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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
Screen legend Steiger dies
Rod Steiger with his wife in March 2002
Steiger made his first film appearance in 1951
Oscar-winning actor Rod Steiger, best-known for appearing in some of the biggest critical and box office successes of the 1950s and 60s, has died.

The star, who won an Academy Award for his role as a small-town sheriff in 1967's In the Heat of the Night, was 77.

Steiger with Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront
Steiger got his big break in On The Waterfront
He went into hospital in Los Angeles for gall bladder surgery, but died at 1700 BST on Tuesday after suffering pneumonia and kidney failure, his publicist said.

Steiger found fame soon after launching his big screen career in 1951, and made more than 120 film appearances before his final role in 2001.

Praise has been pouring in from those who knew him, for his dominating screen presence, passion and meticulous acting craft.

Norman Jewison, who directed Steiger in The Hurricane starring Denzel Washington and In The Heat Of The Night with Sidney Poitier, said: "I always tried to put him in every film I did because to me, he was like an anchor for the rest of the cast."

Sidney Poiter added: "He will be remembered as one of America's greatest actors."

Big break

Steiger got his big break and first Oscar nomination for playing Marlon Brando's racketeer brother in 1954's On the Waterfront before starring as the lovelorn Jud in Oklahoma! the following year.

He also played the Jewish shopkeeper in Harlem in The Pawnbroker in 1965 and the evil Komarovsky in 1965's Doctor Zhivago.

Rod Steiger, son Michael and fourth wife Paula Ellis
Steiger had a son, Michael, by fourth wife Paula Ellis
"My generation of actors was taught to be able to create different people - that's what an actor is supposed to do," he once said.

He turned down the lead role in Patton - which won an Oscar for George C Scott and was a move that Steiger called the "biggest mistake of my life".

Ms De Waal said: "He loved to act. He was acting up until the end. He loved it and he was very good in so many memorable pictures. The list just goes on and on."

Money business

Current Hollywood stars found themselves on the receiving end of Steiger's strong opinions when he criticised them for surrendering principles for money.

"They're not going to defend anything if they think they're going to lose a dollar," he said of the industry he called "show business, business, business".

Rod Steiger in 1992
He also campaigned against the stigma of mental illness
He was married five times, including a 10-year marriage to UK actress Claire Bloom. He wed his last wife, Joan Benedict, in October 2000.

He and former co-star Bloom had a daughter, Anna, who is now an opera singer, while a son, Michael, was born to him and fourth wife Paula Ellis in 1993.

An long bout of depression followed a heart bypass operation, but he recovered to campaign and raise awareness on mental health, and addressed Congress on the issue.

"He was very open about it, he did a lot of appearances, he wanted to fight the stigma against mental illness and let people know it's a chemical imbalance and nothing to be ashamed of," Ms De Waal said.

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