STEVE McQUEEN (actor)


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Steve McQueen was born Terence Steven McQueen in Beech Grove, Indiana in 1930. He would grow up to become "The King of Cool", but no one could have predicted that from his childhood or even his first 18 years! His father left his mother when he was a baby, and he spent his childhood shuffling between his mother and a succession of boyfriends and husbands, and with his grandparents and great uncle. He was constantly in trouble, and when he was 14 he was remanded to the California Junior Boys Republic for problem kids. At first he rebelled, but eventually did quite well there, and remained associated with that institution the rest of his life. But his troubles were far from over. He left the institution when he was 16 and joined the Merchant Marine, and then quit it after a short time, becoming a drifter taking a succession of odd jobs. At 17, he joined the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and initially did well, but he failed to return after a weekend pass, and was arrested and spent 41 days in the brig. This seemed to be a life changing experience for Steve, for he changed his ways after getting out of the brig, and served well in the Marines until 1950 when he was discharged. In 1952, he studied acting with Sanford Meisner's Neighborhood Playhouse, and competed in motorcycle races. He got some theater, TV, and film roles, but nothing major until 1958, when he got the lead part in a new TV series, Wanted: Dead or Alive. In 1959, he had a major role in Frank Sinatra's Never So Few (replacing Sammy Davis, Jr) and in 1960, he was one of the seven in John Sturgis' The Magnificent Seven. In 1963, he re-teamed with director Sturgis for The Great Escape, and McQueen was now a major star. Steve followed with a series of more great movies: Soldier in the Rain, Love with the Proper Stranger, The Cincinnati Kid, Nevada Smith, The Sand Pebbles, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon, and The Towering Inferno, among others! But after The Towering Inferno, McQueen essentially retired from acting for 8 years. Some say it was because he demanded three million dollars plus 10% of the gross and others say he was just tired of acting. During this period he turned down the lead in just about every great action or adventure movie, including just about every part that went to Robert Redford. In 1980, Steve finally returned to his traditional roles with Tom Horn and The Hunter, both in 1980, but he had gotten cancer, and he passed away late in 1980, just 50 years of age. But he left behind a great body of work, and there has never been another star the likes of Steve McQueen, and I don't know there ever will!
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