Friday, June 14, 2013

"Who Is That Guy?!": Steve Inwood

Guesting on an episode of Wonder Woman.
A face, if not a name, that should be familiar to fans of several prominent "Dirty New York"-lensed films of the early '80s, Steve Inwood seemingly left the scene as quickly as he arrived.  In truth, according to his IMDb page, Inwood hung around in the industry in guest spots and telefilms until 1997.  After that, he entered a life completely out of the public eye and information on him is scant.  But, for a few years in the late '70s and early '80s, Inwood was a reliable presence in feature films shot in New York, making a strong impression even in small roles, while showcasing a distinctive charisma and range. 

With Ben Gazzara on A Question of Honor, a 1982 telefilm.
In the 1977 Frank Sinatra telefilm Contract on Cherry Street, Inwood is part of a very impressive  ensemble of players, playing a low-level junkie informant.  With his gaunt features, greasy hair, and whiny New Yawkese, Inwood rather effectively evinces the rat-like, desperate qualities of this pathetic figure.  With beard, Inwood briefly appears as a self-assured New York fashion designer-turned-murder victim in William Friedkin's Cruising.  A brief appearance it is, but it's an interesting role, that of a successful fashion entrepreneur by day who looks for sexual hook-ups in gay peep show booths on 42nd Street after hours.  Inwood is very good here, charming and confident when we first see him at his tony Madison Avenue shop, as he closes up for the weekend, then more wary, as he goes incognito at a peep show arcade that looks a lot like one seen in Robert Butler's Night of the Juggler, also from 1980, and also featuring Inwood.  He figures heavily in one of the darkest moments in Alan Parker's Fame, as a predatory Times Square "photographer" who convinces Irene Cara to pose topless for him.  In the following year's Prince of the City, Inwood has what might be his best role, as Mario Vincente, the Rudy Giuliani-inspired assistant U.S. attorney who empathizes and works with Detective Daniel Ciello (Treat Williams) as he struggles to come clean about his role in widespread police department corruption.  These roles culminated with Inwood's fourth-billing as the ego-maniacal Broadway producer in Sylvester Stallone's Staying Alive, the critically-skewered, though financially successful sequel to Saturday Night Fever

As Jesse in Staying Alive.
Perhaps if Staying Alive had been a better film Inwood's next feature film part, the starring role, would have been in something more reputable than Grizzly II: The Concert.  A troubled production shot in Hungary, it attracted a fine roster of players around Inwood, including Deborah Raffin, Louise Fletcher, Laura Dern, Jack Starrett, Charles Cyphers, Marc Alaimo, Dick Anthony Williams, young George Clooney and Charlie Sheen, and John Rhys-Davies, who had this to say about Inwood in an AV Club interview:

"Now, as far as Steve… well, to begin with, is he still alive?  Poor fellow.  He was very handsome, very strong, but he had one or two problems, and I guess coming off the near-superstardom of Staying Alive, it made him… perhaps overvalue his contribution a little bit."

From there, Inwood's career mostly consisted of television guest spots, along with a few supporting parts in telefilms and direct-to-video features.  The trail ends after 1997.  Did Inwood get too big for his britches or burn bridges, as Rhys-Davies indicates in his quote, leading to his career decline, or did general industry trends make his type unfashionable?  Whatever the cause, it's unfortunate that Inwood didn't continue on the path he was on in the early '80s, because his was a face and persona that fit well with the gritty, reality-based NY features and telefilms of that time, and even if he wasn't quite a viable leading man, his talent and versatility should have translated into a more extensive career as a character player.

With Shawnee Smith in the 1985 television film Crime of Innocence.


bill teck said...

This is just the kind of great, insightful stuff we come to this site for. I loved him in Staying Alive but had no idea who he was - I figured he was some NY stage guy who finally got a break, he was just perfect in that part as the director. I was very very taken with his performace - there are certain things I like a great deal in that strange film, and his performance is one of them. I will seek out more of his work now - thanks for this post and all the best to you Ned! Thinking of you today good sir.

Ned Merrill said...

Thanks, Bill! Hope your Dad's Day was a great one, pal. Have to admit I've never watched STAYING ALIVE all the way through. Need to rectify that, I realize.

bill teck said...

