Last Updated: September 4, 2023
Richest CelebritiesActors
Net Worth:
$8 Million
Date of Birth:
Apr 14, 1925 - Jul 9, 2002 (77 years old)
Place of Birth:
5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
United States of America
💰 Compare Rod Steiger's Net Worth

What was Rod Steiger's Net Worth?

Rod Steiger was an actor of the screen and stage, known for his performances in such Hollywood films as "On the Waterfront," "The Pawnbroker," "Doctor Zhivago," and "In the Heat of the Night," the lattermost of which earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Among his many other notable credits are "Waterloo," "Duck, You Sucker!," "Last Days of Mussolini," "The Amityville Horror," and "The Chosen." On stage, Steiger acted in such productions as "Enemy of the People," "Night Music," and "Seagulls Over Sorrento."

Early Life and Education

Rod Steiger was born on April 14, 1925 in Westhampton, New York as the only child of Lorraine and Frederick. However, he never knew his father, a vaudevillian who had been part of a touring song-and-dance team with his mother. Steiger's mother, meanwhile, became an alcoholic after giving up acting due to a leg impairment. With his mother, he moved through several towns before settling in Newark, New Jersey. In addition to his mother's alcoholism, Steiger was deeply affected as a child by a sexual assault he endured from a pedophile. He found his passion for the arts while attending West Side High School, where he acted in a number of school plays. When he was 16, Steiger ran away from home and joined the US Navy during World War II. He saw action in the South Pacific as a torpedoman on destroyers. After the war, Steiger secured rent and four years of schooling through the GI Bill. He attended the Civil Service Little Theater group and did a course at the New School for Social Research.

Film Career in the 1950s and 60s

Steiger made his big-screen debut with a small part in Fred Zinnemann's 1951 romantic drama "Teresa." His breakthrough came three years later in Elia Kazan's crime drama "On the Waterfront," in which he played Charley, the brother of Marlon Brando's main character Terry. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture and earned Steiger his first nomination, for Best Supporting Actor. He next played Jud Fry in Fred Zinnemann's 1955 film version of the musical "Oklahoma!" The same year, Steiger appeared in Robert Aldrich's film noir "The Big Knife" and Otto Preminger's biographical drama "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell." In 1956, he appeared in the Western "Jubal" and the film noir "The Harder They Fall." Steiger went on to appear in three films in 1957: the film noir "The Unholy Wife," the Western "Run of the Arrow," and the British thriller "Across the Bridge." Closing out the decade, he starred in the thriller "Cry Terror!" and the biographical crime drama "Al Capone," in which he portrayed the titular mob boss.

In 1960, Steiger starred as a thief in Henry Hathaway's heist film "Seven Thieves." The year after that, he played a prison psychiatrist in "The Mark." Steiger's subsequent credits included the crime dramas "World in My Pocket" and "13 West Street," the epic war film "The Longest Day," and the Italian dramas "Hands Over the City" and "Time of Indifference." In 1964, Steiger gave one of his most acclaimed performances in Sidney Lumet's "The Pawnbroker," starring as a Holocaust survivor living in New York City. For his work, he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He next appeared in Tony Richardson's comedy "The Loved One" and David Lean's epic historical romance "Doctor Zhivago." In 1967, Steiger starred opposite Sidney Poitier in the mystery drama "In the Heat of the Night," which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Steiger won numerous awards for his performance as police chief Bill Gillespie, including the Academy Award for Best Actor. He went on to star as a serial killer in "No Way to Treat a Lady" and as a repressed gay officer in "The Sergeant." Steiger concluded the decade with "The Illustrated Man" and "Three into Two Won't Go."

Rod Steiger

Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images

Later Film Career

Having turned down the titular role in the 1970 biographical war film "Patton," Steiger starred in a different 1970 biographical war film, "Waterloo." He portrayed Napoleon Bonaparte in the Italian-Soviet co-production. Steiger subsequently starred in "Happy Birthday, Wanda June" and Sergio Leone's "Duck, You Sucker!" Following those, he starred in "Lolly-Madonna XXX," "The Heroes," and "Lucky Luciano." In 1975, Steiger portrayed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in "Last Days of Mussolini," and also starred in Claude Chabrol's psychological thriller "Innocents with Dirty Hands" and Don Sharp's thriller "Hennessy." The next year, he portrayed actor W. C. Fields in the biopic "W. C. Fields and Me." Steiger's other credits in the 1970s included the crime drama "F.I.S.T.," the action crime film "Love and Bullets," the war film "Breakthrough," and the supernatural horror film "The Amityville Horror."

Kicking off the 1980s, Steiger starred in the Canadian films "Klondike Fever" and "The Lucky Star," and reprised his role as Mussolini in "Lion of the Desert." He subsequently starred as an Orthodox rabbi in "The Chosen." Steiger went on to appear mostly in low-budget and independent productions after that, largely owing to health problems. In 1984, he starred as a detective in "The Naked Face." Later in the decade, he was in "Catch the Heat," "American Gothic," "The January Man," and "Tennessee Waltz." In the early 1990s, Steiger starred in the crime drama "Men of Respect," the Southern Gothic drama "The Ballad of the Sad Café," and the horror thriller "The Neighbor." His credits in the second half of the decade included "Shiloh," "Mars Attacks!," "Truth or Consequences, N.M.," "The Hurricane," and "End of Days." Steiger's final film role was in 2002's "Poolhall Junkies."

Stage Career

On the stage, Steiger made his debut in a 1946 production of "Curse You, Jack Dalton!" at the Civic Repertory Theatre of Newark. The following year, he was invited to attend the Actors Studio, where he became a pioneering figure in the method acting movement. Steiger had his first major role on Broadway in 1951, playing A. L. Rosenberger in "Night Music." After that, he acted in "Seagulls Over Sorrento." In the late 1950s, Steiger appeared in a stage adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's film "Rashomon," starring as the character originally played by Toshiro Mifune. He appeared in his final Broadway production, "Moby Dick – Rehearsed," in 1962.

Television Career

Steiger was prolific on the small screen during the 1950s. He appeared in over 250 live television productions within a five-year period, including in such anthology series as "Lux Video Theatre," "Tales of Tomorrow," "Medallion Theatre," and "Kraft Theatre." One of Steiger's most notable roles was as the titular character in Paddy Chayefsky's "Marty," which aired in 1953 as part of "Goodyear Television Playhouse." A couple years later, the teleplay was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film starring Ernest Borgnine. Among his notable later television credits, Steiger portrayed Pontius Pilate in Franco Zeffirelli's 1977 miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth." In the 1980s, he appeared in the miniseries "The Glory Boys" and "Hollywood Wives." Steiger continued acting in miniseries in the 1990s, with credits including "Sinatra" and "Tom Clancy's Op Center." In the early 21st century, he was in the television films "The Flying Dutchman" and "The Last Producer."

Personal Life and Death

Steiger was married a total of five times. His first wife was actress Sally Gracie, to whom he was wed from 1952 to 1958. Next, Steiger was married to actress Claire Bloom from 1959 to 1969; they had a daughter named Anna. He was wed to his third wife, secretary Sherry Nelson, from 1973 to 1979. Steiger went on to marry singer Paula Ellis in 1986; they had a son named Michael before divorcing in 1997. Steiger was married to his fifth and final wife, actress Joan Benedict, from 2000 until his passing.

Steiger dealt with many health issues during his life, including severe depression. He also struggled with obesity, and underwent two open-heart surgeries in the latter half of the 1970s. Steiger passed away on July 9, 2002 from complications stemming from surgery to remove a gallbladder tumor. He was 77 years of age, and was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.

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