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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 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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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 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.

30 review for Steve McQueen: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jaime

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have always been a Steve McQueen film persona fan. He was always played the disconnected rebel who did things his way. Among my favorite McQueen movies were The Blob, The Magnificent Seven, Hell Is For Heroes, The Great Escape, Baby The Rain Must Fall, Cincinnati Kid, Nevada Smith, The Sand Pebbles, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon, The Towering Inferno, and The Hunter. He truly 'the King of Cool' to me in my youth as a movie fan. I had assumed that because he was a I have always been a Steve McQueen film persona fan. He was always played the disconnected rebel who did things his way. Among my favorite McQueen movies were The Blob, The Magnificent Seven, Hell Is For Heroes, The Great Escape, Baby The Rain Must Fall, Cincinnati Kid, Nevada Smith, The Sand Pebbles, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon, The Towering Inferno, and The Hunter. He truly 'the King of Cool' to me in my youth as a movie fan. I had assumed that because he was a 'method' actor, his performances were a reflection of his personal life and character. Yes, he was an adulterer, a frequent drug user, a drunk, a prima donna, and a rebel but the biography does not deny any of that. The author, Marc Eliot paints the picture of McQueen as an irascible, temperamental self-indulgent rebel. Coming from a fatherless childhood and having a mother who was absent and irresponsible, McQueen developed a survival sense and spent significant time being shuttled around by her mother, time with his grandparents, a wealthy uncle,a juvenile detention home and the streets. In time, he served in the USMC where he ran afoul because of his rebellious spirit. Always a pursuer and lover of women, McQueen began a lifelong addiction to having sex with as many woman as possible. Landing in NYC, he stumbled into 'method acting' while pursuing a woman. He found he had a talent for 'acting; and received training through the G.I. Bill. Going from the theater to film took him several years in the mid-50s. In time, he established himself as a decent and emotional actor. Throughout his sojourn, McQueen developed friendships with a diverse group of lifelong friends: agent, David Foster; actor, Robert Wagner; singer, Johnny Rivers; hair stylist, Jay Sebring; actress, Sharon Tate; martial artist/actor, Bruce Lee; director, John Sturgess; actress and wife, Neile (Adams) McQueen; actor, James Coburn; and actor, Robert Vaughn. A self-made man, he became a producer and partner a studio, First Artists. As he aged, McQueen became a recluse and divorced twice. He had a lifelong competition with Paul Newman and volatile relationships with director, Sam Peckinpah, his two wives, Neile McQueen and Ali McGraw. He was a good and attentive father to his two children but was not faithful to his wives. Ali McGraw wrote of her own troubled father but also applied it to Steve McQueen "...he had no way to deal with his pain but to drink ... all the pain and loneliness festering inside while his pride kept him from revealing his vulnerability... On the one hand there was the angry, physically violent authority figure, and on the other hand there was a gentle, elegant loner, a kind of mysterious genius, the romantic genius with troubled eyes, capable of equal amounts of unpredictable rage and tenderness at a moment's notice.' In truth, during his last five years of life in the 1970s, McQueen became more domineering over his second wife who was his lover while he was married to Neile, turned down numerous movie role offers because his salary demands of millions were outrageous and stopped taking care of his health. Truthfully, his last marriage to Barbara Minty came on the heels of an affair with her while he was still married to McGraw. His own arrogance caused him to ignore a 1972 warning via several throat nodules. By 1979, he was trying to revive his career and make money. By late-1979, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. It was determined that his exposure to asbestos during his military service for weeks and racing inside asbestos lined care cars had caused his cancer. Always the fighter, McQueen made one last movie, Hunter and sought any and every treatment. In his last days, knowing he was dying he sought spiritual forgiveness for his life. He began to read the bible and eventually turned to Christianity. He married his third wife at the Ventura Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Billy Graham visited him during this spiritual journey. The ironic turn in his life did not deter him from seeking medical treatment. The last few months of his life are treated from a personal point, citing McQueen's desire to keep his terminal illness private. It would be only be a month before his death that Steve McQueen issued a public statement that he was indeed dying. Sadly, his last attempt to receive experimental treatment in Mexico failed and McQueen died in November of 1980. The book is a 'no-holds barred' tell-all book. It does not dispel the persona of Steve McQueen but it paints him as a flawed man. It was an emotional experience. I did watch several Steve McQueen movies during the time that I read the biography.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    FULL DISCLAIMER UP FRONT: I won this book through FirstReads. McQueen is one of my favorite classic actors, and for that reason, this biography really engaged me overall. I was disappointed to read about the depths of his drug use and subsequent treatment of hs first wife, but the egomaniacal behavior is kind of expected in actors of such success back in those days. I have rated this book only three stars because of the factual details author Eliot gets wrong. He erroneously calls Tom Bosley's FULL DISCLAIMER UP FRONT: I won this book through FirstReads. McQueen is one of my favorite classic actors, and for that reason, this biography really engaged me overall. I was disappointed to read about the depths of his drug use and subsequent treatment of hs first wife, but the egomaniacal behavior is kind of expected in actors of such success back in those days. I have rated this book only three stars because of the factual details author Eliot gets wrong. He erroneously calls Tom Bosley's character in the Natalie Wood and McQueen film Love With the Proper Stranger the father of Natalie's character. He in fact plays the man Wood's character intends to marry once she can't go through with an abortion for the child she conceived with McQueen's character during a one night stand. Also, Eliot first lists McQueen's third wife as being 28 when they met but then says she is 25 on their wedding day. Plus, the book lists the photo of McQueen's last public appearance as being at the premiere for his last film The Hunter but then the text of the book says it was the premiere of his second-to-last film, Tom Horn. I don't know if this is sloppiness on Eliot's part or on his editor's, or both, but it is distracting. And it really shouldn't happen in a biography.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tina Foster