You've got to see it for it's Stallonisms alone. The only straight drama Sly's directed aside from Rocky Balboa (and that's got action). It contains a great director's cameo that made all the cool Latina girls litterally scream with delight like Sly was Paul McCartney when i saw it on opening night in Miami. Inwood is great in in the film, seriously.
An interesting thing about the flick is that Tony is so self-centered and dissmissive of other people's feelings - i'm not sure if it's confessional or not but it certainly feels like the director commenting on himself in some fashion. Plus it's got a Rocky III style reverse engineered ending that takes you right back to the beginning of Saturday Night Fever. Alas it's also got lots of odd music and that weird play. But otherwise it's kinda good. Tony Manero is still kind of a dick. Not a typical mid-80s protagonist. Now, not to hijack this post on this wonderful actor - i'd love to see Contract on Cherry Street, i didn't know FS made telefilms, and i'd certainly love to see it. And Question of Honor, from '82 looks very interesting as well. Ben! I'd love to see more of his work.

Ned Merrill said...

You have thoroughly convinced me. Gotta see this one, finally. Love the vivid remembrances of opening night, dude.

Max said...

He's actually my biological father. Never met him though. Would be really interesting to know more about him. Please fill me up if you know more about his earlier days and what he is up to today.

Anonymous said...

Actress Deborah Raffin Gets Restraining Order against Steven Inwood After Death Threats.

Aug. 27, 1988 1:50 AM ET

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An actor who allegedly telephoned death threats to actress Deborah Raffin has been ordered by a judge to keep away from the actress and her husband, the couple's attorney says.

Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Lawrence Waddington issued a temporary restraining order Thursday requiring Steven Inwood to stay 250 yards from the couple, their attorney, Jessica Kaye, said Friday.

The order further prohibits Inwood - who played the driven Broadway director in the movie ''Stayin' Alive'' - from physically or verbally harassing them, Ms. Kaye said.

The order, which was confirmed by a court clerk, is in effect until a court hearing Sept. 9, Ms. Kaye said.

The 35-year-old actress, who this year starred in the NBC-TV miniseries ''Noble House,'' received the death threats Aug. 16 and has gone into seclusion for her safety, the attorney said.

Miss Raffin and her manager-husband of 14 years, Michael Viner, had Pacific Bell trace the calls and determined they allegedly were made from Inwood's phone. Inwood was managed by Viner until Inwood ended the professional relationship last year, Ms. Kaye said.

When a call was placed Friday to Inwood's publicist, Diane Barnett, a receptionist said, ''We not commenting on anything.'' Ms. Barnett did not immediately return calls.

The couple also claim that someone left a live snake in the mailbox of their Beverly Hills home Aug. 19 and possibly poisoned their dog, who died ''under mysterious circumstances'' June 30.

In addition, Miss Raffin's 1974 Mercedes-Benz was stolen and Viner's 1988 Jaguar was vandalized Monday outside a Beverly Hills restaurant, and the office of their production company was broken into Aug. 10, Ms. Kaye said.

Anonymous said...

Have known Steve Inwood for over thirty years.
He never threatened Deborah raffin .
Her husband was fired by Steve as a mgr.
He didn't like that and was very angry at Steve.
Enough said...Michael viner was a very unhappy man who his wife Deborah raffin ultimately divorced.

Anonymous said...

So what are you saying? That Viner derailed Inwood's career? Viner had enough influence at a time? Inwood was denied further success because of a vindictive Viner -- either bc of being dropped as his mgr or a weird perceived "thing" between his wife and Inwood? Enuf to "stage" a restraining order against Inwood?

If so, I'm bummed for Inwood.

Even if he kinda reminds me of Kenny Loggins in "Stayin' Alive."

Anonymous said...

Sylvester Stallone and John Travolta sponsored actor Steve Inwood for membership into the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in 1983.
Mr. Inwood has been a voting member ever since.
Director Sidney LUMET was given a lifetime achievement award by the Motion Picture Academy in 2005.
Al Pacino handed him his OSCAR and introduced Steve Inwood in a clip fom his highly praised film...Prince Of The City.

norma said...

For many years I had a huge crush on Steve Inwood. I have seen ever film he was in. Then he was gone. I hope all is well with him. He was a great actor.

sonny coleone said...

Was inwood born as Steve tonguelson, and grew up in forest hills ny?