Doris Stein

Jules Stein's wife

born
Mar 27, 1902
died
Apr 7, 1984
profession
socialite, designer

Introduction

As wife of Jules Stein, one of the most influential people in Hollywood history, Doris accompanied him in his rise to power.

She was mostly known as a socialite fixated on gaining ranks among the Hollywood elite, making powerful allies, but never directly getting into business, or politics.

Her specialty was throwing lavish parties where even presidents and princes could be seen on occasion. Some of those events people talked about for months and getting an invitation to them meant someone is very high on the social ladder.

Another Stein talent was great aesthetic taste which she put to great use to aid her and her husband's objectives. On many occasions, those two came together.

Early years

Doris Babette, the future Mrs Stein, was born to a Jewish Jonus family which at some point had changed their name to 'Jones' to fit better in United States.

She was born and bred in Kansas City and that's where she met Jules, who was at one point playing a gig with his band in the prestigious Muehlebach Hotel. There was no romance hanging in the air, as Stein had serious plans with another girl and Doris was six years younger than him, which at such young age probably meant he saw her as no more than a child.

Few years later, she got married and became Doris J. Oppenheimer. Soon, she gave birth to two children, but the marriage didn't last long even with this double commitment.

Their paths crossed yet again, as not long after Mrs. had become Miss, Jules came back to Kansas City and stumbled upon her. This time, things really clicked.

New York, getting married

Another sign that there may be a bright future in this relationship was that Doris would soon come live in New York, and it so happened that Jules was already living there at the time. Just like she said, she soon came and from there their relationship blossomed so fast that just one year after the second Kansas City meeting, they got married.

As opposed to her new relationship, her impressions regarding New York were not so positive. She felt estranged there, tried to get in touch with popular and influential people, but her husband's firm wasn't a powerhouse yet, and so her attempts were met with contempt.

She and Jules were of completely different type. She was open and always looking to socialize and connect with people. Stein was secretive and was building walls around him to protect his safe space to which almost everybody was denied access. One thing that they had in common was strong aesthetic taste and, in particular, a love for antiques.

That Doris quickly manifested when she first saw how his New York office was decorated. Even though Jules could pick pretty items, his taste was poor when it came to composing them together in a coherent whole. His life-long wife, on the other hand, was a true master he could learn from at both!

As a result, she got into her element and substituted plenty of items to improve the visual quality of the interiors. Even after her contributions though, she didn't find it to her liking. Her participation would have to be from the start.

Hollywood

Luckily for her, Jules made a bold move to Hollywood. Starting an agency in this then already highly competitive place required not only a brilliant plan, but also enormous amount of quality work. Some of it was obviously to seduce and lure the customers so they sign a contract with an unknown company that has 'music' in their name.

Doris was of great use when it came to designing the new elegant Beverly Hills MCA office. The two worked and approved things together, but she was the leading force behind it. For the same reason that Jules will give the company's steering wheel to Lew Wasserman some time later, he now let his wife have the final say. She was fantastic at it and he knew better than to interfere when great work was being done.

The result was stunning, although for some time the office became the object of ridicule. It looked almost like a palace, but that's why it was peculiar.

Hollywood agents were low in the social food chain, even when some of them have been earning plenty. Big parties have seen none of them, actors, directors and even producers didn't want to hang out with them in their free time. Elegance was the anti-definition of Hollywood agents, and yet here was MCA with their Chateau de Versailles. It was like coming to a graveyard shift at the cemetery wearing a tailcoat (provided the culprit is not Count Dracula).

Doris' sense of style was utilized by her husband on many occasions. One of them was Sheraton Universal, part of Universal City complex built by MCA after buying over the Universal. It was Doris' biggest visual project ever and with her husband's help she brought tons of items from Europe to decorate in the classiest possible way.

Unfortunately, here a stark contrast was rearing its ugly head too - the hotel building itself is awfully ugly and some people might have wanted to get inside with their eyes eyes closed during the opening ceremony. Inside, a much prettier sights were waiting for them.