    Growing up in the 60s and 70s, McQueen was one of my movie idols. He was a forerunner of many movie actions scenes, from the first motorcycle jump over a fence in "The Great Escape," or the first thrilling car chase scene on the streets of San Francisco in "Bullet." After that, almost every movie had to have a bigger chase scene to try and top it. He really was the "King of Cool." But died so young at the age of 50 from cancer. I enjoyed reading about his life, the gritty, and the not so gritty. Growing up in the 60s and 70s, McQueen was one of my movie idols. He was a forerunner of many movie actions scenes, from the first motorcycle jump over a fence in "The Great Escape," or the first thrilling car chase scene on the streets of San Francisco in "Bullet." After that, almost every movie had to have a bigger chase scene to try and top it. He really was the "King of Cool." But died so young at the age of 50 from cancer. I enjoyed reading about his life, the gritty, and the not so gritty. I learned a little known fact, that he was even on Charles Manson's hit list, and was supposed to go to the party at Sharon Tate's house the night they were all murdered, but wound up doing something else instead. The cartoon character in "Cars" is named after him, since he loved to race. Loved reading about him. Still love his movies. He's truly an American icon.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David

    McQueen wasn't the easiest subject for a biography, hence my two-star rating. Eliot wasn't able to offer much more about his subject than the public already knows; McQueen was a druggie, womanizer, and a generally unpleasant sort who suffered from a bad case of celebrity-itis.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie

    I love Steve McQueen. Yeah, he was a bit of an asshat. But whatever. This author is incredibly boring and seems to despise his subject. If you don't like him, don't write about him.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    I especially liked the fact that you know nothing was omitted describing his sad life. It tells every detail from baby on and all the sadness & pain he had to endure when so young. In spite of the lack of love, an alcoholic prostitute of a mother, a father who deserted them when Steve was just a baby, on the streets trying to find food as a young boy & so much distrust with other people he worked his art to become the top wanted actor & was keenly aware of what was good & what I especially liked the fact that you know nothing was omitted describing his sad life. It tells every detail from baby on and all the sadness & pain he had to endure when so young. In spite of the lack of love, an alcoholic prostitute of a mother, a father who deserted them when Steve was just a baby, on the streets trying to find food as a young boy & so much distrust with other people he worked his art to become the top wanted actor & was keenly aware of what was good & what was bad for him. He was difficult to work with but only because he wanted things right. He did reunite with his mother but the closeness was never there. He searched for his father only to find him after his dad had passed on. This, too, is a well written book and although it was not indicated I would think he made sure he approved of all that was written. Do not wait....get this book and you will not be sorry,

