Child of Topper star Robert Sterling and widely admired actress/comedienne Ann Sothern, Tisha Sterling is truly a "Hollywood daughter." Her parents were divorced when she was only three years old, and Ms. Sterling admits to having been an "extremely spoiled" child who bounced around from school to school, even once being expelled. When she left home to begin acting at age 17, she was beginning to enter adulthood just as America was beginning to enter the turbulent '60s.
After a few television guest roles, she landed her first feature film role, when barely 21 years old, in the eminently forgettable Village of the Giants. But she soon earned the opportunity to showcase her comedic talents guest-starring onBatman (with lead co-star Shelley Winters) and Get Smart. In Get Smart, cast as Miss USA competing at a Miss Galaxy Beauty Pageant, she took what a less talented actress would have seen as just a "bimbo" role and elevated it into a gently satirical, tongue-in-cheek twitting of beauty pageant contestants.
After cutting her long blonde hair and allowing her natural auburn color to return, Ms. Sterling moved from comedic to serious dramatic roles. Her most unforgettable film role would be as Clint Eastwood's co-star in the 1968 film Coogan's Bluff, in which she played the "bad girl" hippie, Linny Raven. Drugged-up and spaced-out, Linny nevertheless retained sufficient wits (and malignancy) to make life miserably dangerous for Deputy Sheriff Coogan in his foray to New York City to arrest Linny's murderous boyfriend.
In 1971, Ms. Sterling would again team up in a TV movie with Shelley Winters to play Buffie Cameron in the wrenching courtroom drama A Death of Innocence. Spoiled child of the 60s, Buffie is the country girl who moves to the big city and falls into bad company, finally standing trial for murder with her boyfriend-accomplice. While the "moral" of the story may be a bit trite and labored, Ms. Sterling's versatility shows through as Buffie shifts from put-upon innocence to a vicious, blank-eyed emptiness when her guilt finally becomes apparent and she prepares to spend the rest of her life in prison.