Thursday, August 23, 2018

Mission Impossible

If you were to search the famous “Hollywood Walk of Fame” in Los Angeles, for a star with the name “Solomon Krakovsky,” you would be on a mission impossible. Solomon Krakovsky, who eventually changed his name to Steven Hill, was born on February 24, 1922, to Russian immigrant parents in Seattle, WA. After graduating high school and serving for four years in the United States Naval Reserve, he moved to New York City, in pursuit of an acting career.

In 1947, Hill was one of 50 actors accepted into the initial class of the Actors Studio, joining such notable thespians as Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Julie Harris. Upon graduation, his acting career skyrocketed, culminating in his being cast in 1966 as Dan Briggs, the leader of the “Mission Impossible” team. The only impediment to his success in Hollywood was the re-igniting of interest in his religious faith.

Hill tells the story that while appearing in a play, “A Far Country” in 1961, a character screams at the Sigmund Freud character, saying, “You are a Jew!” This line spoke to Hill, so much so, that he underwent a serious exploration of his faith, and ended up learning from Rabbi Yakov Yosef Twersky (1899-1968), the late Skverer Rebbe. He moved to Monsey, a burgeoning Orthodox community in Rockland County New York, to be in closer proximity to the Skverer Rebbe. 

Prior to filming the first season of television’s Mission Impossible, Hill informed the producers that he would need to leave the set early on Fridays, and could not work at all on Saturdays. The producers tried to accommodate Hill’s requests through various creative ways, such as presenting “Dan Briggs” in a mask, so other actors could take over the role. Often, Martin Landau, who played Rollin Hand, assumed the leadership of the team. By the second season, Peter Graves replaced Hill as leader.

The most notable role he played after “Mission Impossible,” was that of Adam Schiff, the DA on the NBC’s original “Law and Order.” He assumed that role from 1990 to 2000, and left the show as the longest-serving member of the original cast.

Hill died on August 23, 2016. He and his first wife, Selma Stern, had four children. In 1967, Hill married Rachel, with whom he had an additional 5 children.

Although there is still no star on Hollywood Boulevard for Steven Hill, he has left his mark through his many children and grandchildren who are faithful to his beloved Judaism.

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