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    As much as McQueen is revered in popular culture, he was a bastard in real life. Eliot details all the self-centered, narcissistic behavior McQueen focused on at least his first two wives (Neile Adams, Ali McGraw) - maybe he didn't have time with the third one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Raquel

    Marc Eliot consistently delivers entertaining and informative biographies. I really loved reading about Steve McQueen. I highly recommend this book to people who are McQueen enthusiasts or are curious about him. See my full review (including fun trivia facts from the book) on my classic film blog: http://outofthepastcfb.blogspot.com/2...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Una Murphy

    The book was a quick read. Took me just a couple of days. I was a little bored by him as a subject. I didn't know too much about him and never really liked him based on his movies. After reading this book I like him even less. That's kind of sad. No time was spent making me care that he died too soon.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Candice

    Oddly compelling. I couldn't stop reading it. But then, Steve McQueen was a matinee idol of mine of yore, hadn't thought about him much and then saw The Sand Pebbles on TV and was impressed by his acting in that film and rekindled my interest. So glad I wasn't married to him.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Walker

    Unflattering look at an egotistical, narcissistic, demanding superstar American actor addled by marital infidelities, drugs, and alcohol, fueled (but not excused) by an unhappy childhood.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nadine Haney

    So boring, didn't finish it. The author liked lists. Movie, every actor and what they played in before. S. McQueen might be a good actor, but i didn't like him as a person.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marta

    It gave too much info on movie plots. I can watch the movie myself for that, it does not need to be in the biography. I felt that the author was just trying to fill the page.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Mauch

    Steve McQueen along with Paul Newman were the first old school movie stars that I really picked up and enjoyed, but McQueen died fairly young (50) and before I was born. From The Great Escape to Papillon, Bullitt, and The Magnificent Seven, McQueen is in some of my favorite movies of the 60s and early 70s. To learn he was an egomaniac wasn't all that surprising, after all he was one of the most famous and sought after actors of his time, but to hear of the drug and alcohol abuse and especially Steve McQueen along with Paul Newman were the first old school movie stars that I really picked up and enjoyed, but McQueen died fairly young (50) and before I was born. From The Great Escape to Papillon, Bullitt, and The Magnificent Seven, McQueen is in some of my favorite movies of the 60s and early 70s. To learn he was an egomaniac wasn't all that surprising, after all he was one of the most famous and sought after actors of his time, but to hear of the drug and alcohol abuse and especially the way he treated his first wife and those he worked with was extremely disappointing. Honestly, he was a real jerk and it's not surprising how as he got older it was harder and harder for him to find people willing to work with him, even with what just having his name on the marquee would bring to a film. Sure, he was the King of Cool on screen and much like John Wayne played a version of himself on screen in many of his roles, but off screen, he acted like a troubled child in many ways. He never quite knew what he wanted from his own life it seems. It was a constant conflict of wanting to be the best and at the top of the limelight and wanting to be left alone. He lived hard and fast and I don't think it's surprising he passed away so young, though I think many would have though he'd die in a fiery wreck or even from drug use rather than from cancer. Overall, I found this to be a very interesting read and have picked out a couple of his movies that I haven't seen as well as a couple I need to give another watch. Regardless of who he was off the screen, his impact on the business is still seen today. Without Steve McQueen's car chases in Bullitt and motorcycle riding in The Great Escape, we wouldn't have movies like The French Connection and Fast and the Furious. He was an icon that impacted film for generations to come.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Noel Burke

