Steve McQueen

The King of Cool

An American film star who was one of the most popular actors of the 1960s and ’70s. He starred in The Great Escape, The Bullitt and The Magnificent Seven.

Known as ‘The King of Cool, ‘ Terence Stephen ‘Steve’ McQueen with rugged good looks, cool, tough persona, rose from a troubled youth to being one of America’s ultra-cool film star. McQueen became one of Hollywood’s top box-office draw in the 1960s and 1970s. He was also an avid motorcycle and race car enthusiast.

McQueen starred in memorable films which include: The Magnificent Seven, and The Great Escape. In 1974, he was the highest-paid movie star in the world. In 1963, McQueen won Best Actor in the Great Escape – Moscow International Film Festival.

On November 7, 1980, at age 50, Steve McQueen passed away after a cancer surgery in Mexico. McQueen was cremated and his ashes spread in the Pacific Ocean.

Name:   Steven  McQueen
Born:   24 March 1930
Star Sign: Aries
Died:   7 November 1980
Birthplace: Beech Grove, Indiana.
Country: Indiana (IN) United States
DetailsOther Names
Terrence Steven McQueen
William Terence McQueen
Julia Ann Crawford
Neile Adams (m.1956–Div. 1972) Ali MacGraw (m. 1973–Div. 1978) Barbara Minty (m. 1980)
Two children: Chad McQueen (b. 1960) and Terry Leslie McQueen (1959–1998). Grandchildren: Steven R. McQueen, Molly McQueen, Chase McQueen, Madison McQueen.

Terence Stephen 'Steve' McQueen, was born on March 24, 1930, in Beech Grove, Indiana. He was abandoned both by his father, William Terence McQueen and his mother, Julia Ann Crawford. He was primarily raised in Missouri by his grandparents and great Uncle Claude on his farm in Slater, Missouri.

For many years, Steve only saw his mother from time to time. McQueen's happy childhood memories were those spent with his great uncle Claude. For his fourth birthday, Uncle Claude gave him a red tricycle, which sparked his interest in racing.

Life Changing Experience
At age eight, Steven went to live with his mother and stepfather in Indianapolis. But Steve did not adjust well to his new life and became involved with local street gang which constantly were getting into trouble. His mother then decided to send him to California Junior Boys' Republic in Chino Hills and Steven was there for a few years, with no visit from his mother.

Feeling abandoned, McQueen struggled in his new environment, until a staff member befriended him and helped him turned his life around. Years later, McQueen believed his experience there changed his life.

Military Service
In 1947, McQueen joined the United States Marine Corps and assigned to an armored unit. After a few discipline problems, McQueen focused on self-improvement and embraced the Marines' discipline.

During an Arctic exercise, he saved the lives of five other Marines, and was assigned to the honour guard, responsible for guarding the US President, Harry Truman's yacht. McQueen enjoyed his time in the Marines and served until 1950, and was honourably discharged.

Acting and Motorcycles
Following his service in the Marines, McQueen returned to New York and for a time aimless, moving and changing jobs. In 1952, with financial assistance provided by the G.I. Bill, (a law that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans) McQueen began studying acting at Sanford Meisner's Neighborhood Playhouse.

That same year, he made his stage debut in a Yiddish theatrical production, delivering his first dialogue. At the same time, McQueen rekindled his childhood interest in racing and competed in weekend motorcycle races, emerging victorious almost each time. With the money earned, he purchased the first of many motorcycles, a Harley-Davidson.

Between 1952 and 1955, McQueen played minor roles in several plays. In 1955, he made his Broadway debut with the play, ‘A Hatful of Rain.' At age 25, McQueen left New York and headed to California for better opportunities. He marked his Hollywood debut by starring in ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me.’

His first leading role was in the 1958 horror movie, 'The Blob'. His big break came in the film, 'Never So Few' which starred Frank Sinatra, then he starred in ‘Never Love a Stranger’ and ‘The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery’ in 1959.

Major Roles
McQueen’s career breakthrough came in television, in the western series, 'Tales of Wells Fargo'. It was followed by 'Wanted Dead or Alive' an American Western television series which aired on CBS for three seasons in 1958–61. The show was a major hit and earned McQueen recognition and praise.

During the 1960s, McQueen began to gain limelight in Hollywood. He made his debut in Frank Sinatra’s war drama film, ‘Never So Before.’ That same year, McQueen starred in the western, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ with Yul Brynner and Charles Bronson, his first ever hit.

