Happy Birthday, Steven Spielberg!

Dec 18, 2015

Steven Spielberg
Credit U.S. Defense Department

Steven Allan Spielberg was born 69 years ago in Cincinnati to Arnold and Leah Spielberg, an Orthodox Jewish couple living in Avondale, on this date in TV Kiese history, Dec. 18, 1946.

Leah Posner Spielberg was a Walnut Hills High School graduate who studied piano at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, now part of UC.

Arnold, a Hughes High School graduate and World War II veteran, was studying electrical engineering at the University of Cincinnati and a co-op at the Crosley Corp.

In the 2007 TCM documentary called “Spielberg on Spielberg,” the Oscar-winning director-producer said he learned his numbers in Cincinnati from Holocaust survivors in the home of his grandmother, Jennie Posner.

“My grandmother taught English to Hungarian Holocaust survivors when I was only 3 years old, living in Cincinnati. I learned my numbers based on all the numbers they had tattooed on their arms (from Nazi concentration camps). And I had one man that used to say, “That’s a 2. That’s a 5,’ ” Spielberg said, pointing to his arm.

One of his grandmother’s students did a “magic trick” by turning his arm different directions: “He said, ‘This is a 6. Now it’s a 9.’ I’ll never forget that," he told TCM.

Arnold and Leah married in 1945. After graduating from UC in 1949, Arnold turned down a manufacturing job at Crosley, and a chance to stay in his hometown, to accept an engineering job at RCA in New Jersey. Daughter Anne – who wrote and produced Tom Hanks’ “Big” -- was born in Philadelphia in 1949.

After “Big” was released in 1988, Steven talked about producing an autobiographical movie written by his sister about the Spielberg family’s Cincinnati days. Spielberg told me in the early 1990s that the film script needed to be rewritten and improved before a movie could be made. It was never filmed.

Spielberg did send a crew to Cincinnati in 2006 to interview his father’s childhood friends from growing up in Avondale. He gave it to his dad as a 90th birthday present in February 2007.