    I reviewed two biographies of Steve McQueen back to back. First, the one by Marc Eliot and the second Greg Laurie's The Salvation of an American Icon. Both had similar facts about his life but both took very different paths and highlighted very different data points. Eliot's book was primarily focused on the secular facts of Steve McQueen's life. For example, when recounting the success or failure of a movie, many facts were given about the gross earnings of that movie and the relationships I reviewed two biographies of Steve McQueen back to back. First, the one by Marc Eliot and the second Greg Laurie's The Salvation of an American Icon. Both had similar facts about his life but both took very different paths and highlighted very different data points. Eliot's book was primarily focused on the secular facts of Steve McQueen's life. For example, when recounting the success or failure of a movie, many facts were given about the gross earnings of that movie and the relationships between actors and directors. Laurie's whole premise was to trace McQueen's life through to the end looking for elements of Christian faith. I'll admit I was a bit skeptical of Laurie's book but was willing to give it a try. Laurie's approach was less about the cold facts of McQueen's life and more about the similarities the author had growing up in a difficult childhood compared to a similar childhood that McQueen experienced. While I don't doubt that Eliot's book contain many facts about McQueen's life, I was shocked to find a huge part of his life missing in his account: that being his faith in Jesus Christ. That just seems like such a big part of his life at the end from Laurie's point of view and based on his many interviews with people. Eliot's only mention of this aspect of his life was to mention that McQueen "began attending a church and praying a lot." Chapters were devoted to this period of McQueen's life in Laurie's book, while Eliot gave it a minor mention in a sentence. Both had elements of interesting history. Eliot had a lot more relationship dynamics with people in Hollywood, while Laurie's book focused more on the man McQueen.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Perry

    This book is as much filmography as biography. I took great pleasure in watching a few Steve McQueen movies, including Bullitt and The Getaway, while I was reading this book, and I loved finding out the details of how the films were made and the circumstances behind them, such as McQueen timing his sprint beneath the airliner during the final chase scene (no stunt man). He emerged from this feat with a big smile on his face, "I love this job!" Beginning with The Great Escape, he was a kind of This book is as much filmography as biography. I took great pleasure in watching a few Steve McQueen movies, including Bullitt and The Getaway, while I was reading this book, and I loved finding out the details of how the films were made and the circumstances behind them, such as McQueen timing his sprint beneath the airliner during the final chase scene (no stunt man). He emerged from this feat with a big smile on his face, "I love this job!" Beginning with The Great Escape, he was a kind of God when I was growing up. He was if anything an ambitious actor (he didn't just stick to prototypical "McQueen" roles), a force of nature, and a thrill seeker. The latter wasn't only expressed at LeMans or on a motorcycle, but by heavy womanizing and drug-taking, according to Eliot. The book proceeds in chronological fashion through McQueen's life, including his damaged, neglected boyhood, his first wife Neile, who was an accomplished actress in her own right, the numerous celebrity adventures and mishaps (a friend of Sharon Tate's, McQueen was due at the party where she and her guests were murdered by Charles Manson's gang; McQueen was picked up earlier in the evening by a blonde instead, an encounter that probably saved his life). I was particularly interested in his early Method actor training and escapades in Greenwich Village, where I went to school in the later 1970s (he was there in the late 50s). To the laughter of those in attendance at his funeral, Neile wryly said, according to this bio, "Steve liked to fuck blondes but he married brunettes." Four point five stars.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeaninne Escallier Kato

    I had a poster in my room of Steve McQueen on his motorcycle from the movie "The Great Escape." He was my childhood crush. Everything I ever thought of him was literally crushed after reading this nicely flowing biography by Marc Eliot. It's funny how that old adage of meeting your heroes is not always advisable because they rarely live up to your imagination fits so well in this instance. After reading Steve's story, I mainly felt sorry, disappointed and embarrassed for him. Of course, he I had a poster in my room of Steve McQueen on his motorcycle from the movie "The Great Escape." He was my childhood crush. Everything I ever thought of him was literally crushed after reading this nicely flowing biography by Marc Eliot. It's funny how that old adage of meeting your heroes is not always advisable because they rarely live up to your imagination fits so well in this instance. After reading Steve's story, I mainly felt sorry, disappointed and embarrassed for him. Of course, he didn't have the best start in life and his addictions stunted what could have been a more balanced movie career before cancer finally took him out. Marc does a clean job of showing the reader that even though Steve was deeply flawed as a man, a husband, and a friend, (hard to say about his fathering skills as his children adored him) his talent was absolutely God-given. However, the lengths his three wives went to stroke his ego, even through hundreds of known affairs, drugs, alcohol and abuse, definitely leaves me scratching my head. And these are women who were all successful in their own careers. I guess it was a different time in Hollywood. Thank God. I am thankful for the movies Steve left us to enjoy, over and over. Two of my faves, "The Great Escape" and "Love With a Proper Stranger." His work will always resonate. I won't ruin the book for those who read this review, but for me, the best part of this biography was the very last line. And do not skip to it. You must read the whole book to get its full impact.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hal

