Dawn Steel

Despite struggling with studio politics, Dawn Steel’s canny sense of marketing made her a Hollywood success story as the industry’s second female studio head. Steel began as a secretary and sports writer, but found her niche as merchandising director of Penthouse from 1967–1975, where she helped get adult magazines displayed in mainstream markets. In 1975 she started a novelty company, Oh Dawn!, which she abandoned three years later after Gucci sued her for making toilet paper with their signature logo. She then joined Paramount Studios, where she made key marketing deals with McDonalds and Coca Cola for the first Star Trek film. She began producing movies for Paramount, including Flashdance, and after her promotion to president in 1985 produced Footloose, Top Gun, and other hits. In 1987 she left to head Columbia TriStar, saving the studio from bankruptcy, then moved to Disney as a producer in 1989, where she clashed with studio heads. Determined to strike out on her own, she founded Atlas Pictures with her husband in 1994, producing City of Angels, and wrote her memoir, They Can Kill You, But They Can’t Eat You, in 1993.  


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The cover of Dawn Steel's autobiography They Can Kill You But They Can't Eat You: Lessons From the Front, written in 1993.

Date of Birth

New York, NY
United States

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Dawn Steel." (Viewed on June 18, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/steel-dawn>.


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