Is your surname Steiger?

Research the Steiger family

Rod Steiger's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Rodney Stephen Steiger

Also Known As: "Rod"
Birthdate: (77)
Birthplace: Westhampton, Suffolk, NY, United States
Death: July 9, 2002 (77)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States (pneumonia and kidney failure)
Place of Burial: Hollywood Hills Cemetery
Immediate Family:

Son of Frederick Steiger and Augusta Amelia Driver
Husband of <private> Benedict
Ex-husband of Sally Gracie Keppe; Claire Bloom; <private> Nelson and <private> Ellis
Father of Anna Justine Steiger and <private> Steiger

Occupation: Torpedoman in WWII and actor
Managed by: Kevin Lawrence Hanit
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About Rod Steiger

Rodney Stephen "Rod" Steiger (April 14, 1925 – July 9, 2002) was an Academy Award-winning 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, and Waterloo as well as the television programs Marty and Jesus of Nazareth.

Early life

Steiger was born in Westhampton, New York, the son of Lorraine (née Driver) and Frederick Steiger, of French, Scottish, and German descent. Steiger was raised as a Lutheran. 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). 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.


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 "pigeon-hole" Steiger as to the roles he would later play and image portrayed on screen; those were two things Steiger objected to throughout his career. The role of Marty was turned over to Ernest Borgnine. Borgnine would receive the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Rod Steiger never regretted his decision to turn down the film role of Marty.

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, the only American 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 he would stick out, but he won acclaim for his performance. He also befriended fellow actor Tom Courtenay on this film;[7] the two remained friends until Steiger's death.[citation needed]

He also appeared in The Big Knife as an overly 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; and as a repressed gay NCO in The Sergeant (1968); as Rabbi Saunders in The Chosen (1981).


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 W. C. Fields and Me (1976); Pontius Pilate in Franco Zeffirelli's TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977); and mob boss Sam Giancana in the TV miniseries, Sinatra (1992). He appeared in several Italian films, including Hands Over the City (1963) and Lucky Luciano (1974) (both Francesco Rosi's), and also Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dynamite (1971). 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 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. 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 A Month of Sundays.[citation needed]

Steiger also starred in the film version of Kurt Vonnegut's play Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1971). In 1969, he appeared in the film adaptation of Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man with his then-wife, Claire Bloom. He was offered the title role in Patton, but turned it down because he did not want to glorify war.[8] The role was then given to George C. Scott, who won a Best Actor Oscar. Steiger called this refusal his "dumbest career move".[citation needed]

Personal life and death

Steiger was married five times: actress Sally Gracie (1952–1958),[9] actress Claire Bloom (1959–1969),[9] Sherry Nelson (1973–1979), 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.

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


view all 14

Rod Steiger's Timeline

April 14, 1925
Westhampton, Suffolk, NY, United States