The most detailed and revealing biography to date of a Hollywood great.
Steve McQueen is that rare Hollywood combination of a classic actor and a style icon in the tradition of James Dean. ‘ The King of Cool’ , as he was dubbed, was at one time the highest-paid film star in the world, a status earned through his roles in films like The Magnificent Seven, Bullitt, The Thomas Crown Affair and The Great Escape. But he also turned down at least as many roles in classic films, including Breakfast at Tiffany’ s, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The French Connection.
This is the first biography to cover in detail every film that McQueen made, and to put him into the context of the movie business, showing how he had problems trying to be a Method actor where an exact contemporary like Clint Eastwood thrived at it, and how Eastwood understood the studio system and made it work for him, while an insecure McQueen struggled with his sense of himself, both on and off screen. It includes interviews with people who have never spoken about him before, and draws upon diaries in the private McQueen collection.
Following his biographies of Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Walt Disney, Phil Ochs, and others, Eliot now traces the "tragically short" career of McQueen, ranking him as "one of those actors, who, along with Eastwood and Newman, became a seminal force in the wake of the postwar Brando cinematic tsunami." This uneven biography devotes only a few pages to McQueen's turbulent, troubled youth (including 14 months in reform school), quickly moving on to Broadway, where he appeared in A Hatful of Rain. In 1958, after the top-10 success of his Wanted: Dead or Alive series on CBS, McQueen became "Hollywood's number one hotshot." During the 1960s, he ascended as a superstar in such films as The Great Escape, The Cincinnati Kid, The Sand Pebbles (which brought him an Oscar nomination), and Bullitt, moving into the 1970s with The Getaway and Papillon. By 1974, he was the world's highest paid actor, indulging in "drugs, fast cars, faster women" and confrontational, "idiosyncratic behavior'' on film sets. Eliot manages to capture the powerful drive and rough-hewn qualities of the adventurous actor, but many pages rehash the same anecdotes found in a dozen previously published McQueen biographies.