    This was my second book on the life of Steve McQueen and it was another good take on this simple yet complicated man. Probably more than most actors McQueen acted as a symbol more than a personality. His mere presence said much more than any thing he ever said. His self centered and moody persona was what seemed to attract a fair number to him. His first wife taking the brunt of it as was related through the book. Ali who came along much later found herself a virtual prisoner in this web and was This was my second book on the life of Steve McQueen and it was another good take on this simple yet complicated man. Probably more than most actors McQueen acted as a symbol more than a personality. His mere presence said much more than any thing he ever said. His self centered and moody persona was what seemed to attract a fair number to him. His first wife taking the brunt of it as was related through the book. Ali who came along much later found herself a virtual prisoner in this web and was fortunate enough to escape. His movies were not great but people will remember them by their impression of the man. Best known probably for "Bullit" which solidified the nature of what he truly was. I always was partial to "Papillon" which the critics as typical of his movies panned. His untimely demise from the cancer that stemmed probably from his early works around asbestos was rather sudden, but at this point in his life it seemed he really did not have much to offer creatively. He lived his life on his terms and more than anything that may be what people remember most and like.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gordon

    Well written it kept my interest throughout. I was unaware of the heavy drug use he engaged in & that brings him down a bit in my mind but we all are not perfect. His complete lack of loyalty to his wife's was also disturbing to me. Guess I'm just old school. The back stories of why he did or didn't take films was quite informative as was the fact that he was a total method actor. All in all I enjoyed the book and recommend it as good over view of his life both professionally & Well written it kept my interest throughout. I was unaware of the heavy drug use he engaged in & that brings him down a bit in my mind but we all are not perfect. His complete lack of loyalty to his wife's was also disturbing to me. Guess I'm just old school. The back stories of why he did or didn't take films was quite informative as was the fact that he was a total method actor. All in all I enjoyed the book and recommend it as good over view of his life both professionally & privately.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark "Lefty" Holencik

    Revealing story of his life. Shows what people put up with because Steve make them money. Tells how his childhood formed his narrsistic behavior and how he never grew out of it. Spent his life stamping his feet when he did not get his way. In spite of himself, we got to see the finished classic movies he made.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Harriett Milnes

    Interesting book about my teenage heartthrob. The author totally fills in all the details about the making of each film. Sidelight: Steve McQueen ALMOST went to Sharon Tate's party the night the Manson family came!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    Started and one day. Loved his movies. Fan as I attended the movies with my brothers. So much real life behind my favorite movies. I never knew how his life started and made him the actor he became. Henrico public library, VA.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Steve Brooks

    No surprise, McQueen led a life of decadence and womanizing. The author left no stone unturned in this autobiography. This book did not disappoint, unless you are a huge fan of McQueen....and I use to be. Sad.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ilena Holder

    M. Eliot writes a lot of these sorts of books. I try to read all of them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    sheri l rogers

    McQueen fan While the book provides great detail I found it a long and tough read. I wanted to fast forward but had to plow through the details.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dan Schumacher

    Ok book. The The book was not so bad. I wish they would’ve went more into his motorcycle racing stories. But still worth reading.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mark Bunch

    A must read for Steve McQueen fans. this fact filled jewel traces his career from start to finish and fueled my interest in movie bio-.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul Baker

