Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Personal and Professional Life of Steve McQueen

By Allan B. Colombo

Steve McQueen was many things to many people. To those of us who enjoy watching westerns, he provided many hours of entertainment over the course of his life. Not only that, he fit the part so well in those roles that he projected the very feel and look of the old west, and convincingly so.

Early on, Steve McQueen became a motorcycle and motor car race driver and, like his father, he also became an airplane pilot. He used these skills to augment his income for many years. Steve credited his interest in these and other things to his Uncle Claude who, at the age of four, had given him a red tricycle.

“McQueen [earned] money by competing in weekend motorcycle races at Long Island City Raceway and purchased the first of many motorcycles, a Harley-Davidson and Triumph. He soon became an excellent racer, and went home each weekend with about $100 in winnings (equivalent to $900 in 2018). He appeared as a musical judge in an episode of ABC's Jukebox Jury, that aired in the 1953–1954 season” (Wikipedia:

Steve learned to act by attending acting school as part of the GI Bill benefit. To be given this benefit, Steve joined the U.S. Marine Corp at the age of 17. He served from 1947 through 1950. After a series of theater parts and minor parts in a number of films, he became a successful actor in the western movie venue. In 1974, he became the highest paid actor in the world.

In brief, there are five notable accomplishments in western acting that comes to mind. They include:

Wanted: Dead or Alive (Television: 1958 to 1961)
The Magnificent Seven (Film: 1960)
Nevada Smith (Film: 1966)
Junior Bonner (Film: 1972)
Tom Horn (Film: 1980)

We've attempted to assemble each full-length movie for your watching enjoyment. Where possible we have provided the free version. Otherwise, a YouTube charge may apply.

Wanted Dead or Alive 1958 1961 The Legend of Cool: The King of Cool Steve McQueen starring in my third favorite all-time TV western "Wanted: Dead or Alive" originally aired in Black and white on CBS. The pilot aired on the series "Trackdown" in March 1958. Bounty hunter Josh Randall was unlike any bounty hunter, he usually gave half or all of his reward money to good causes. He was a gentlemen and very respectful of the elderly.

The Seven Gunfighters: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson
The Magnificent Seven is an American western film directed by John Sturges and starring Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach and Steve McQueen. The picture is an Old West-style remake of Akira Kurosawa's Japanese-language film Seven Samurai. The supporting cast features Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Brad Dexter, and Horst Buchholz. They play a group of seven American gunfighters hired to protect a small agricultural village in Mexico from a group of marauding native bandits led by Calvera. The film's musical score was composed by Elmer Bernstein.

Nevada Smith (1975): A half-breed gunslinger and a friend he hasn't seen in years join together to escort a shipment of explosives across Utah. I believe this was a failed pilot for a TV. NEVADA SMITH is a rugged innocent boy born in the 1890s during California's gold rush days to a Native American mother and white father. When he finds his.

Junior Bonner Western 1972 Steve McQueen, Robert Preston & Ida Lupino: Junior Bonner is a 1972 film directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Steve McQueen, Joe Don Baker, Robert Preston and Ida Lupino. The film focuses on a veteran rodeo rider as he returns to his hometown of Prescott, Arizona to participate in an annual rodeo competition and reunite with his brother and estranged parents.

Steve McQueen & Linda Evans - Tom Horn ( 1980): Tom Horn is a 1980 Western film about the legendary lawman, outlaw, and gunfighter. It starred Steve McQueen as the title character and was based on Horn's own writings.

Steve McQueen’s Personal Life

McQueen’s full name was Terence Steven McQueen, born March 24, 1930. His parents were William McQueen (1901 to 1958), a stunt pilot with a barnstorming circus, and Julia Ann Crawford (1910 to 1965). The family started out in Beech Grove, Indiana, however his father left the family to never return.

In 1933, his mother, who allegedly had a drinking problem, gave her 3-year-old son to her parents, Victor and Lillian Crawford, who lived in Slater, Missouri. Due to the Great Depression, the Crawfords, along with their young charge, eventually moved to his Uncle Claude’s farm. Claude was his mother’s brother.

Uncle Claude was like a father to Steve, eventually giving him a gold watch that bore the inscription, “To Steve -- who has been a son to me.” Steve later said that he had learned a lot from his Uncle Claude.

It was probably Steve’s experience with Claude that influenced his own care and love for his own children. In fact, according to Neile Adams, McQueen’s wife of 16 years, Steve had become the world’s greatest father to their two children. Adams was a Filipino-American actress, singer, and dancer.

Problems in the Family

When Steve was eight years old, his mother, who married and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, sent for him. Unfortunately his step father turned out to be a harsh man, often beating his stepson. Thus, young Steve ran away from home at the tender age of nine. He ended up on the streets committing acts of petty crime in a gang environment, and so his mother returned him to his Uncle Claude.

At the age of 12, his mother once again asked his Uncle to return young Steve to her. She had remarried and was living in Los Angeles. According to Steve, his new stepfather was even worse than the last one, often beating both he and his mother. His mother sent him back to Uncle Claude’s farm one last time, and at the ripe age of 14, Steve left Slater to never return.

He joined a circus, and shortly after that he returned to his mother and abusive stepfather where he began roaming the streets of Los Angeles, becoming once again involved in gangs and criminality. After the police caught him stealing, he was returned to his stepfather who beat him harshly.

After Steve threatened to kill his stepfather if he touched him again, he was sent to Boys Republic, a reform school, where Steve eventually took a leading role in student leadership. So instrumental was Boys Republic in changing his life that Steve later returned to the school as an adult, endeavoring to assist troubled students in any way possible. In fact, at the end of his life, it was rumored that he had willed $200,000 to the school to assist them with expenses.

On November 7, 1980, Steve McQueen died of heart failure at Juárez clinic, 12 hours after doctors attempted to remove metastatic tumors in his abdomen and neck. He died at the age of 50.

To hear more about his life, please watch the following video:

Editor's Note: We will feature one or two more stories on Steve McQueen over the coming months. Be sure to tune in again next weekend!

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