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Steven Hill (1922)

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  Summary  

Steven Hill is an American film and television actor. His two better-known roles are District Attorney Adam Schiff on the NBC TV drama series Law & Order, whom he portrayed for ten seasons (1990–2000), and Dan Briggs, the original team leader of the Impossible Missions Force on CBS's television series Mission: Impossible, whom he portrayed only in the initial season of the show (1966–1967).

  Biography  

 early life and career
Hill was born Solomon Krakovsky in Seattle, Washington. After serving four years in the Naval Reserve, Hill made his first New York stage appearance in Ben Hecht's A Flag Is Born in 1946, which also featured a young Marlon Brando. Hill says his big break came when he landed a small part in the hit Broadway show Mister Roberts. "The director, Joshua Logan, thought I had some ability, and he let me create one of the scenes," says Hill. "So, I improvised dialog and it went in the show. That was my first endorsement. It gave me tremendous encouragement to stay in the business." Hill said this was a thrilling time in his life when, fresh out of the service, he played the hapless sailor Stefanowski. "You could almost smell it from the very first reading that took place; this is going to be an overwhelming hit," said Hill. "We all felt it and experienced it and were convinced of it, and we were riding the crest of a wave from the very first day of rehearsals."

In 1947, Hill became a founding member of Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio alongside such other actors as Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and Julie Harris.

Hill made his film debut in 1950 in Lady Without a Passport. He then re-enlisted in the Navy in 1952 for two years and, when he completed his service, resumed his acting in earnest. Strasberg later said, "Steven Hill is considered one of the finest actors America has ever produced". When he was starting out as an actor, Hill sought out roles that had a social purpose. "Later, I learned that show business is about entertaining," he says. "So, I've had to reconcile my idealistic feelings with reality".

Hill was particularly busy in the so-called "Golden Age" of live TV drama, appearing in such prestigious video offerings as The Trial of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1960 earning him an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Bartolomeo Vanzetti. "When I first became an actor, there were two young actors in New York: Marlon Brando and Steven Hill," said Martin Landau. "A lot of people said that Steven would have been the one, not Marlon. He was legendary. Nuts, volatile, mad, and his work was exciting".

In 1961, Hill had an unusual experience when he appeared as Sigmund Freud on Broadway in Henry Denker's A Far Country, portraying Freud at the age of 35. On April 12, 1961, Hill was stricken with a virus the night of a sold-out performance for the Masters Children's Center of Dobbs Ferry. As a result, the producers decided to cancel the performance just as the curtain was about to go up. Among the notables in the audience were Joseph P. Kennedy, Jack Benny, and Richard Rodgers. The audience was invited to exchange its ticket stubs for other performances. The understudy was not ready to replace Hill, so Alfred Ryder, the play's director, stepped into the role of Freud for one performance.. Hill guested in the original Robert Stack series 'The Untouchables' episode: 'Jack 'Legs' Diamond' as the title gangster character giving a compelling cold evil performance, and a similar sinister role as a confined to bed ruthless manipulative millionaire in 'The White Knight' a 1966 black & white third season episode of The Fugitive Starring David Janssen.

Hill's early screen credits include The Goddess and A Child Is Waiting.

 personal life
Hill and his first wife, Selma Stern, were married in 1951 and had four children before divorcing in 1964. Hill married his second wife, Rachel, in 1967 and they have five children.

 His Orthodox Judaism


Appearing in the play A Far Country in 1961 had a profound effect on Hill's later life. In one scene, a patient screams at Freud, "You are a Jew!" This caused Hill to think about his religion. "In the pause that followed I would think, 'What about this?' I slowly became aware that there was something more profound going on in the world than just plays and movies and TV shows. I was provoked to explore my religion." He was inspired by Rabbi Yakov Yosef Twersky (1900–1968), the late Skverrer Rebbe, to adhere to strict Orthodox Judaism, observing a kosher diet, praying three times a day, wearing a four-cornered fringed garment beneath his clothes, and strictly observing Shabbat. This made Hill unavailable for Friday night or Saturday matinee performances, effectively ending his stage career and closing many roles to him in the movies, most notably The Sand Pebbles.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Steven Hill", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.