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Rod Steiger

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Title: Rod Steiger  
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Subject: Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman
Collection: 1925 Births, 2002 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, 21St-Century American Male Actors, Actors Studio Members, American Male Film Actors, American Male Television Actors, American Military Personnel of World War II, American People of French Descent, American People of German Descent, American People of Scottish Descent, Bafta Winners (People), Best Actor Academy Award Winners, Best Drama Actor Golden Globe (Film) Winners, Best Foreign Actor Bafta Award Winners, Burials at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), David Di Donatello Winners, Deaths from Pneumonia, Infectious Disease Deaths in California, Male Actors from New York, People from the Greater Los Angeles Area, People from Westhampton, New York, Silver Bear for Best Actor Winners, United States Navy Sailors
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Rod Steiger

Rod Steiger
Publicity photo of Steiger in A Short Happy Life (1961)
Born Rodney Stephen Steiger
(1925-04-14)April 14, 1925
Westhampton, New York, U.S.
Died July 9, 2002(2002-07-09) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1950–2002
Spouse(s) Sally Gracie (1952–58)
Claire Bloom (1959–69)
Sherry Nelson (1973–79)
Paula Ellis (1986–97)
Joan Benedict (2000–02)
Children Anna Steiger
Michael Steiger

Rodney Stephen "Rod" Steiger (April 14, 1925 – July 9, 2002) was an American actor known for his performances in such films as On the Waterfront, The Big Knife, Oklahoma!, The Harder They Fall, Across the Bridge, The Pawnbroker, Doctor Zhivago, In the Heat of the Night, Waterloo, and Duck, You Sucker!, as well as the television programs Marty and Jesus of Nazareth.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Personal life and death 3
  • Filmography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Steiger was born in Westhampton, New York, the son of Lorraine (née Driver) and Frederick Steiger,[1][2] of French, Scottish, and German descent.[3][4] Steiger was raised as a Lutheran.[3][5] He never knew his father, a vaudevillian who had been part of a traveling song-and-dance team with Steiger's mother (who subsequently left show business).[4] Steiger grew up with his alcoholic mother before running away from home at age sixteen to join the United States Navy during World War II, where he saw action on destroyers in the Pacific.[6]


Steiger appeared in over 100 motion pictures. He began his acting career in theatre and on live television in the early 1950s. On May 24, 1953, an episode of Goodyear Television Playhouse jump-started his career. The episode was the story of Marty written by Paddy Chayefsky. Marty is the story of a lonely homely butcher from the Bronx in search of love. Refusing to sign a seven-year studio contract, Steiger later turned down the role in the film version in 1955. Signing a studio contract at that time would have restricted the range of roles Steiger could play and determined the image he portrayed onscreen; those were two things Steiger objected to throughout his career.

He won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Chief of Police Bill Gillespie in In the Heat of the Night (1967) opposite Sidney Poitier. He was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954), in which he played Marlon Brando's character's brother. He was nominated again, this time for Best Actor, for the gritty The Pawnbroker (1965), a Sidney Lumet film in which Steiger portrays an emotionally withdrawn Holocaust survivor living in New York City.

He played Jud Fry in the film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!, in which he did his own singing. One of his favorite roles was as Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago (1965). Steiger, one of only two Americans in the cast of that film, was initially apprehensive about working with such great British actors as Ralph Richardson and Alec Guinness and was afraid that his performance would not blend with theirs, but he won acclaim for this role. He also befriended fellow actor Tom Courtenay on this film.[7]

He also appeared in The Big Knife as an unduly aggressive film studio boss who berates film star Jack Palance; as Al Capone in Al Capone (1959); as Mr. Joyboy in The Loved One; as the serial killer in No Way to Treat a Lady; as a repressed gay NCO in The Sergeant (1968); and as Rabbi Saunders in The Chosen (1981).

Steiger in 1978

He also played well-known figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte in Waterloo (1970); Benito Mussolini in The Last Four Days (1974) and again in Lion of the Desert (1981); W. C. Fields in (1976);W. C. Fields and Me Pontius Pilate in Franco Zeffirelli's TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977); U.S. Marshal Bill Tilghman in Cattle Annie and Little Britches (1981), and mob boss Sam Giancana in the TV miniseries, Sinatra (1992). Steiger appeared in several Italian films, including Hands Over the City (1963) and Lucky Luciano (1974) (both Francesco Rosi's), and also Sergio Leone's Duck, You Sucker! (1971) starring James Coburn. In France, he starred in Claude Chabrol's Innocents with Dirty Hands opposite Romy Schneider.

In his later years he appeared in The Amityville Horror (1979); The Neighbor (1993), The Specialist (1994), and Mars Attacks!. On television, he appeared in the miniseries Jackie Collins' Hollywood Wives (1985), Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City (1993), and a 1995 Columbo television film, Strange Bedfellows. Among his final roles was the judge in the prison drama, The Hurricane (1999). The film reunited him with director Norman Jewison, who had directed him in In the Heat of the Night. His last film was Poolhall Junkies (2002).[8]

Steiger also starred in the film version of

In 1985, Steiger performed on Joni Mitchell's album Dog Eat Dog where he provided the voice of an evangelist in the song "Tax Free".

