Born April 14, 1925, in Westhampton, N.Y., Steiger was raised in a home with an absentee father and an alcoholic mother -- an environment he fled at age 16 to join the Navy during World War II. After the war, he studied acting under the GI Bill at The Actor's Studio in New York, and by the late 1940s, he was appearing in live TV plays as well as on Broadway.
It was his performance opposite Marlon Brando in 1954's On the Waterfront, however, that would ignite his career and earn him his first Oscar nomination. He went on to win an Oscar for his portrayal of Sheriff Gillespie in 1967's In the Heat of the Night. Other important movies for Steiger include Oklahoma!, The Pawnbroker and Doctor Zhivago.