Anna Sten's Swedish mother was a prima ballerina at the Kyiv Opera House, her Ukrainian father was a theater producer. Anna married actor Boris Sten and took his name as her stage name. In Germany, she caught the eye of Samuel Goldwyn; he bought her to the US, determined to make her the next Dietrich or Garbo. For two years she underwent diction classes and extensive training in Hollywood acting.
She was nominated for a best supporting actress in her role of Gwen French.