This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012
Muriel Myee Steinbeck (1913-1982), actress, was born on 21 July 1913 at Broken Hill, New South Wales, youngest of four children of William Martin Steinbeck, schoolteacher, and his wife Lily Clarissa, née Batten, both born in New South Wales. The family left Broken Hill when Muriel was 5. She was educated at
Interested in acting from school days, Steinbeck joined the amateur Sydney Players’ Club in the early 1930s. Noticed by Lawrence H. Cecil of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, she was invited to audition for radio. From 1936 she was a freelance actress with the ABC and commercial stations, appearing in Macquarie Radio Theatre (2GB), Lux Radio Theatre (2GB, then 2UW) and James Raglan Players (2UE). At first hired for dramatic roles, she soon displayed a flair for comedy. In the 1950s and early 1960s her voice was heard in plays and in serials, including 'Portia Faces Life', 'Blue Hills' and 'Gabrielle'. From 1963 she was a regular member of the ABC’s program 'English for New Australians'.
Steinbeck’s professional stage career had taken off in 1940, when she was chosen to understudy the visiting actress Marie Ney at the Theatre Royal. Whitehall Theatrical Productions at the Minerva Theatre then hired her. While playing mainly in modern popular drama, she also portrayed
In the early 1940s Steinbeck had been signed up by Ken G. Hall for several short war documentaries including Another Threshold, in support of a war loan, and South West Pacific (shown by H. V. Evatt to Churchill and Roosevelt). Her first role in a feature film was in A Son is Born, filmed in 1945 and co-starring Peter Finch and Ron Randell. In the acclaimed Columbia Pictures Pty Ltd film Smithy (1946), depicting the life of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, she played his wife Mary. Steinbeck also appeared in Into the Straight (1949), Wherever She Goes (1951), Long John Silver (1954) and They’re a Weird Mob (1966).
Hailed in 1941 as 'one of the best half-dozen younger-school actresses of the Australian stage and radio', Steinbeck was 5 ft 5 ins (165 cm) tall and slender, with chestnut hair and green hazel eyes. In 1942 an interviewer praised the quality of 'controlled strength, sensitivity and drama' in her personality and features. 'Her wide, calm eyes, broad brow, strong, sweet mouth . . . make for character as well as beauty'. Demonstrating physical and mental versatility in combining concurrent radio, stage and film commitments, she took the lead in the first commercial television serial, 'Autumn Affair', in 1958 on ATN-7, and in 1960 played Mrs Bligh in the ABC’s Sunday evening serial, 'Stormy Petrel'. In 1963 she compered 'Woman’s World' on ABN-2. Later she appeared in commercial television’s 'Homicide' and 'My Name’s McGooley--What’s Yours?'.
Divorced in April 1950, on
Sally O'Neill, 'Steinbeck, Muriel Myee (1913–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/steinbeck-muriel-myee-15546/text26758, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 26 April 2017.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012