Historical records matching Terrence Steven McQueen
About Terrence Steven McQueen
Nicknamed “The King of Cool,” Steve McQueen was a macho, laconic American movie star of the 1960s and '70s. His "anti-hero" persona, which he developed at the height of the Vietnam counterculture, made him one of the top box-office draws. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon, and The Towering Inferno. In 1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world. Although McQueen was combative with directors and producers, his popularity put him in high demand and enabled him to command large salaries.
He was born Terrence Steven McQueen on March 24, 1930 in Beech Grove, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis, in Marion County. His father, Terrence William McQueen, a stunt pilot for a barnstorming flying circus, abandoned McQueen and his mother when McQueen was six months old. McQueen was raised as a Roman Catholic. His mother, Julian (née Crawford), was a young, rebellious alcoholic. Unable to cope with bringing up a small child, she left him with her parents (Victor and Lillian) in Slater, Missouri, in 1933. Shortly thereafter, as the Great Depression set in, McQueen and his grandparents moved in with Lillian's brother Claude on the latter's farm in Slater.
His memories of the time on Great Uncle Claude’s farm was good. In recalling Claude, McQueen stated "He was a very good man, very strong, very fair. I learned a lot from him." On McQueen's fourth birthday, Claude gave him a red tricycle, which McQueen later claimed started his interest in racing. At age 8, he was taken back by his mother and lived with her and her new husband in Indianapolis. McQueen retained a special memory of leaving the farm: "The day I left the farm Uncle Claude gave me a personal going-away present; a gold pocket watch, with an inscription inside the case." The inscription read: "To Steve-- who has been a son to me."
McQueen, who was dyslexic and partially deaf as a result of a childhood ear infection, did not adjust well to his new life. Within a couple of years he was running with a street gang and committing acts of petty crime. Unable to control McQueen's behavior, his mother sent him back to Slater again. A couple of years later, when McQueen was 12, Julian wrote to Claude asking that McQueen be returned to her once again, to live in her new home in Los Angeles, California. Julian, whose second marriage had ended in divorce, had married a third time.
This would begin an unsettled period in McQueen's life. By McQueen's own account, he and his new stepfather, "locked horns immediately."McQueen recounted him as "a prime son of a bitch", who was not averse to using his fists on both McQueen and his mother. As McQueen began to rebel once again, he was sent back to live with Claude a final time. At age 14, McQueen left Claude's farm without saying goodbye and joined a circus for a short time, after which he slowly drifted back to his mother and stepfather in Los Angeles, and resumed his life as a gang member and petty criminal. On one occasion, McQueen was caught stealing hubcaps by police, who handed him over to his stepfather. The latter proceeded to beat McQueen severely, and ended the fight by throwing McQueen down a flight of stairs. McQueen looked up at his stepfather and said, "You lay your stinkin' hands on me again and I swear, I'll kill ya."
After this, McQueen's stepfather convinced Julian to sign a court order stating that McQueen was incorrigible and remanding him to the California Junior Boys Republic in Chino, California. Here, McQueen slowly began to change and mature. He was not popular with the other boys at first: "Say the boys had a chance once a month to load into a bus and go into town to see a movie. And they lost out because one guy in the bungalow didn't get his work done right. Well, you can pretty well guess they're gonna have something to say about that. I paid his dues with the other fellows quite a few times. I got my lumps, no doubt about it. The other guys in the bungalow had ways of paying you back for interfering with their well-being." Ultimately, however, McQueen decided to give Boys Republic a fair shot. He became a role model for the other boys when he was elected to the Boys Council, a group who made the rules and regulations governing the boys' lives. (He would eventually leave Boys Republic at 16 and when he later became famous, he regularly returned to talk to the boys there. He also personally responded to every letter he received from the boys there, and retained a lifelong association.)
After McQueen left Chino, he returned to Julian, now living in Greenwich Village, but almost immediately left again. He then met two sailors from the Merchant Marine and volunteered to serve on a ship bound for the Dominican Republic. Once there, he abandoned his new post, eventually making his way to Texas.
McQueen drifted through odd jobs and three years of service in the marines before he began performing at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse in 1952. He did occasional theatre work, making his screen debut with a bit part in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). His first starring role was in the camp horror classic The Blob (1958), and that same year he earned the lead role of a bounty hunter on the television series Wanted: Dead or Alive, which ran until 1961.
In the early 1960s, McQueen attained stardom when he appeared in two action films directed by John Sturges. The first of these was the western The Magnificent Seven (1960), in which he starred with Yul Brynner and Charles Bronson as defenders of a Mexican village. The second action film to refine McQueen's image was The Great Escape (1963), in which he portrayed an allied captive in a World War II German prison camp who makes a daring motorcycle escape.
McQueen starred in several films of quality during the 1960s, including The War Lover (1962), Love with the Proper Stranger (1963), Soldier in the Rain (1963), Baby, the Rain Must Fall (1965), and The Cincinnati Kid (1965). He received his only Oscar nomination for another war epic, The Sand Pebbles (1966), but his definitive role came as a world-weary detective solving a mob murder case in Bullitt (1968). In this film, McQueen's real-life enthusiasm for racing came into play in a celebrated extended car chase through the streets of San Francisco for which McQueen himself acted as stunt driver. The stylish caper The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) cast McQueen against type as a wealthy and elegant thief, yet it proved to be one of his most memorable performances.
Many more hit movies followed in the 1970s, such as The Getaway (1972), Papillon (1973), and The Towering Inferno (1974), but McQueen did little to develop as an actor. He took a three-year hiatus to star in and produce a screen adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's stage play An Enemy of the People (1977), a drama about a scientist's efforts to expose his community's polluted water system. The film was decidedly a labour of love for the actor, but it was poorly received and barely released theatrically.
In 1980 McQueen twice played a bounty hunter, in the western Tom Horn and in the contemporary action film The Hunter, his final film.
He was an avid racer of both motorcycles and cars. While he studied acting, he supported himself partly by competing in weekend motorcycle races and bought his first motorcycle with his winnings. He is recognized for performing many of his own stunts, especially the majority of the stunt driving during the high-speed chase scene in Bullitt. McQueen also designed and patented a bucket seat and transbrake for race cars.
He owned several exotic sports cars, including:
- Porsche 917, Porsche 908 and Ferrari 512 race cars from the Le Mans film.
- 1963 Ferrari 250 Lusso Berlinetta
- Jaguar D-Type XKSS (Right-Hand Drive)
- Porsche 356 Speedster
McQueen was married three times during his life. His first marriage was to Neile Adams in 1956 which resulted in a 1972 divorce after the couple had a son and a daughter. His second marriage was to MacGraw whom he divorced in 1978. His third, and final marriage, was to Barbara Minty whom he married in January 1980 just eleven months before his death. McQueen died on November 7, 1980 at the age of 50 in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, following an operation to remove or reduce several metastatic tumors in his neck and abdomen. He left behind four grandchildren, Chase, Chad, Madison and Steven R McQueen who is also an actor.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Steve McQueen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6834 Hollywood Blvd.