We begin this segment with Steve continuing his work on the Ralph Edwards Show. Steve spent each morning from 9 to 10 a.m. on the live broadcast. During his free time, Steve would spend a few hours each week taking singing and acting lessons. He also worked out at Burt Goodridge's gym.
As part of his training, Steve took singing lessons from vocal coach Tina Taylor Rone, a professional singer who taught students in a small Hollywood studio.
Steve said he really enjoyed singing and one of the reasons was because with music, you can tell right away how well you are performing. Quite different to film acting where you had to wait until the film was edited and on the screen. Steve practiced his singing for many hours back at his apartment.
ACT LIKE SOMEBODY!
Steve's acting coach was a retired stage actress, Edda Edson, who had performed for many years on Broadway. Edda was in her late sixties or early seventies and only worked with six students at one time at her home. This would allow each student to receive individual attention. She had a large hail where the students would perform various improvisations. She also taught the group presentation techniques.
One of the most important techniques Steve learned from her was how to interview in front of studio bosses. It is normal to become very nervous and insecure while waiting in a studio outer office for an interview.
According to Edda, you have to have the "attitude." When you are told to come into the office, you tell yourself, "I'm going in." You give yourself the command to enter, the interviewers are not giving you the command to come in. This simple command allows you to enter with self-confidence, feeling that you are in control.
Another thing Steve learned for doing a scene in which you are standing and about to walk off the scene, was to put your weight on your back foot or on just one foot so you can push off. The foot that doesn't have the weight on it can head you in any direction you want.
STEVE'S J. PAUL GETTY CONNECTION
One of Steve's classmates was a lady by the name of Teddy Getty ( J. Paul Getty's wife). Her stage name was Theodora Linch. She was studying to become an opera singer and was taking acting lessons to help with her performances.
The Gettys had a small daughter, about six years old at the time, and Steve would go to the Gettys palatial home for different events including an Easter egg hunt for their daughter and her friends. He was one of the very few people invited to visit with the Gettys at their home.
The house was located at a picturesque site in Pacific Palisades, located between Santa Monica and Malibu. (Until recently, it was used as the site of the Getty Museum of Art.)
Steve enjoyed visiting with the Gettys and marveled at the magnificent art collection displayed throughout their home. The Getty collection included many items on the laurels of "Hercules."
HE'S A HOLLYWOOD MOVIE ACTOR!
Infamous movie director Edward Wood was preparing for his next film "The Hidden Face" when he caught Steve on the Ralph Edwards show.
Wood contacted Steve's agent and sent him the script. After Steve and his agent read through it a deal was struck and Steve got his Screen Actors Guild card. When the call sheet (the dates and times of the shooting of Steve's scenes), was delivered, it was accompanied by a revised script with the new name "Jail Bait."
Shortly after signing for "Jail Bait", Steve was offered a part in "Athena." After carefully considering the role he would be playing in the film, he accepted it. The movie would be shooting in late summer.
Steve remembers meeting Ed Wood shortly after signing the contract. The ultimate in low budget film producers, Wood often called upon the cast to supply their own props, personal wardrobes, automobiles and even the use of someone's own home as a movie set!
Steve felt that Ed did an excellent job producing and directing the movie for the funds he had available to work with. He found it easy to work with Ed because he let his actors perform in their own style - would often allow only one take per scene. If he found a little something wrong with the timing or something else minor, he would make suggestions to the actor and move to the next scene.
"Jail Bait" is one of the few motion pictures that allows movie goers to hear Steve's real voice on screen. The only other films with his actual voice were "Kimbar" and "Athena". The other films that he starred in were dubbed with the voices of other actors, not that Steve's voice wasn't great for the part it was just the way they did the production on the movies he worked on.
Steve's role in "Jail Bait" took only a week of shooting time and was released within six months to enthusiastic audiences. Steve enjoyed working on the film with Lyle Talbert, who was a great actor of his time. Steve remembers Talbert as a really nice man who made the scenes much easier to perform because of his tremendous talent. The leading lady in the film was Dolores Fuller, Ed Wood's girlfriend at the time.
With that movie experience under his belt, Steve's agent thought that Steve should do some work in summer stock. He got Steve a part in the musical, "Wish You Were Here," scheduled for performances in Sacramento, California.
Steve and the cast rehearsed one week and performed the play the next week. Steve played a physical director from upstate New York, by the name of Harry "Muscles" Green. Steve's costume was boxer shorts, tennis shoes and socks. The show opened on June 14, 1954. It was in a theater-in-the-round held in a tent. The actors would have to come down a ramp to get on to the stage.
On opening night, and without any previous stage experience, Steve entered his scene by dribbling a basketball down the ramp leading to the stage. The audience went into an uproar of applause and laughter - making it difficult for Steve and his fellow cast member to hear each other's lines.
The other actor, who had a lot more stage experience, prompted Steve to repeat his lines. Normally they would wait for the applause to stop, then say their lines and continue their act. Steve was very excited, with this being his first stage appearance, and dribbling the basketball down the aisle with the crowd roaring and all. He was concentrating so much on what he was doing with the basketball, saying his lines and listening to the other actors lines, that he wasn't concerned about how he looked or sounded. His performance went over very well that first night.
The following night he thought to himself, "Boy, I'm really going to be good tonight." He was up and was eagerly waiting to make his entrance on stage. After receiving his cue, Steve started bouncing the basketball down the ramp and made his way to the stage thinking to himself, "1 bet I'm really looking good," and there was no audience reaction such as he received the previous night.
He was trying to make such a good impression that he was concentrating on how he looked, and how he was bouncing the ball that he fell out of character. Steve found out from the audience's cool reception that was the wrong thing to do. He realized, when performing, you must remain in character, thinking what the character would be thinking and doing, not what you as an individual is experiencing. After changing his approach, his performance went smoothly, like it had on the first night.
He also learned another important lesson in the art of performing: that he was spontaneous in acting and that there is always a certain type of audience who attend opening night and who become very enthusiastic.
While waiting for "Athena" to start shooting, Steve signed on for another musical, "Kismet" which rehearsed in Los Angeles then opened in San Francisco. The company toured the country for the next month before it arrived for its debut on Broadway.
Steve got great reviews, but had to take a leave of absence during the Broadway run for the shooting of "Athena" co-starring Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell and Vic Damon. He then returned to Broadway and "Kismet," and we'll return to more about Steve's exciting film and stage career in our next issue.
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