Karen Steele

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Karen Steele
James Garner Karen Steele Maverick premiere 1957.jpg
Steele and James Garner in Maverick, 1957.
Born Karen Steele
(1931-03-20)March 20, 1931
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Died March 12, 1988(1988-03-12) (aged 56)
Kingman, Arizona, U.S.
Cause of death cancer
Years active 1953–1972
Spouse(s) Dr. Maurice Boyd Ruland (1973-1988) (her death)

Karen Steele (March 20, 1931 – March 12, 1988) was an American actress and model with more than 60 roles in film and television. Her most famous roles include starring as Virginia in Marty, as Mrs Lane in Ride Lonesome, and as Eve McHuron in the Star Trek episode "Mudd's Women".


Early life[edit]

Karen Steele was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Percy Davis Steele, a Bostonian of English descent and a career Marine who in 1956 was named assistant administrator of the Marshall Islands.

Her mother was the former Ruth Covey Merritt, a Californian of French and Danish heritage. Childhood in the Hawaiian Islands brought Steele into contact with the Japanese and Polynesian languages, as well as English.[1]

She attended the University of Hawaii and studied acting at Rollins College in Florida for a year. After that, she found work as a cover girl and model.

Steele earned her first money by spearing baby sharks[why?] in the private cove on the estate of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton.[1]


With Roger Smith in 77 Sunset Strip, 1959

Steele's first acting job was in a radio play titled Let George Do It. She subsequently appeared in the 1953 films The Clown (in an uncredited role) and Man Crazy (as Marge). The following year, she landed the role of Millie Darrow in "So False and So Fair" on the television anthology Studio 57.

Her first critically acclaimed film was Marty (1955). She played Virginia and got the part because the director, Delbert Mann, confused her with an actress from New York who he and writer Paddy Chayevsky had intended to play it.[1][2]

In 1958, she played the guest-star lead in the episode "Madame Faro" of NBC's Jefferson Drum, a western series starring Jeff Richards.

Steele made two guest appearances on CBS's Perry Mason, as Doris Stephanek in "The Case of the Haunted Husband" (1958) and as murder victim Carina Wileen in "The Case of the Fatal Fetish" (1965). She appeared as Mae Dailey in the 1961 episode "Big Time Blues" on the ABC/Warner Brothers drama, The Roaring 20s, along with other guest stars Peter Breck and Shirley Knight. Earlier, she was cast in a guest-starring role in another ABC/WB series, The Alaskans, starring Roger Moore and Dorothy Provine.

In 1962, she portrayed the part of Dolly LeMoyne in the episode "The Woman Trap" on CBS's Rawhide.

Her character in "Survival of the Fattest", a 1965 episode of NBC's Get Smart, was named Mary 'Jack' Armstrong, said to be "the strongest female enemy agent in the world".[3] This is a reference to Jack Armstrong, the clean-cut fictional hero of Jack Armstrong the All American Boy, an adventure series broadcast on radio from 1933 to 1951.

Like many actresses, as she got older, she turned to television commercials for income. She also became involved in charitable causes and community service. In early 1970, she went on a handshake tour of service hospitals in the South Pacific, rather than accept a series that would have paid her $78,000. As a result, she lost her agent.[1]

Personal life[edit]

In later life, she settled in Golden Valley, Arizona, and married Dr. Maurice Boyd Ruland, a psychiatrist at the Mohave Mental Health Clinic. They were married until she died of cancer, aged 56, at the Kingman Regional Medical Center in Kingman, Arizona.


Television credits[edit]


External links[edit]