Steven Hill, best known to crime story aficionados as crusty D.A. Adam Schiff on the long-running drama series Law and Order, passed away today at the age of 94. I mention Hill on this page because in addition to his TV career, he had minor parts in classic movies listed below.
Hill was born Solomon Krakovsky on February 24, 1922. He got his big break in show business when he was cast in the supporting part of “Stefanowski” in the 1948 Broadway production of Mr. Roberts.
He was one of the first members of the Actor’s Studio, along with Marlon Brando, Julie Harris, Lee J. Cobb, and Geraldine Page.
Hill’s first movie was 1950’s A Lady Without Passport, which starred Hedy Lamarr and John Hodiak. He also played supporting parts in 1958’s The Goddess (which starred Kim Stanley) and 1963’s A Child is Waiting (which starred Judy Garland).
Hill credits his role as Sigmund Freud in a 1961 stage production of A Far Country as motivation towards becoming a more observant Jew. At one point in the play, another character screams at the Freud character, “You are a Jew!” In response to this dramatic moment, Hill the actor began seriously considering his religion and what it meant to practice Judaism. He began to follow a kosher diet and did not work on Shabbat. The latter observance affected his stage career, because he could not work on Friday and during Saturday matinees.
Those of us who are a certain age certainly remember the opening line of the TV show, Mission Impossible, “Good morning Mr. Phelps.” However, during the first season of that show, the line was, “Good morning Mr. Briggs.” Captain Daniel Briggs, the original head of the Mission Impossible team, was played by Steven Hill. By Season Two, Hill was replaced by Peter Graves, who played Phelps.
After Mission Impossible, Hill left show business for about 10 years. Starting in 1977, he acted in several movies. Finally, during the 1990’s Hill landed the role on Law and Order for which he is so famous.
For more information regarding the career of Steven Hill, see the following sources:
Steven Hill.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 23 August 2016. Web. 23 August 2016.
“Signoff; On ‘Law and Order,’ a Real Idealist”, The New York Times, 2 February 1996. Web. nytimes.com. 23 August 2016.
Gates, Anita. “Steven Hill,” The New York Times, 23 August 2016. Web. nytimes.com. 23 August 2016.
Image from Wikimedia Public Domain.