Born: 14 April 1925
Died: 9 July 2002
Birthplace: Westhampton, New York
Best known as: Star of In the Heat of the Night
Name at birth: Rodney Steiger
Steiger won the 1967 Academy Award for playing a bigoted Mississippi cop opposite Sidney Poitier's black Philadelphia cop in the film In the Heat of the Night. Feisty and sometimes difficult, Steiger was a serious-minded actor in the manner of Marlon Brando and James Dean; like those two, he studied Method acting at the prestigious Actors Studio in New York. Steiger played Brando's brother in On the Waterfront, the man to whom Brando utters the famous line, "I coulda been a contender!" Steiger's other films included Oklahoma! (1955, as the villain Jud Fry), Doctor Zhivago (1965, with Omar Sharif), The Amityville Horror (1979, based on the DeFeo family story) and End of Days (1999, with Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Steiger was married five times: to Sally Gracie, actress Claire Bloom, Sherry Nelson, Paula Ellis and Joan Benedict. He and Bloom had a daughter, Anna, and with Ellis he had a son, Michael Winston… In the Heat of the Night was made into a TV series in 1988, with Carroll O’Connor in Steiger’s role… Steiger turned down the title role in the 1970 film Patton; the role went to George C. Scott, who won an Oscar with it… Steiger played the title role in Marty on TV in 1953; Ernest Borgnine played the role in the subsequent feature film, and also won the Academy Award… Steiger suffered from depression throughout much of the 1980s… At 16 Steiger lied about his age and joined the Navy, in which he served during WWII.
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