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 Joan Benedict Steiger Interview 
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There are the golden era Hollywood icons that you can whose names are easily recognized and whose works are fondly remembered ... Gable, Dean, Monroe, Crawford, Astaire, Power, Taylor and many others.

Then, there are the quietly iconic actors and actresses whose faces "look familiar" but whose names aren't quite so easily recalled but whose presence in Hollywood is no less enduring and certainly no less important.

You may not instantly know her name, at least not her full name, but Joan Benedict Steiger has been entertaining you for years from television's Candid Camera to dozens of stage, film and television appearances.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Joan Benedict Steiger grew up dreaming of the artistic life. While her parents didn't have an arts background, they recognized their daughter's passion for the arts at a young age. By the age of seven, she was tap dancing in public at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The only grandchild in a large family that included having seven uncles, Ms. Benedict Steiger grew up in her grandfather's house off Prospect Park. Her talent encouraged by her mother, by the age of nine she'd left the United States to study at the Rome Opera Ballet School and spent time in Paris. Subsequently, she became fluent in French, Italian and English.


In a recent interview, Joan Benedict Steiger was asked "What's your greatest accomplishment?" She replied "I've been loved my entire life," a life that has included over 50 years on stage, screen and television and marriages to actor John Myhers, Oscar-winning actor Rod Steiger and, most recently, a long-term relationship with veteran actor Jeremy Slate. Tragically, all three actors died from various forms of cancer. After 50+ years of living and loving, Joan Benedict Steiger is as vibrant and passionate about acting as ever and will be seen in the upcoming film Deadly Border and recently appeared on Fox's Dollhouse. She sat down with The Independent Critic recently to talk about her life, her loves, her career and the perpetual optimism that has kept her acting and loving all these years.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

One of the things that I find most fascinating about you is that you seem to have always known that you would end up in entertainment. It seems like most people I talk to discover their talent in high school or college, but you really were a child entertainer. Can you tell me more about how you started out?

JOAN BENEDICT STEIGER

I always thought when I was little that I would be a dancer. I started studying ballet and was tap dancing in public at the Brooklyn Academy of Music at the age of seven.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

So, your parents never really thought you were crazy for being so interested in the arts?

JOAN BENEDICT STEIGER

I grew up in my grandfather's house in Brooklyn, New York. I had a large family, but I was the only grandchild. My parents weren't in entertainment, but they noticed my talent early and encouraged it. My mother was a businesswoman, and she recognized that I had a gift. So, she encouraged me to go to Europe where I could receive better training.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Ah, so it was her idea.

JOAN BENEDICT STEIGER

She shipped me off with a governess and I studied at the Rome Opera Ballet School. I also spent time studying in Paris. I wasn't really built for ballet, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I became fluent in Italian and French, and loved studying the culture.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC


How did you go from being a prospective dancer to becoming interested in acting?

JOAN BENEDICT STEIGER

When I came back to New York, I studied acting under Robert Lewis and Stella Adler. My first acting job was as part of the ensemble for the Steve Allen Show. I also served as the spokesperson for Hazel Bishop cosmetics. After that, I landed Candid Camera and had what most consider to be one of the show's most memorable skits where I played a lost tourist wearing a fancy hat with a large, distracting feather.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

I remember that skit. You seem to be one of those actresses where the minute someone sees you they think to themselves "I remember her." You had early success on television. Which do you prefer, stage or screen or television?

JOAN BENEDICT STEIGER

Stage definitely. The theatre for me is like being in church. It's the hardest for me, because I struggle with memory. Yet, it is the most rewarding. When you feel the audience and that connection with your cast, it's just the most beautiful thing.
THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

And then you met John Myhers, your first husband?

JOAN BENEDICT STEIGER

I met all three of the men with whom I've had long-term relationships while I was in New York. I actually met Rod (Steiger) first when we acted together on television. We were in make-up, and he said "Come here, little girl." We dated for a year while he was in New York starring in Rashomon on Broadway, but he had commitments in California and had to leave. I met John... He was a comedian and a singer. Richard Rodgers saw him on Jack Paar and called him in to audition for the national touring company of The Sound of Music. He went in to audition for Max, but during the audition Richard proclaimed "He's our Captain Von Trapp." John was offered the part of Captain Von Trapp, and he asked me to travel with him. I was offered a contract by Candid Camera, but I said "I'm leaving with John." I traveled with John for three years and we were married in Chicago by the mayor, Richard Daley. The way we traveled could never happen again. It was the most unusual experience. Richard (Rodgers) had all of us traveling together. We had our own private train ... we had all the children, seven understudies, the mothers, the teacher, 40 musicians and all the original sets. Richard insisted on it.

At the end of the tour, we ended up in California and we bought a home. That's how I wound up in California in 1963 and I worked all the time doing soaps like General Hospital and Days of Our Lives. In between, I started doing theatre. I did Promises, Promises in Las Vegas. I did The MInd With The Dirty Man with Don Knotts here in California and toured with him down South. One of my favorite shows is Leona, a one-woman show about Leona Helmsley at the Matrix Theatre in Hollywood. I really worked so hard on that...I told you about my memorizing difficulties.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

A one-woman show and you have trouble memorizing? That sounds incredibly difficult.

JOAN BENEDICT STEIGER

Well, I had to study for six months. Whenever I take a role, I write it out and that helps with memorization. Once I had studied, though, I felt so secure and so confident. I remember the director saying to me "Now, don't worry Joan. I'll be off-stage so if you forget anything." I said "Oh, you will not!" My god, that would completely take my concentration away.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

You did an autobiographical show, as well?

JOAN BENEDICT STEIGER

Yes, I did that here in Hollywood. It was called The Loves of My Life. I wrote it and I had the nerve to sing 15 songs. I won't do that again. Everybody loved it. It was just talking about my life and I sang mostly love songs. I've studied singing most of my life. You know what? Barbra Streisand's a singer ... and that's all I have to say. . I was surrounded by my husband John, who was so incredible that when people would say to me "Do you sing?" I'd say "No!" Anyway, that show was fun and it was a success.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

You've really stayed busy throughout your career...

JOAN BENEDICT STEIGER

Yes. Yes... and I just recently won the Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival's "Eternity Award." When I got up to speak about it, I asked "Is this the casket award?" When I won that is when I started really looking at all these scripts in my home, these projects that I've done. One of the most recent ones I did was with Ty Power, Jr (son of Tyrone Power) called The Beauty Queen of Leenane with our deep Irish brogues.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Is that something that comes naturally for you, accents and dialects?

JOAN BENEDICT STEIGER

Yes, I speak French and Italian. Languages have always come very easily for me, but not mathematics! <laughs>
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