Personal life and death

Steiger was married five times: he married actress Sally Gracie (1952–1958),[10] actress Claire Bloom (1959–1969),[10] Sherry Nelson (1973–1979),[10] Paula Ellis (1986–1997)[10] and actress Joan Benedict Steiger (married 2000 until his death).[10] He had a daughter, opera singer Anna Steiger (born in 1960) by Bloom, and a son, Michael Steiger (born in 1993), from his marriage to Ellis.[10]

Steiger died of pneumonia and complications from surgery for a gall bladder tumor on July 9, 2002 in Los Angeles[10] and was buried in Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery. The film Saving Shiloh, released in 2006, was dedicated to his memory.


Year Film Role Notes
1951 Teresa Frank
1954 On the Waterfront Charley Malloy Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1955 Oklahoma! Jud Fry
The Big Knife Stanley Shriner Hoff
The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell Maj. Allan Guillon
1956 Jubal 'Pinky' Pinkum
The Harder They Fall Nick Benko
Back from Eternity Vasquel
1957 The Unholy Wife Paul Hochen
Run of the Arrow Pvt. O'Meara
Across the Bridge Carl Schaffner
1958 Cry Terror! Paul Hoplin
1959 Al Capone Al Capone Nominated — Laurel Award for Best Male Dramatic Performance
1960 Seven Thieves Paul Mason
1961 The Mark Dr. Edmund McNally
World in My Pocket Frank Morgan
1962 13 West Street Detective Sergeant Koleski
Convicts 4 'Tiptoes'
The Longest Day Destroyer Commander
1963 Hands Over the City Edoardo Nottola
1964 Time of Indifference Leo
The Pawnbroker Sol Nazerman BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Silver Bear for Best Actor
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Laurel Award for Best Male Dramatic Performance
Nominated — New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
1965 The Loved One Mr. Joyboy Sant Jordi Award for Best Performance in a Foreign Film (also for In the Heat of the Night and No Way to Treat a Lady)
Doctor Zhivago Komarovsky
1967 In the Heat of the Night Gillespie Academy Award for Best Actor
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Laurel Award for Best Male Dramatic Performance
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Sant Jordi Award for Best Performance in a Foreign Film (also for The Loved One and No Way to Treat a Lady)
The Girl and the General The General
1968 No Way to Treat a Lady Christopher Gill Sant Jordi Award for Best Performance in a Foreign Film (also for The Loved One and In the Heat of the Night)
The Sergeant Sgt. Albert Callan David di Donatello for Best Foreign Actor
1969 The Illustrated Man Carl
Three Into Two Won't Go Steve Howard
1970 Waterloo Napoleon Bonaparte
1971 Happy Birthday, Wanda June Harold Ryan
Duck, You Sucker! Juan Miranda
1973 Lolly-Madonna XXX Laban Feather
1974 Last Days of Mussolini Benito Mussolini
Lucky Luciano Gene Giannini
1975 Innocents with Dirty Hands Louis Wormser
Hennessy Niall Hennessy
1976 W.C. Fields and Me W.C. Fields
1978 F.I.S.T. Senator Madison
Love and Bullets Joe Bomposa
1979 Breakthrough Gen. Webster
Portrait of a Hitman Max Andreotti
The Amityville Horror Father Delaney
1980 Wolf Lake Charlie
Klondike Fever Soapy Smith Nominated — Genie Award for Best Performance by a Foreign Actor
The Lucky Star Col. Gluck Nominated — Genie Award for Best Performance by a Foreign Actor
1981 Cattle Annie and Little Britches Tilghman
Lion of the Desert Benito Mussolini
The Chosen Reb Saunders Montréal World Film Festival Award for Best Actor
1982 The Magic Mountain Mynheer Peperkorn
1984 The Naked Face Lt. McGreary
1987 Catch the Heat Jason Hannibal
1988 American Gothic Pa
1989 The January Man Mayor Eamon Flynn
Tennessee Nights Judge Prescott
1991 Men of Respect Charlie D'Amico
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Rev. Willin
1993 The Neighbor Dr. Myron Hatch
1994 The Specialist Joe Leon Nominated — Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
Seven Sundays Benjamin
1995 Tom Clancy's Op Center Rudi Kushnerov (Boroda)
1996 Carpool Mr. Hammerman
Shiloh Doc Wallace
Mars Attacks! General Decker
1997 Truth or Consequences, N.M. Tony Vago
Incognito Milton A. Donovan
1998 Legacy Sadler
1999 Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season Doc. Wallace
Crazy in Alabama Judge Louis Mead
The Hurricane Judge Sarokin
End of Days Father Kovak
2000 The Last Producer Sheri Ganse
2001 A Month of Sundays Charley McCabe New York International Independent Film and Video Festival Award for Best Actor
The Hollywood Sign Floyd Benson
2002 Poolhall Junkies Nick


  1. ^ Current Biography, H.W. Wilson Co., 1991, p. 407, ISBN 
  2. ^ Rod Steiger Biography
  3. ^ a b Ross, Helen; Lillian Ross (1962), The Player: A Profile of an Art, Simon and Schuster, p. 275, ISBN 
  4. ^ a b Rod Steiger,  
  5. ^ magazineTime
  6. ^ Obituary: Rod Steiger
  7. ^ McNeal, Jeff (2001-11-01), Rod Steiger interview,, archived from the original on 2007-10-10 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Cornwell, Rupert (2002-07-10), Rod Steiger, 'brooding and volatile' Hollywood tough guy for more than 50 years, dies aged 77,  
  10. ^ a b c d e f g 10 July 2002 "Rod Steiger" The Guardian.

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