    Steve McQueen by Marc Eliot is a spare and generalized biography that focuses on the films made by the iconic actor. While the films are examined in some detail, Eliot spends the rest of his time detailing McQueen's life outside the set. The actor was a troubled child who was moved around the country and dropped off with various relatives for extensive blocks of time. His father left them when he was still an infant and his mother could not maintain a steady relationship throughout his life. Steve McQueen by Marc Eliot is a spare and generalized biography that focuses on the films made by the iconic actor. While the films are examined in some detail, Eliot spends the rest of his time detailing McQueen's life outside the set. The actor was a troubled child who was moved around the country and dropped off with various relatives for extensive blocks of time. His father left them when he was still an infant and his mother could not maintain a steady relationship throughout his life. Steve spent a lot of time running with gangs on the streets of Los Angeles and spent stints in the boy's reformatory in Chino, California and in the United States Marine Corps. His last trip to New York City, saw him hooking with up an aspiring actress and following her into various acting studios. With his chiseled good looks, he was a natural to follow Marlon Brando and others into the Method school of acting. From the time he was old enough, he went from one woman to another until he finally met Neile Adams, fell in love, and married her. He went quickly from off-Broadway plays into the live television scene that was hot in New York. When his wife got a job in Los Angeles, they relocated and he translated his career from television to film. Although they had two children, Neile had to put up with his constant infidelity. He also began using drugs, first pot, then coke and finally hallucinogenics. With his monster macho ego, he began spending his earnings on fast cars and motorcycles, even racing with professionals. After sixteen years of marriage, he forced his wife to admit that she'd had an affair. Even though he had slept with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women, he was enraged and beat her up. He practically isolated his second wife, Ali McGraw, in their home and he hit her once before she filed for divorce. And he was married a third time, very briefly before his death of mesothelioma, lung cancer caused by excessive exposure to asbestos. (He was exposed while in the Marines, where he worked in the engine room, cleaning and repairing asbestos covered pipes and he was also exposed throughout his adult life to asbestos coating inside race cars.) His filmography includes such classic films as The Blob (1958), Never So Few (1959), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), The Sand Pebbles (1966), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Bullitt (1968), The Getaway (1972), Papillon (1973), and The Towering Inferno (1974). The book moves very quickly, an easy and engaging read. Even though Eliot presents a very unbiased narrative, I have to admit that I went into the book admiring McQueen's acting and I left it absolutely hating him as a human being. Of course, he lived in a different era, but that is still no excuse for the way he treated other people. He was like a hurt child who never, ever grew up to take responsibility for his actions. And he died with no remorse at all for what he did to his first wife. In spite of the hefty list of good films and good performances he left behind, Steve McQueen was ultimately far less of a man than the "King of Cool" he presented on screen.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Terri1225tomgmail.com

    Just OK. Seems only the downside of his life portrayed and there was much more to him.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Steve McQueen was Hollywood’s “King of Cool.” With his starring roles in such classic films as The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Bullitt, he created the persona of a laconic tough guy with a taste for fast cars and beautiful women. Women wanted him and men wanted to be him. If you want to know more about him than that, I suggest you look somewhere other than Marc Eliot’s Steve McQueen: A Biography. In this self-proclaimed “revisionist” biography, Eliot spent little time relating his Steve McQueen was Hollywood’s “King of Cool.” With his starring roles in such classic films as The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Bullitt, he created the persona of a laconic tough guy with a taste for fast cars and beautiful women. Women wanted him and men wanted to be him. If you want to know more about him than that, I suggest you look somewhere other than Marc Eliot’s Steve McQueen: A Biography. In this self-proclaimed “revisionist” biography, Eliot spent little time relating his subject’s biographical details; in fact, the Wikipedia entry on McQueen is more informative about his life than this biography. Eliot devoted less than fifty pages to the first 28 years of McQueen’s life and spent very little time exploring any of his personal relationships, preferring instead to focus on the grosses for his movies. Steve McQueen could have succeeded as a critical study of McQueen’s films if Eliot had bothered to apply any criticism to his discussion of them. He related the cast, the budget, and the grosses for all of McQueen’s films, but Eliot’s discussion of each film’s merit is directly related to its box office performance: if it did well, he praises it and if it did poorly, he dismisses it. In the Author’s Notes of Steve McQueen: A Biography, Marc Eliot wrote that he had not found a definitive biography of McQueen. Sadly, he also failed to write one. Received via NetGalley. I originally wrote this for The Chant Online. It is reprinted with permission.

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