Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980)

Biography from Katz's Film Encyclopedia

One of the most popular and highest-paid screen personalities of the 60s and 70s, an appealing combination of a heroic antihero, gregarious loner, and exuberant introvert. Abandoned as a baby by his father, a Navy flyer, he spent part of his childhood at Boys' Republic, a reform school in Chino, CA, then drifted about as a sailor, lumberjack, oil field worker, carnival barker, and beachcomber. He joined the Marines in 1947, did 41 days in the brig on AWOL charges, and after leaving the service in 1950 returned to itinerant jobsódocker, bartender, salesman, and TV repairman.

In 1952 he joined New York's Neighborhood Playhouse and studied acting under Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof and made his debut as a walk-on in a Second Avenue Yiddish theater, of all places. After gaining experience in stock, and a stint at the Actors Studio, he replaced Ben Gazzara in the Broadway production of Hatful of Rain in 1955 and made his film debut the following year, playing a bit in SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME. He got the lead in a science-fiction nonsense, THE BLOB (1958), and that same year landed the starring role in the TV series "Wanted: Dead or Alive." His popularity as a screen actor ascended gradually in the early 60s and he became an established star afterTHE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) , in which he played a supercool POW who attempts an escape in a memorable motorbike chase scene.

McQueen, who was a car-and motorcycle-racing enthusiast in real life, performed all the daring stunts himself. He was one of that rare breed of film stars who didn't have to act or do anything else to mesmerize a screen audience. He could dominate the screen and fill the box-office coffers on the force of his personality alone. He ran his own production company, Solar, when he was not busy racing or indulging in other machismo activities. In 1973 he married Ali MacGraw, his co-star in THE GETAWAY (1972). They later divorced.

Sadly in 1980 he died of cancer at the early age of 50 and the silver screen lost one of the last genuine action heros