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The great Rod Steiger and acting divinity
By Michael Moriarty
Some, like Katherine Hepburn and Burt Reynolds, are born to swim most gracefully in the ocean of world celebrity.
Others, mildly well-known people like myself?
Oh, well, this interesting question is actually circling the heart of this week’s editorial.
Last week’s ode to ALL ABOUT EVE and Bette Davis?
A Facebook friend, Paul Morris, triumphantly hunted for the photo that was missing.
As bad a photo as it is?!
There she is!
The Great Bette Davis!!
I am, for the first time in my life, seen publically and almost rubbing elbows with one of the most legendary stars of her own divinely inevitable eternity!
Here she is, with her fictional nemesis, Anne Baxter!
There are stars.
Then there are legends.
I’ve worked with both.
As for legends?
Katherine Hepburn for one.
Sidney Poitier for yet another.
Clint Eastwood for a third.
One other kind of legend is held in starry-eyed esteem mostly by actors.
Yes, he was frequently criticized for his “mannerisms”.
But, my God, what mannerisms!
In the photo above… his performance as Judge Sarokin in the film, Hurricane.
Not only is it my favorite performance by Rod Steiger but, indeed, my favorite example of acting divinity!
The giant-sized, Mt. Rushmore power of, yes, my favorite performance of all time.
I know what you’ll say!
It was only a small “supporting” role!!
And the real-life Judge Sarokin whom Mr. Steiger portrayed, claimed to be a much lower-key member of the bench than this great actor played him as.
There are flawless performances and then there is, for myself as an actor and a teacher of acting, the astounding perfection of Rod Steiger as Judge Sarokin in Hurricane.
A great director, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, and one of, if not the greatest teacher of acting in the history of the theater, Stella Adler?!
They both demanded size from their actors and their students.
I was never a student of Stella’s but she became a dear friend.
And, my God, did she, like Sir Guthrie, have size!
A combination of both their powers and their magnetic presence filled the television screen in the figure and face of Sir Rod Steiger.
Yes, had he been a Brit, he would certainly have been knighted… along with what would most certainly have become Dame Stella Adler!
The soul of Rod Steiger, having seen most of his greatest performances, is an indelible corner of my own soul.
I see him in my memory more clearly than even the greatest moments of, say, Laurence Olivier or Marlon Brando, who was a student of Stella Adler, as was also Robert De Niro.
Where does the power of Rod Steiger’s performance of the judge come from?
As the great Simone Signoret described her own talents, she said, “I don’t know about being a great actress, but I do know that when I’m performing any role, I am transparent.”
However, during Rod Steiger’s brief appearance in this film, you not only saw into Rod Steiger but you felt, coming out of him, an oceans-deep sense of personal strength and power.
He was also devoid of any trace of Rod Steiger’s mannerisms.
Now, by God, that’s acting!
Acting its best!!
At its greatest!!!
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@MGMoriarty.