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Barbara Steele Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trade Mark (5)  | Trivia (8)  | Personal Quotes (7)  | Salary (1)

Overview (3)

Born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, UK
Nickname The Queen of All Scream Queens
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The most beautiful star of the greatest horror masterpiece of Italian film, Black Sunday (1960): Barbara Steele was born on December 29, 1937 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England. Barbara is loved by her fans for her talent, intelligence, and a dark, mysterious beauty that is unique; her face epitomizes either sweet innocence, or malign evil (she is wonderful to watch either way). At first, Barbara studied to become a painter. In 1957, she joined an acting repertory company. Her feature acting debut was in the British comedy Bachelor of Hearts (1958). At age 21, this strikingly lovely lady, with the hauntingly beautiful face, large eyes, sensuous lips and long, dark hair got her breakout role by starring in Black Sunday (1960), the quintessential Italian film about witchcraft (it was the directorial debut for cinematographer Mario Bava; with his background, it was exquisitely photographed and atmospheric).

We got to see Barbara, but did not hear her; her voice was dubbed by another actress for international audiences. After its American success, AIP brought Barbara to America, to star in Roger Corman's Pit and the Pendulum (1961); (though the film was shot entirely in English, again Barbara's own voice was not used). By now, Barbara was typecast by American audiences as a horror star. In 1962, she answered an open-casting call and won a role in Federico Fellini's (1963); she only had a small role, but it was memorable. Reportedly, Fellini wanted to use her more in the film, but she was contracted to leave Rome to start work on her next horror movie, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962). Being a slow and meticulous director, Fellini's (1963) was not released until 1963. (Later, when Barbara was cast in lesser roles in lesser movies, she would tell the directors: "I've worked with some of the best directors in the world. I've worked with Fellini!")

More horror movies followed, such as The Ghost (1963), Castle of Blood (1964), An Angel for Satan (1966) and others; this success led to her being typecast in the horror genre, where she more often than not appeared in Italian movies with a dubbed voice. The nadir was appearing in The Crimson Cult (1968), which was mainly eye candy, with scantily-clad women in a cult. Unfortunately, Barbara got sick of being typecast in horror movies. One of the screen's greatest horror stars, she said in an interview: "I never want to climb out of another freakin' coffin again!" This was sad news for her legion of horror fans; it was also a false-step for Barbara as far as a career move. Back in America, she met screenwriter James Poe; they got married, and remained together for many years.

James Poe wrote an excellent role for Barbara in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969). The role ended up going to Susannah York, and Barbara wouldn't act in movies again for five years. Barbara returned to movies in Caged Heat (1974); she was miscast: a few years before, Barbara would have been one of the beautiful inmates, not the wheelchair-bound warden, but her performance won positive reviews. In 1977, she appeared in a film by Roger Corman, based on the true story of a mentally ill woman, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977). Unfortunately, her scenes wound up on the cutting room floor. Barbara appeared in Pretty Baby (1978), but she was in the background the whole time, and her talents were mostly wasted. Barbara would appear in two more unmemorable movies. She and James Poe got divorced in 1978, he died two years later.

Barbara appeared in the independent film The Silent Scream (1979). Maybe because her ex-husband was now dead, or because her acting career was going nowhere, Barbara retired from acting for a decade. However, she had a lot of success as a producer. She was an associate producer for the miniseries The Winds of War (1983), and produced War and Remembrance (1988), for which she got an Emmy Award. Her horror fans were delighted when Barbara showed up again, this time on television in Dark Shadows (1991), a revival of the beloved 1960s supernatural soap opera. And she has developed a relative fondness along with a sense of ironic humor about her horror queen status, which was evident in her appearance in the Clive Barker documentary A-Z of Horror (1997). The still-lovely Barbara acts occasionally, her latest film was The Butterfly Room (2012). Even well past 60, Barbara Steele is still beautiful and her fans still love her.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: kdhaisch@aol.com

Spouse (1)

James Poe (1969 - 1978) ( divorced) ( 1 child)

Trade Mark (5)

Roles in Gothic horror films
Natural brunette hair
Large brown eyes
Voluptuous figure
Seductive deep voice

Trivia (8)

She was the original female lead to Elvis Presley in Flaming Star (1960). She walked off the picture after an argument with director Don Siegel.
She was reportedly the last person to be signed as a contract player by the J. Arthur Rank Organization.
She has one child, a son named Jonathan Jackson Poe who was born on August 11, 1970 in Los Angeles with her ex-husband, James Poe.
She was slightly injured by Vincent Price while filming her last scene from Pit and the Pendulum (1961) when he quite aggressively grabbed her by her throat - she shrugged it off because the scene came off so real.
The role of Alice LeBlanc in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) was written by James Poe--her husband--specifically for her, but it turned out she was not able to do it and it was given to Susannah York instead.
Has appeared in The Crimson Cult (1968) with three other cinema horror masters: Boris Karloff, Michael Gough and Christopher Lee.
Best remembered by the public for her role as the evil yet sexy witch Princess Asa Vajda in Mario Bava's Black Sunday (1960).
Was friends with Jane Wald, when she was in the United States during the 1960s.

Personal Quotes (7)

You can't live off being a cult.
[on her career in the documentary A-Z of Horror (1997)] I usually played these roles where I represented the dark side. I was always a predatory bitch goddess in all of these movies, and with all kinds of unspeakable elements. Then what is life without a dark side? The driving force of drama is the dark side. These women that I played usually suffered for it, and I guess men like that.
[From Calvin Thomas Beck's book "Scream Queens"] I hate graves and all those things. I began with too many horror films. This is dangerous. Horror films are made for directors, not for actors. One never thinks of the character of the people or their psychology. One always follows the same dramatic pattern. That's what I object to about nearly all these films - they always exploit the same fears. (...) I love witchcraft, the supernatural. All that's intuitive. I don't like people who are too rational.
I was born in Ireland. It's a humid and green country. Not at all like Rome. I was born on the same day as Fellini... but not the same year. I'm, therefore, a Capricorn.
It's easy to know my mood. I'm thin when I'm happy, but, during all the seasons, my eyes are green, my hands too big and my legs too long.
[on Black Sunday (1960)] In ten days, Mario Bava had not been able to work the lighting as he had planned it. As an old chief camera operator, he attached much importance to the image. I find that, in our time, the cinema is less and less a visual art. It was much more beautiful in the 1930s, for example. One finds less and less imagination concerning the visual planning. Love scenes are filmed in a mechanical and cold fashion. One doesn't embrace this way in life. It would be necessary, on the contrary, to suggest this by imagery - a detail, the curve of a shoulder... I don't know... I never go to see supernatural films. Not my own. There is, perhaps, some good in them.
I love the small problems of life. It's this that is important. I would love to make a beautiful love film. It's been a long time since I've seen a beautiful love film. Myself, I adore love. Perhaps the French directors are too preoccupied with these problems. It's not like that here [in Italy] or in the USA. In the United States, I had a contract with Fox. It was a very unhappy period in my life. Finally, I never made a film for them. I was paid. I was bored and suffering a lot not being able to work. The only film I shot in America was Pit and the Pendulum (1961) for AIP. My contract with Fox was dreadful. Rank, with whom I was under contract, didn't know very well how to use me. Then, they sold my contract to Fox. In the USA, they wanted to change me completely. I was too big. I should be a brunette or a blonde. And, then, life is so artificial. I arrived without much but left with nothing. I was completely demoralized.

Salary (1)

The She Beast (1966) $1,000

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