Steiger, Rodney Stephen “Rod”.

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Steiger, Rodney Stephen “Rod” born 14-04-1925 in Westhampton, New York, the son of Lorraine (born Driver) and Frederick Steiger, of French, Scottish, and German descent. Steiger was raised as a Lutheran. Rodney 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. 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. He first served on USS Benham (DD-397) as a Seaman 1st Class then joined the newly commissioned USS Taussig (DD-746) on 20-05-1944 as a Petty Officer 3rd Class. His first introduction to war was when he was ordered to machine-gun and sink an un-armed Japanese civilian fishing boat whilst his ship was escorting the carrier USS Hornet en route to launching the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942. He saw action on destroyers in the Pacific as a serving as a torpedo-man. Information is a little sketchy about his exploits except to say that he was a torpedo operator and that he fought in the Battle of Midway. His experiences during the war haunted him for the rest of his life, particularly the loss of Americans during the Battle of Iwo Jima, as well as the sinking of vessels by the Taussig which were known to have women and children aboard. On 17-12-1944, off the coast of Luzon in the Philippines, Steiger and the Taussig encountered a severe typhoon, which became known as Halsey’s Typhoon, with winds reaching one hundred knots (115 mph) and 80 foot (24 m) waves. As a result, three U.S. destroyers were lost, but the Taussig survived, with Steiger tying a rope to himself on deck and flattening himself as waves engulfed the ship.

After the war, the GI Bill paid for his rent at a room on West 81st Street in New York City, an income of just over $100 a month, and four years of schooling. He initially found a job oiling machines and washing floors. He decided to attend a drama class, primarily because of its membership of attractive young women. Known as the Civil Service Little Theater group, it was conducted by the Office of Dependants and Beneficiaries, where he was employed at the time. This led him to start a two-year course at the New School for Social Research, run by German émigré Erwin Piscator. During one audition, Steiger was cast after barely uttering a few words, the director exclaiming he had a “fresh, wonderful quality.” Another talented pupil at the time was Walter Matthau, who dubbed the institution “The Neurotic School for Sexual Research.” Steiger was surprised to discover his own talent as an actor, and he was encouraged to pursue further studies at the Dramatic Workshop. One of the main reasons he wanted to be an actor was to regain public respect for his family name, which had so humiliated him during childhood. Another important factor was his belief that he “did not have the temperament for a regular job”, and would have ended up a miserable, violent alcoholic. His only role model as an actor was Paul Muni, who he thought was “the greatest,” though he also had a deep respect for French actor Harry Baur and, according to biographer Hutchinson, he admired Charlie Chaplin “to the point of adoration.”

Death and burial ground of Steiger, Rodney Stephen “Rod”.


Rodney portrayed Napoleon Bonaparte in Waterloo (1970) and Steiger played a small role of a destroyer commander among the large ensemble cast of The Longest Day. Steiger was married five times: he married actress Sally Gracie (1952–1958), actress Claire Bloom (1959–1969), secretary Sherry Nelson (1973–1979), singer Paula Ellis (1986–1997) and actress Joan Benedict Steiger (married 2000 until his death). 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. In an interview with journalist Kenneth Passingham, Steiger stated that Bloom was “all I ever wanted in a woman”, and that “maybe our marriage was better than most because we were both established when we met”.e couple bought a home in Malibu, California, a community that appealed to Steiger but which Bloom found boring. They also purchased an apartment in Manhattan and a cottage in County Galway, in close proximity to John Huston’s home. Financial considerations led Steiger to sell their New York apartment in the mid-1970s. It upset him greatly when his marriage with Bloom ended in 1969 and that she quickly remarried Broadway producer Hillard Elkins the same year, a man whom Steiger had entrusted to care for her while he was away shooting Waterloo. Steiger was also close friends with actress Elizabeth Taylor

Actor Rod Steiger died in Los Angeles on 09-07-2002, aged 77, from pneumonia and complications from surgery for a gall bladder tumor. He is buried in Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery.


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