Betty Sturm, who played a follower of Timothy Carey’s cult leader in the infamous Frank Zappa-scored The World’s Greatest Sinner, died Sunday of Alzheimer’s disease at her home in Clinton, New Jersey, her son, William Winckler, announced. She was 89.
Carey wrote, directed, produced and starred as an insurance salesman who transforms himself into the dictatorial God Hilliard in The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962). The film has rarely been seen in theaters and is perhaps best known for its Zappa connection. Martin Scorsese is said to be a fan.
In the 2012 making-of documentary Making Sinner, Sturm was interviewed by Romeo Carey, Timothy Carey’s son. She explained that because of The World’s Greatest Sinner‘s yearlong shooting schedule and a financial dispute, she did not return for one last scene, so an extra stepped in for her to play a saxophone.
Raised in Spain and Germany, Sturm came to Los Angeles in the late 1950s and lived at the Hollywood Studio Club dormitory started years earlier by Mary Pickford. Actresses Kim Novak, Jo Anne Worley and Pat Priest also lived there at the time.
According to her son, Sturm went on a double date with Elvis Presley to see Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) at a drive-in, but the couples left during the shower scene because the singer “couldn’t stand the sight of onscreen blood.”
In the early 1970s, Sturm sold custom wigs and hairpieces for park characters at Disneyland — she supplied wigs for The Pirates of the Caribbean ride — and for actors appearing in Disney films. She worked with Joy Zapata at Disneyland and Bob Schiffer at Walt Disney Productions in Burbank, her son said.
She also ran the Elizabeth Sturm Talent Agency, booking actors for commercials, films and television starting in the 1990s.
Sturm was married to Robert Winckler, a prolific child actor turned entertainment attorney who appeared in Little Rascals/Our Gang comedies and films including Pride of the Yankees, from 1962 until his death in 1989.
In addition to her son, a producer, director and novelist, survivors include her daughter, Patricia, son-in-law Jim and grandchildren Michelle and Robert.