– December 20
) was one of the first women to run a major Hollywood
film studio. She was born as Dawn Spielberg
(no relation to Steven Spielberg
) in New York City
and raised in the suburb Great Neck
, Long Island
. Her father changed the family name.
Dawn Steel attended New York University
but did not graduate. She became merchandising director for Penthouse Magazine
. In 1975 she founded her own company that produced novelty items such as designer logo toilet paper. In 1978 she went to work for Paramount Pictures
where she planned marketing tie-ins for Star Trek: The Motion Picture
and was responsible for the making of Fatal Attraction
, amongst others. She became vice president of production in 1980 and production chief in 1985. Steel was the second woman to head a major film production department (the first being Sherry Lansing
at Twentieth-Century Fox
and the third being Nina Jacobson
at Buena Vista).
Her production credits from that era include Flashdance, Top Gun, and Fatal Attraction.
In 1987 she became president of Columbia Pictures. Under her tenure the studio released When Harry Met Sally which had been developed and produced independently by Castle Rock productions. Steel's brief, two-year tenure was marked by continued turmoil and losses, continuing a string of bad news begun under David Putnam before her appointment. She was asked to leave the studio in 1989 and shortly thereafter Coca-Cola spun off the studio and exited the movie business - Columbia was thereafter sold to Sony Corporation of Japan.
She left Columbia to found Atlas Entertainment and become an independent producer. Her final two films were Fallen and City of Angels (which was dedicated to her memory).
In 1985 she married film producer Charles Roven with whom she had a daughter.
In 1993 she told her story in a book titled "They Can Kill You But They Can't Eat You." (ISBN 0-671-73832-1).
Dawn Steel succumbed to brain cancer, aged 51, after a 20-month struggle.