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Steve Ihnat Biography

Stefan Ihnat was born on August 7, 1934 in Czechoslovakia.

Childhood


Steve in the US Army, in his twenties
In 1939, when he was five years old, his mother and father immigrated to Lynden, Ontario, Canada, bringing with them Steve and his brother and sister. This was three days before Prague was closed to immigration, with the start of what would become World War II.

Stefan, or Steve as he would now become called, would have been old enough, during World War II, to understand what was going on overseas. Doubtless his parents talked about their homeland, and all the friends they had left behind.

Lynden was, and is, a small town of only about 500 people, just outside Hamilton, Ontario.

Steve grew up on a farm in Lynden. He did not enjoy farm life, however, and at the age of 14, appeared in roles in an amateur theater. He enjoyed it so much that he decided that that would be his escape.

"I think wanting to act started when I was about 14 as an escape valve to my environment. I was raised on a farm and I decided I wanted to be everything in life. Acting is the best way to do it."

Pasadena Playhouse and Dustin Hoffman

Steve moved to the United States in 1956 to pursue a career in acting. He attended the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theatre Arts from 1956 to 1958. For a time, he shared an apartment with fellow student Dustin Hoffman. [1] It was also at this time that he first met Gary Clarke - another student at the Playhouse - and they became best friends. Ihnat soon began to room with Clarke.

Gary Clarke

In 1958, Steve Ihnat appeared in his first movie, Dragstrip Riot. It starred Gary Clarke, and the two men would go on to become best friends. (Clarke talked about his friendship with Ihnat in an interview he gave to Tom Weaver in 2005.)

"We were under contract for three weeks," [he told Weaver, regarding Dragstrip Riot], and we shot for three weeks and we were nowhere near done. So the producer O'Dale Ireland said, 'Listen, if you guys help me out, you'll all be stars. This thing is really coming together.' Well, we must have shot for six months, stealing things where we could. We didn't get paid after the three weeks - just promises of how great this picture was gonna makee us. And it was non-union..."

Clarke tells the story of an adventurous motorcycle ride:

"After one day's shooting, Steve Ihnat and I wanted to take the bikes home. We're riding Triumphs. We're coming along one of those roads that run from the Valley to the beach, and we're doing about 50. I'm behind him and we're heading into this tunnel, and suddenly his bike starts shaking. I'm watching him, I'm maybe 20 yards behind him. He can't stop it, it keeps shaking worse and worse, and he loses it and he slides for I don't know how far. He gets up, and it looks like he's okay. But he's scraped all the skin off his knee, down to his bone. And also off of his knuckles. He had a big gold ring that saved part of his knuckles. They took him to the hospital...scraped the knee injury out with a heavy brush...pulled the skin together like you would pull a paper sack...tied it up...and the next day, he was back shooting! There's a scene toward the end of the picture where he has to get up from behind a bush, and you can see him hobbling out with one leg very stiff."


Steve in small role in Date Bait
After the movie, he, Steve Ihnat, and O'Dale Ireland roomed together for a while.

Clarke soon got the lead role in How To Make A Monster (1958). Steve didn't have a role in that movie, but his girlfriend at the time, Jackie Ebeier, did, and Steve came on the set often to see her.

Gary Clarke and Steve continued to share an apartment while they sought success in Hollywood.

"Steve and I had a couple of apartments that we lived in. One was a big house with no furniture. A two-story house with two chairs, a card table, and a couple of pads for beds. When we weren't working, we were out looking for jobs. We did construction, we did delivery stuff, we did...whatever.

You'd get paid [for starring in a low-budget movie] but it wasn't much, it was three, three and a quarter a week or something like that. That would last a while. But those jobs were few and far between at that time."

From about 1960 to 1962, Steve enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Korea for two years. He and Gary Clarke kept in touch via letter, and when Ihnat returned, he and Gary roomed together once more. [Clarke Interview]

Clarke, who would go on to co-star in The Viginian with James Drury, had a small role in the episode "The Weird Tailor" of the Boris Karloff TV series Thriller. It was filmed and aired in 1961.

