Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel

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9780859652315: Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel

Steve McQueen (1930–1980) was the quintessential cinema rebel, and his legend has grown since his premature death. Loner and leader, arrogant and selfless, he refused to kowtow to Hollywood, as even dictatorial directors like Roman Polanski and Francis Ford Coppola learned. Steve McQueen follows the actor’s path from troubled Indianapolis street kid to highest-paid star of the 1960s.

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From Kirkus Reviews :

Respectful, admiring, well-researched life of film actor Steve McQueen (1930-80), who packed two or three lives into his 50 years. First-time author Terrill (a dealer in Beatles memorabilia) strives to show the acting side of McQueen, explaining that, in many ways, the star's talent had to conform to the nature of the films he chose to be in, or the films that--in his early years--his agent urged upon him. Though Terrill rises above gossip-as- biography, he sounds star-struck when talking about McQueen's early films and rise to huge fame, weighing the actor's ego against that of Yul Brynner, from whom McQueen stole The Magnificent Seven. McQueen was aware of the absurdity of a reform-school graduate like himself becoming the world's highest-paid actor, and he was ever- grateful to Boys Republic, personally answering fan mail from inmates and leaving the school a bequest. A hyperenergized motorcycle and racing enthusiast, he couldn't keep from bouncing off the walls, nor was his surplus of nerves dampened by pot and cocaine, stronger drugs, or general satyriasis. For McQueen, womankind was one fantastic candy shop--though he denounced such behavior in print. Terrill repeats earlier biographers' surmises that McQueen's central hunger and erratic behavior stemmed from abandonment by his father and alcoholic mother, as well as from fear that his wealth was as unstable as his parents were. Conquest became a way of life, as did his need to controls his films and shape them to his image, even though he demanded less and less dialogue for himself in his scripts. Then McQueen tried to conquer McQueen, taking on Ibsen's An Enemy of the People in a film that got shelved but that today has a growing following. McQueen died of a heart embolism following what looked to be successful surgery for cancer. Definitive, yes, but less writerly than Penina Speigel's McQueen (1986) and not as moving as Neile McQueen Toffel's My Husband, My Friend (1986). (Photographs) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist :

This attempt to pigeonhole McQueen as a "rebel" {...}a la James Dean falls a bit flat. As Terrill has it, the actor was a self-important jerk, particularly early in his career. Terrill interviewed dozens of people from McQueen's past, including all his ex-wives and a number of costars, such as James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, and Suzanne Pleshette. McQueen's troubled childhood was a harbinger for the turmoil to come, as McQueen combined an intensity toward his craft with a love-em-and-leave-em attitude toward women, even after marrying his first wife, Neile. Neile took him to California and encouraged him to get involved in the Wanted: Dead or Alive TV series, which in turn led to The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape, roles McQueen used as opportunities to upstage costars Yul Brynner and James Garner. Throughout the 1960s, in films such as Bullitt and The Sand Pebbles, McQueen pursued his love of motorcycles as well as booze, drugs, and lots and lots of women. By the 1970s, after bedding and wedding Ali MacGraw, he developed terminal cancer, and his generosity, especially to kids, allowed his redemption in the public's eyes. Also included is a McQueen filmography and a fascinating section on films McQueen turned down. Terrill's writing style is unremarkable, but the glitzy, behind-the-scenes Hollywood subject matter makes this long book quick reading. Joe Collins

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Terrill, Marshall
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