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Steven Hill

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Occupation  actor
Name  Steven Hill
Children  9

Religion  Jewish
Years active  1949–67, 1977–2000
Role  Film actor
Steven Hill STEVEN HILL WALLPAPERS FREE Wallpapers amp Background images

Full Name  Solomon Krakovsky
Born  February 24, 1922 (age 101) (1922-02-24) Seattle, Washington, USA
Awards  Sylvania Television Award dramatic actor of the year 1954
Spouse  Rachael Hill (m. 1967), Selma Stern (m. 1951–1964)
Nominations  Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Movies and TV shows  Law & Order, Mission: Impossible, Raw Deal, Billy Bathgate, Yentl
Similar People  Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston, S Epatha Merkerson, Benjamin Bratt, Jesse L Martin

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Steven Hill (born Solomon Krakovsky; February 24, 1922 – August 23, 2016) was an American actor. His two better-known roles are district attorney Adam Schiff on the NBC television drama series Law & Order, whom he portrayed for 10 seasons (1990–2000), and Dan Briggs, the original team leader of the Impossible Missions Force on the CBS television series Mission: Impossible, whom he portrayed in the initial season of the show (1966–1967).


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Early life

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Hill was born Solomon Krakovsky or Solomon Berg in Seattle, Washington, to Russian Jewish immigrants. Hill served four years in the United States Naval Reserve. In the 1950s, Hill moved to New York City to pursue an acting career.


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Hill made his first Broadway stage appearance in Ben Hecht's A Flag Is Born in 1946, which also featured a young Marlon Brando. Hill said that 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," said 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 Navy, 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."

Actors Studio member

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In 1947, Hill joined Brando, Montgomery Clift, and Julie Harris, among others, as one of the 50 fortunate applicants (out of about 700 interviewed) to be accepted by the newly created Actors Studio.

Early screen work

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Hill made his film debut in 1950 in A Lady Without 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 said. "So, I've had to reconcile my idealistic feelings with reality."

TV's Golden Age

Hill was particularly busy in the so-called "Golden Age" of live TV drama, appearing in such offerings as The Trial of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1960, where he portrayed Bartolomeo Vanzetti. "When I first became an actor, there were two young actors in New York: Marlon Brando and Steven Hill," said Martin Landau, who later became Hill's castmate in the first season of Mission: Impossible, as described below in more detail. Landau went on to admit, "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. For on April 12, 1961, the night of a sold-out performance for the Masters Children's Center of Dobbs Ferry, Hill was stricken with a virus which incapacitated him so severely that as a direct result, just as the curtain was about to rise, the producers decided to cancel the performance. 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.

In 1961, he was cast as B.E. Langard in the episode "Act of Piracy" of the ABC series, Adventures in Paradise, which starred Gardner McKay. He appeared in the original Robert Stack ABC/Desilu crime drama, The Untouchables episode "Jack 'Legs' Diamond," giving a compelling, cold, evil performance as the eponymous character, and a similar sinister role as a bedridden (following an accident), ruthlessly manipulative millionaire in "The White Knight," a 1966 black-and-white, third-season episode of The Fugitive, which starred David Janssen.

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

Mission: Impossible

Hill was the original leader of the Impossible Missions Force, Dan Briggs, in the series Mission: Impossible beginning in 1966. The phrase "Good morning, Mr. Briggs..." was a fixture early in each episode, where a tape recording he retrieved detailed the task he must accomplish. However, he was replaced in the show in 1967 after the end of the first season. As one of the few Orthodox Jewish actors working in Hollywood, he made it clear in advance of production that he was not able to work on the Sabbath (i.e., sundown Friday to dusk Saturday), and that he would leave the set every Friday before sundown. However, despite Hill's advance warnings, the show's producers were unprepared for his rigid adherence to the Sabbath, and on at least one occasion, Hill left the set while an episode was still in the midst of filming. The producers used a number of ways of reducing the role of Hill's character Dan Briggs whereby his character would only obtain and hand out the mission details at the start of certain episodes being unable to take further part as he was known to people they would encounter (used at least three times), or Briggs would need to don a disguise and another actor would then play his role incognito until the conclusion of the mission (and episode) when Briggs peeled off a face mask. On other occasions, Briggs was waiting to pick up the team at the end. Usually, Martin Landau's character (Rollin Hand) took over as the team leader for missions in Briggs's absence, Landau being initially a "special guest star" for the first season, not even included in the show's original opening credits.