"Oh, yeah. That was fun. I remember working on that opening scene where I arrive home drunk. Steve Ihnat helped me with that, trying to decide, rather than just walking in, how I would walk in and what I would do. We came up with the character Pan, seeing if coming in like Pan (the Greek god) would work. I think there was a little statue of Pan in the fancy hallway."

Steve married Sally Carter (Zella Maria Grajeda) on May 12, 1970. She had a daughter from a previous relationship. They had one son together.

In 1970, Steve wrote, starred in and produced an independent film, Do Not Through Cushions into the Ring. It co-starred his wife, as his on-screen wife, and Ed Asner as his agent. In 1971, he co-wrote, and directed, his first major film, The Honkers, starring James Coburn, whom he'd worked with on the movie In Like Flint. Steve was in Cannes, trying to line up purchasers for his Cushions movie, when he died in his hotel room of a heart attack. He was just a few months shy of his 38th birthday.

Ironically, he also died on his wife's 30th birthday. His little son, Stefan, was only six weeks old.

Biography via his film and television career


Steve and Jeanine Riley in The Fourposter (1963)
Beginning on page 2 of this biography, we use as a skeleton the chronological listing of each of Steve's appearances in television and films. Where information is available, comments from actors and production people with whom he worked will be interspersed, as well as information from news articles (such as those that appeared in The Hollywood Reporter).

Steve's colleagues have called him a "sweet guy" and a "brilliant actor." He seems to have been well-liked by just about everybody who ever met him. In the following pages, we attempt to honor his life, his career, and his memory.

Please go to Steve Ihnat Biography, page 2

Notes

  • Interview with Gary Clarke, to be uploaded shortly.

    Bibliography

  • Earth Vs the Sci Fi Filmakers. Tom Weaver. McFarland. 2005. Interview with Gary Clarke.

    Webography
    [1] Dustin Hoffman Biography
    [2] Bonanza: Scenery of the Ponderosa: Episode Guide
    [3] Pioneer Town: Gunsmoke's Final Episode, by Stephen Lodge
    [4] Author's Den: Honkers, My First Produced Screenplay, by Stephen Lodge
    [6] Cinema Retro Interview with Bradford Dillman.
    [7] Jill Townsend interview, from the now defunct Cimarron Strip website

    Newspaper Archives

    The Hartford Courant, September 11, 1966. "Monday TV Tips". Description of premiere episode of The Iron Horse TV series, in which Ihnat guest-starred.
    [N-2] Tucscon Daily Citizen, July 3, 1967. "Hot Work: Filming Dundee in Subino," by Dan Pavilla. With photo of Steve Ihnat. Article on the filming of the fourth episode of Dundee and the Culhane, with Ihnat as guest-star.
    [N-3] The Hartford Courant, August 28, 1967. "That's Showbiz": "Richard Boone Talks About Fishing. Filming of Kona Coast.
    [N-4] El Paso Herald-Post, June 7, 1969. Steve forms production company, Tanhi Productions. (Ihnat spelled backwards)
  • Syracue Herald-Journal, April 27, 1971. "TV Tonight": Selected plot summaries. Ihnat in Mod Squad
    [N-5] Syracue Herald-Journal, April 27, 1971. "TV Tonight": Selected plot summaries. Ihnat in Mod Squad
    [N-6] Waterloo Daily Courtier, August 26, 1971. "Guest-starring Role is Money in the Bank", by Jane Crosby, article on Ihnat, syndicated in several newspaper TV guides
    [N-7] Mansfield Ohio News Journal. November 7, 1972. "Hy Gardner's Glad You Asked That.' In answer to a question about Innat, Gardner shares Ed Asner's comments on Ihnat during the Emmys that year.

  • TV Shows & Movies with Steve Ihnat as Guest Star

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