Monday, January 10, 2011

THE. King. Of. Cool.

For Christmas this year in our family we didn't exchange gifts. Santa found us just the same. A few thoughtful gifts. Under the tree for me was Steve McQueen. The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon by Marshall Terrill. This is Terrill's second McQueen book, and in my opinion, the better of the two. (I also own the first book, Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel). Terrill explains why he wrote the second book himself when he says, "I was 25 and a recent college graduate" when he wrote the first book. Which incidentally became an instant best seller. "I fell prey to the 'McQueen Mystique.'"

The second book takes a deeper examination of McQueen's childhood and young adult years, and with the help of clinical psychologist Peter O. Whitmer, attempts to explain how these events shaped McQueen's character and influenced his thought processes.

Your heart with break for a young Steve, who after being abandoned by his irresponsible father and his promiscuous, alcoholic mother, finds himself in reform school. He never went home for holidays. He had no home. You'll ache for the boy waiting for his mother, "Steve got up early in the morning and had his bag packed and was sitting out on the front porch waiting for her. All day long he waited, and she didn't show up. He finally gave up at ten o'clock at night and went back inside and burst into tears. He cried very, very hard. He was destroyed by this."

His emotional problems partially explain his behavior later in life, and make it a little easier to understand why he behaved as he did. If you're like me, you will still hate him for the way he treated the women in his life and certain friends and acquaintances. 

There is no denying the magnetic way McQueen dominates the screen. His subtle acting speaks volumes. I am currently on a McQueen movie marathon. I don't own all his movies, yet.

After McQueen married his third wife he found God and discovered his spirituality. He didn't make amends with everyone he had wronged, but tried to apologize to the ones he could. He also always made time to visit the reform school he was sent to as a boy. He visited with the boys and supported the school with donations. He was also a good father to his children.

Unfortunately Steve McQueen's life was cut short by mesothelioma. Working with asbestos while in the Marines and hard living contributed his abbreviated existence. He crammed a lot of living into 50 years.

Most people remember the first time they watched a McQueen film. I was in high school. It was Papillon. I watched it with my dad. It was then my love affair with McQueen began. I know he is no role model, but I can't help myself. 

In some small way I feel that Steve McQueen is part of my heritage. My parents first date was to a Steve McQueen film, The Towering Inferno


1 comment:

  1. My first McQueen Movie was The Great Escape which I saw in college. Loved it!