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Dawn Steel, who became the first woman to head a major Hollywood studio, has died. She was 51.

Ms. Steel died of a brain tumor Saturday night after three weeks in a hospital, family spokeswoman Nancy Willen said Sunday.

She spent only two years as president of Columbia Pictures, but Ms. Steel was known as one of Hollywood's toughest executives.

Producer Lynda Obst said of her friend: "It doesn't even occur to Dawn to be afraid to say no. That's critical for a studio head."

Born Aug. 19, 1946, in New York City, Ms. Steel went to college but never got a degree. She went to work for Penthouse Magazine in 1969, rising to writer and merchandising director.

She moved to Los Angeles in 1978, landing a job as the director of merchandising at Paramount Pictures. Her campaign for "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" caught the eye of studio executives, and she was promoted to vice president of production in 1980.

In November 1987, Ms. Steel was named president of Columbia Pictures and became the first woman to run a major Hollywood studio.

During her tenure at Columbia, the company released "When Harry Met Sally . . ." and "Look Who's Talking."

She left Columbia in January 1990 and formed her own production company, Atlas Entertainment, with her husband, producer Charles Roven.

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