What can one say about Steve McQueen that the phrase “Steve McQueen: King of Cool” doesn’t already cover? Not much. Granted, much like James Dean and Kurt Cobain, McQueen’s legend has passed into mythology and, more than likely, far surpassed the actual, but so what?
He’s Steve – freaking – McQueen.
Born in Beech Grove Indiana, essentially Indianapolis, McQueen had a troubled upbringing. Conceived from a very short relationship his mother had with an itinerant circus stunt pilot, McQueen was dumped off on his grandparents by his mother because she could not deal with a young child.
McQueen ran away at the age of twelve and never looked back. Out there, somewhere, was a place for him. Young Steve McQueen was bound and determined to find it.
New York, 1952: Fresh out of the Army, McQueen took interest in acting and began to study under Stella Adler in New York.
McQueen would obtain a few bit parts and stretch his legs in such B-films as The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery and the legendary The Blob. His face and talent would be brought right into the homes when McQueen was cast in the TV Western Wanted: Dead or Alive.
The show would run from 1958-1961. Steve McQueen’s fortunes were about to turn around and quick. There would be no better time for a brooding, blonde, bad boy. In stepped McQueen, not by choice though.
Set in the depression, McQueen plays an up and coming card shark who has the misfortune to come up against the man, Lancey Howard, portrayed by the master of gangsters, Edward G Robinson, who doesn’t lose, period.
McQueen holds his own with Robinson, but this, with all due to the great actor, was an older Edward G. Robinson.
Steve McQueen became the flesh and blood definition of anti-hero. He was the good guy but this good guy had “issues.”
McQueen would cement his legacy with future films such as Bullitt, The Getaway, The Thomas Crown, where he reteamed with Cincinnati Kid director Norman Jewison.
The anti-hero rebel would prove human, however. McQueen would catch cancer from the asbestos-lined fired retardent racing gear her wore.
His biggest passion would contribute to his undoing.