According to Desilu executive Herb Solow, William Shatner once burst into his office, claiming "Steve asked me how many Jews worked on Star Trek. He was recruiting a prayer group of 10 guys to worship together on top of the studio's highest building and only had six Jews so far from Mission. He asked if I would come and bring Nimoy and Justman and you."

Hill was briefly suspended from the show near the end of the season, during the production of episode 23, titled "Action!" In it, for the only time, Barbara Bain's character Cinnamon Carter obtained the mission details through the taped instructions, even though Landau's character, Rollin Hand, then actually led the team. The suspension was imposed after he refused to climb the rafters via a soundstage staircase as was called for in the script. This incident was ostensibly unrelated to any religious observances of Hill's. Consequently, Hill was written out of that episode and when he returned to Mission: Impossible for the five remaining episodes of the season, his role was severely reduced. Hill was not asked to return for season two, and was replaced as the show's star by Peter Graves. No onscreen explanation was ever given regarding Dan Briggs's later absence from the series.

Hiatus and return to acting

After appearing in Mission: Impossible, Hill did no acting work for the following 10 years. Hill had what he calls "tremendous periods of unemployment" in his career. "What we have here is a story of profound instability and impermanence," he said of his own career. "This is what you learn at the beginning in show business; then it gets planted in you forever." Hill left acting in 1967 and moved to a Jewish community in Rockland County, New York, where he worked in writing and real estate. Patrick J. White, in The Complete "Mission: Impossible" Dossier, quoted Hill as having said later, "I don't think an actor should act every single day. I don't think it's good for the so-called creative process. You must have periods when you leave the land fallow, let it revitalize itself." After 10 years, he was ready to begin acting again. "They say you can't quit show business," he said in 1977. "It took 10 years, but I couldn't get it out of my system. So I called an agent and put him to work."

Hill returned to work in the 1980s and 1990s, playing parental and authority-figure roles in such films as Yentl (1983), Garbo Talks (1984), Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs, Heartburn (1986), Running on Empty (1988), Billy Bathgate (1991), and The Firm (1993). Hill also appeared as a mob kingpin in Raw Deal (1986), an action vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hill played New York District Attorney Bower in the 1986 comedy-drama Legal Eagles, foreshadowing his appearance as Adam Schiff in Law & Order.

Law & Order

Hill became best known, and to an even greater degree than from his role in Mission: Impossible, as Adam Schiff in the NBC TV drama series Law & Order, a part that he played for 10 seasons, from 1990 to 2000. Hill's character was loosely modeled on the real former district attorney of New York, Robert Morgenthau, and Morgenthau reportedly was a fan of the character. Hill admitted that he found the character of Adam Schiff the hardest role he ever had, because of all the legal jargon he had to learn. "It's like acting in a second language," said Hill. Hill added that he agreed with the show's philosophy, saying that "there's a certain positive statement in this show. So much is negative today. The positive must be stated to rescue us from pandemonium. To me it lies in that principle: law and order." Hill earned another Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1997.

At the time of his departure from Law & Order, Hill was the longest-serving member of the original cast (his tenure was twice that of runner up Chris Noth); by the time the series was cancelled in 2010, Hill was the fourth-longest serving cast member altogether (behind S. Epatha Merkerson at 17 seasons, Sam Waterston at 16, and Jerry Orbach at 11 and a half). Hill also appeared in commercials for TD Waterhouse, an investment brokerage firm, and was eventually replaced by fellow Law & Order castmate Sam Waterston.

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. Hill died in Monsey, New York on Tuesday, August 23, 2016, at the age of 94. A cause of death has yet to be publicly revealed.

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 (1899–1968), the late Skverrer Rebbe, to adhere to strict Orthodox Judaism, observing a kosher diet, praying three times a day, wearing a tallit katan (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 film roles to him, most notably The Sand Pebbles.


Steven Hill Wikipedia