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Steve McQueen

Cover of Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen

A Biography
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Steve McQueen is one of America's legendary movie stars best known for his hugely successful film career in classics such as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, and The Towering Inferno as well as for his turbulent life off-screen and impeccable style. His unforgettable physical beauty, his soft-spoken manner, his tough but tender roughness, and his aching vulnerability had women swooning and men wanting to be just like him. Today--nearly thirty years after he lost his battle against cancer at the age of fifty--McQueen remains "The King of Cool." Yet, few know the truth of what bubbled beneath his composed exterior and shaped his career, his passions, and his private life.

Now, in Steve McQueen, New York Times bestselling author, acclaimed biographer, and film historian, Marc Eliot captures the complexity of this Hollywood screen legend. Chronicling McQueen's tumultuous life both on and off the screen, from his hardscrabble childhood to his rise to Hollywood superstar status, to his struggles with alcohol and drugs and his fervor for racing fast cars and motorcycles, Eliot discloses intimate details of McQueen's three marriages, including his tumultuous relationships with Neile Adams and Ali MacGraw, as well as his numerous affairs. He also paints a full portrait of this incredible yet often perplexing career that ranged from great films to embarrassing misfires. Steve McQueen, adored by millions, was obsessed by Paul Newman, and it is the nature of that obsession that reveals so much about who McQueen really was. Perhaps his greatest talent was to be able to convince audiences that he was who he really wasn't, even as he tried to prove to himself that he wasn't who he really was.

With original material, rare photos, and new interviews, Eliot presents a fascinating and complete picture of McQueen's life.

From the Hardcover edition.

Steve McQueen is one of America's legendary movie stars best known for his hugely successful film career in classics such as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, and The Towering Inferno as well as for his turbulent life off-screen and impeccable style. His unforgettable physical beauty, his soft-spoken manner, his tough but tender roughness, and his aching vulnerability had women swooning and men wanting to be just like him. Today--nearly thirty years after he lost his battle against cancer at the age of fifty--McQueen remains "The King of Cool." Yet, few know the truth of what bubbled beneath his composed exterior and shaped his career, his passions, and his private life.

Now, in Steve McQueen, New York Times bestselling author, acclaimed biographer, and film historian, Marc Eliot captures the complexity of this Hollywood screen legend. Chronicling McQueen's tumultuous life both on and off the screen, from his hardscrabble childhood to his rise to Hollywood superstar status, to his struggles with alcohol and drugs and his fervor for racing fast cars and motorcycles, Eliot discloses intimate details of McQueen's three marriages, including his tumultuous relationships with Neile Adams and Ali MacGraw, as well as his numerous affairs. He also paints a full portrait of this incredible yet often perplexing career that ranged from great films to embarrassing misfires. Steve McQueen, adored by millions, was obsessed by Paul Newman, and it is the nature of that obsession that reveals so much about who McQueen really was. Perhaps his greatest talent was to be able to convince audiences that he was who he really wasn't, even as he tried to prove to himself that he wasn't who he really was.

With original material, rare photos, and new interviews, Eliot presents a fascinating and complete picture of McQueen's life.

From the Hardcover edition.

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    Chapter 1 I left home at the age of fifteen because there really was no home. . . ._I have had no education. I came from a world of brute force. -Steve McQueen Terrence Steven McQueen was born March 24, 1930, orthereabouts, in Beech Grove, Indiana, a suburban community in Marion County.1His middle name was a joke given to him by the father he never knew."Steven" was the senior McQueen's favorite bookie and the name Stevenpreferred, Terrence being a bit too soft for him. Terrence William McQueen,Bill or Red to his friends, was a onetime navy biplane flier turned circusstuntman who had no idea what fatherhood was beyond the losing bet on acareless roll with a blond-haired, blue-eyed flapper he called Julia, whosereal name was Jullian. He impregnated her the first night they met. He marriedher out of an uncharacteristic burst of honor, and an honest stab at normalcythat lasted all of six months. By then, the unusually handsome McQueen hadpacked his travel bags and left Jullian behind to take care of herself and thebaby. Later that same year, unable to cope with singlemotherhood, Jullian took the infant back to her hometown of Slater, Indiana, inSaline County, where her parents, Victor and Lillian Crawford, lived. Theyagreed to help her as long as they were allowed to give the boy a strictCatholic upbringing. After only a few months of being back with her family,Jullian grew tired of church, prayer, and chastity and returned to Green Grovewith young Steven. She still hoped to find a rich man to marry her and provideher with a comfortable life. But after three more years of struggling to keepherself and Steven warm and fed, she returned to the family farm-this time justlong enough to drop off the boy with her parents before leaving again to resumechasing her own dreams. Abandoned now by both parents, Steven was again pushedaside when Victor's business failed and he was forced to move with his wife andgrandchild to live on Lillian's brother's farm in Missouri, about six hoursaway by train. Claude Thomson took them in but did not make them feelespecially welcome or comfortable. He had no use for his sister or Victor, hermiserable failure of a husband, and blamed his failure on Victor's lazinessrather than the Great Depression. He agreed to help them out only because hefelt sorry for the cute little towhead. The boy was the only one, Claudebelieved, who was not responsible for his own misfortunes, and Claude wanted toredeem him by loving him as if he were his own. The boy's mother was neverspoken of on Claude's farm. Claude, unmarried and childless, owned 320 acres of primeMissouri farmland dotted with thousands of head of free-roaming cattle andendless fields of corn. He also owned an intimidating reputation as a womanizerand possibly even a killer. Rumors ran rampant throughout the county that hehad murdered a man over a woman, but no one was ever able to prove such a storyabout this wealthy and devout Catholic farmer. His presence was imposing, hisbankbook fat, his political influence powerful. In a world where money talkedand influence talked tougher, Claude had plentiful amounts of both. But he had a soft spot for Steven. Not that he spoiledhim in any way or gave him a free ride. From the time Steven could walk andtalk, Uncle Claude expected him to pull his load, and every day woke him beforedawn to begin his daily chores of milking cows and working in the cornfields.2It was hard work for the boy, but for the first time in his life, he felt hereally belonged somewhere and to someone. When Steven tried to shirk his duties, such as cuttingwood, which for a boy of his small size was difficult, he was punished, but henever complained. He believed he deserved...

About the Author-
  • Marc Eliot is the "New York Times" bestselling author of more than a dozen books on popular culture, among them the highly acclaimed biographies American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart; the award-winning Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince; Down 42nd Street; what many consider the best book about the sixties, his biography of Phil Ochs, Death of a Rebel; Take It From Me (with Erin Brokovich); Down Thunder Road: The Making of Bruce Springsteen; To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles; and Reagan: The Hollywood Years. He has written on the media and pop culture for numerous publications, including Penthouse, L.A. Weekly, and California magazine. He divides his time among New York City; Woodstock, New York; Los Angeles; and the Far East. Visit him at www.MarcEliot.net

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