan" and "Pageant." She next appeared in "Holiday for Sinners"(1952) for MGM opposite Bill Campbell. She and Mr. Campbell would also star in "The High and the Mighty"(1954), "Man in the Vault"(1956) and finally "Stage Coach West" (1961) where they played husband and wife, 'Cole and Ruby Eldridge'.
Hal Roach put a boost into Miss Sharpe's career by starring her in "The Little People" segment of "The Children's Hour"(1952). Mr. Roach brought Karen further notice when he featured her in 'White Rain' commercials where she danced her way to fame across the tops of rows of shampoo bottles. He personally chose Miss Sharpe to represent the Hal Roach Studios as Modern Screen Magazine's Golden Key Award winner as the 'Star of Tomorrow' of 1952. Columbia Pictures picked up on this and immediately placed her in a Hugo Haas production of "Strange Fascination"(1952). Monogram Pictures followed suit offering her the starring role as 'Jane Harris' in "Army Bound"(1952). This led to Karen starring in Walter Mirisch's production of "Bomba and the Jungle Girl"(1952) with Johnny Sheffield, 'Boy' of 'Tarzan' fame, portraying 'Bomba', and Karen the 'Jungle Girl'.
The film has become a cult classic. This film's dubious distinction pursues Mrs. Stanley Kramer (the former Miss Sharpe) up to this day. A role in Paramount's "The Vanquished"(1953) came next, then "Mexican Manhunt"(1953) for Allied Artists.
Miss Sharpe's big break came when director William Wellman cast her in the Wayne-Fellows/Warner Brother's production of "The High and the Mighty"(1954) as the young 'Nell Buck', an amorous bride who copes with the crisis of riding a crippled airliner to certain death by turning her fears into the ecstasy of passion with her new husband. Her performance garnered her the 1954 Golden Globe Award for 'New Star of the Year'. "The High and the Mighty" star John Wayne immediately put her under contract to his new company, Batjac. Karen was loaned out to Ida Lupino's company for "Mad at the World" (1955) and then United Artist's "Man with the Gun" (1955) opposite Robert Mitchum and Jan Sterling who ultimately became Karen's dear friend and mentor. She returned to John Wayne and Batjac for "Man in the Vault"(1956).
When Miss Sharpe inquired of Mr. Wayne if she might try television, the medium the major motion picture studios loathed, Mr. Wayne replied, "Do anything and everything you can to grow as an artist." She took his advice to heart and leapt to the small screen with vigor, performing in multiple episodes of 'live' classic programs such as "Hallmark Hall of Fame"(1951), the "General Electric Theater"(1953), "Climax"(1954), "Matinee Theatre"(1955), "Playhouse 90"(1956), "Lux Playhouse" (1958), and over 50 of the filmed classics such as "The Loretta Young Show"(1953), "Gunsmoke"(1955), "Perry Mason"(1957), "Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse"(1958), "77 Sunset Strip"(1958), "Bonanza" (1959), "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."(1964), "The Wild, Wild West"(1965), and was cast as star regular 'Laura Thomas' in Aaron Spelling's first television series "Johnny Ringo"(1959).
Not letting the big screen escape her talents, Karen returned to it starring as 'Paula Nelson' in Columbia's "Tarawa Beachead" (1958). She followed this up with more television and was busy for the next several years.
When Miss Sharpe's father passed away, she traveled to Texas to settle his estate. This took her away from Hollywood momentarily. But out of sight was not out of mind for Gene Nelson who was directing the pilot for "I Dream of Jeannie"(1965) and cast her as 'Melissa', Larry Hagman's fiancé'. While Karen was waiting for the pilot to be sold, Jerry Lewis read that she was back in town and invited her to play opposite him in Paramount's "The Disorderly Orderly"(1964). She accepted the role of 'Julie Blair' the lovesick nurse who wins Jerry's affections in the end. During the filming, Miss Sharpe met producer-director Stanley Kramer who was directing "Ship of Fools"(1965) on the Paramount lot. He began to pursue her in earnest, but she refused his advances, preferring to put her career first. It wasn't until she had returned to the small screen, where the pilot of "I Dream of Jeannie" had been picked up, that she agreed to her first date with him. It was one full year after Mr. Kramer had made his initial intentions known. A full-fledged courtship began. Ever mindful of her career, Miss Sharpe took on another pilot, "Valley of Mystery"(1967), this time at Universal. But Mr. Kramer's affections prevailed and she married him shortly after finishing the Universal pilot in the summer of 1966. Miss Sharpe married Mr. Kramer on September 1, 1966.
Closing the chapter on her acting career, Karen began a new one as a full-time wife, mother, and assistant to her husband in the world of film production. With the establishment of KNK Productions, Inc. Karen established herself as a producer. Among her many successful projects is a remake of husband Stanley Kramer's "High Noon"(2000), "The Defiant One" a documentary examining Stanley Kramer's brilliant career, and "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" a big screen sequel to "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"(1964).
Mr. Kramer passed away February 19, 2001. Mrs. Kramer currently maintains the Stanley Kramer Library. In 2001 she established the Stanley Kramer Award at the Producer's Guild and the Stanley Kramer Fellowship Award in Directing at UCLA. Both Awards honor socially conscious young filmmakers.