Socializing, attire

Doris' purpose in life wasn't to make things pretty, though. Just like Jules', her beginnings were very modest, but while he didn't care what people think, she definitely did. Attracting the famous, powerful and handsome seemed like a great way to compensate for these self-esteem issues.

She engaged it with full commitment and despite failing to make an impact in Chicago, she didn't give up and made Hollywood their turf - Jules with his business and Doris socially.

Her specialty became throwing lavish parties where each year more prestigious guests were showing up until at some point princes and duchesses from around the world started appearing. Doris was always obsessing over every organizational aspect to tune it to perfection: building guest list, sitting them in the most beneficial order, planning the menu and of course decorating the place - even their own home she sometimes modified beyond recognition.

Since her early years, she took much care making sure she looks as good as possible. One of the main things that had charmed Jules Stein about her was how great she dresses. In 1946, she was even named one of the ten best-dressed women in Hollywood (Life gave the number one distinction that year to Howard Hawks' second wife Nancy 'Slim' Keith)

Personal issues

Endless social climbing struggles of the powerful producer's wife have left little time to take care of her family, and her children from the second marriage suffered as a result. Two Oppenheimer boys were excluded even more, as soon after conceiving the second one, she divorced her husband and moved to New York.

Often when the Stein girls spent time with their mother, they wished they'd rather not. Just like with Jules, they couldn't find common tongue and with Doris it was hard to even trace a grain of empathy - ironic, considering her late-life charity work.

Another sign of Mrs Stein's selfishness was her affair. Jules sniffed it and even somehow found proof, but couldn't find it in himself to confront his wife about it. According to Richard Gully, Prince Pierre, Duke of Valentinois was that secret companion, but the man's identity has never fully come out in the open. Ultimately, Jules waited out the affair hoping that the hidden flame will die on its own. Which it did.

Late years, death

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Jules Stein and Doris Stein's elegant tombstone.
Doris Stein's grave

The marriage, however dysfunctional, carried on and it did so until the end. In 1981, Jules Stein died.

This wasn't the only bad news that was about to come. Two years later breast cancer beat her daughter Susan Stein Shiva, and another year further, it took Doris as well. The other daughter Jean Stein is still alive at the moment of writing this article.

Very soon after the death of her husband, Doris started Doris J. Stein Foundation. It probably got terminated with her passing, as no other information about it can be found except for its initialization. Besides that project, she engaged with her husband in numerous charity events, but up to that point it had never been on her own.

Doris J. Stein remains buried along her husband at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in California. Jules had arranged for the grave to be adjacent to Mary Pickford's - one of the early cinema's greatest stars was a great friend to Jules and together they once decided for their bodies to rest close to each other when the time comes.

Children

You can read about Doris' and Jules' daughter Jean in this article. Their other daughter Susan led a quiet life, so she was omitted - there isn't much to write about her. As for Doris' children from her first marriage, there were two and both were sons.

The first one, Harold L. Oppenheimer served in Marine Corps Reserve and ultimately achieved the rank of brigadier general. Throughout his life, he mostly worked in the cattle business, holding a chairman position in Oppenheimer Industries Inc. (not to confuse with Oppenheimer Holdings which is an unrelated firm). He invested in the cattle business and even wrote multiple books attempting to guide through intricacies of that particular trade.

Besides, he also wrote a book titled March to the Sound of the Drums (Amazon) in which he described his World War II experiences. Just like the former, it failed to reach wider audiences.

The other son, Gerald H. Oppenheimer was most famous for his contributions to numerous UCLA programs, mostly in the form of financial support for students who meet certain criteria. In other words, Gerald continued his stepfather's charity traditions, while Harold was clearly more inspired by his business side, only dealing with cattle instead of humans (still, according to Alfred Hitchcock actors are cattle, so...).

Gerald briefly tried his luck with investments too, but to no success.

Doris Stein's family grave