The Great Escape
In 1963, McQueen starred in the classic, 'The Great Escape'. His charismatic performance as 'the Cooler King' along with a terrific, fence-jumping motorcycle chase earned him rave reviews from fans and critics alike. His year ended with a couple of projects that hit the screens: 'The Cincinnati Kid,' ‘Love with the Proper Stranger’ and ‘Nevada Smith'.

In 1966, McQueen received his first and only Academy Award nomination for his role as, an engine-room sailor in the military drama film ‘The Sand Pebbles’.

Iconic films
In the 1968 film ‘Bullitt’ McQueen was elevated him to new heights. In 1970s, cQueen starred in a variety of films: ‘Junior Bonner’; ‘The Getaway’; ‘Papillon’ and ‘The Towering Inferno.’ At the height of his career, McQueen gave up acting to concentrate on his first love - motorcycle racing. As an avid motorcycle and race car enthusiast, he had the opportunity to drive in some movies including, the car chase in 'Bullitt' and the motorcycle chase in 'The Great Escape'.

McQueens love and final movies
In 1978, McQueen returned to the big screen and starred in ‘An Enemy of the People’. In 1980 he starred in ‘Tom Horn’ a Western adventure and ‘The Hunter' an action thriller. During his career, Steve McQueen made 27 movies. He won Best Actor in the 'Great Escape' at Moscow International Film Festival. In 1999, McQueen was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. In April 2007 he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers.

Marriage and Family
Steve McQueen was married three times and had two children and four grandchildren. In 1956, McQueen married Neile Adams and had two children - daughter, Terry Leslie and son, Chad. They divorced in 1972. He married Ali MacGraw in 1973 and they divorced in 1978. His third marriage was to Barbara Minty on 16 January, 1980 until his death in November, 1980. McQueen's grandson, Steven R. McQueen is also an actor, best known for playing Jeremy Gilbert in The Vampire Diaries.

McQueen learned the martial art Tang Soo Do from ninth-degree black belt, Pat E. Johnson

McQueen had a daily two-hour exercise regimen, involving weightlifting and at one point, running five miles, seven days a week.

McQueen would ask for free items in bulk from studios when agreeing to do a film, such as electric razors, jeans, and other items. Later it was discovered McQueen donated the items to the Boys Republic reformatory school, where he spent time in his teen years. McQueen made occasionally visit the school to spend time with the boys.

In 1974, McQueenwas the highest-paid movie star in the world.

McQueen avoided death in 1969, when Charles Manson and his hippie followers murdered five people, including his friends Sharon Tate and hairstylist Jay Sebring.

McQueen once told a friend that he would die at the age of 50, the reason being that both his parents died at this age. This was just a year before he became terminally ill. The actor died 3 years later at the age of 50.

Before discovering he had cancer, McQueen became a born-again Christian. His wife, Barbara Minty, encouraged his decision. The couple held Bible studies with Billy Graham. Ironically, the last line he ever said on screen was "God bless you."

In the film 'Le Mans,' McQueen largely drove himself along the petrifying 8.5 miles Le Mans course at 200 miles per hour. He owned some classic motorcycles, several exotics and vintage cars.

McQueen passed on some pretty major roles during his career. He could have starred in: 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' 'Butch Cassidy' and 'the Sundance Kid,' 'Dirty Harry,' and 'Ocean's 11.'

Despite his success in film, it took a while after his death for Hollywood to honor him. He received his star on the Walk of Fame in 1986.

"I learned that life is a long and difficult road, but you have to keep going, or you’ll fall by the wayside."

"When I believe in something, I fight like hell for it."

"I will never be as good an actor as I want to be....but I'll be good."

"Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting."

"I don't believe in that phony hero stuff."

"My influences come from real life. I'm not interested in cinema for cinema's sake. I'm interested in life—what one does and how one interacts."

"When I did The Great Escape, I kept thinking, 'If they were making a movie of my life, that's what they'd call it—the great escape."

"I learned that life is a long and difficult road, but you have to keep going, or you'll fall by the wayside."

"I'm out of the Midwest. It was a good place to come from. It gives you a sense of right or wrong and fairness, which I think is lacking in our society."

"I'm about challenging people. Like, properly challenging them and their assumptions."


On November 7, 1980, McQueen died of heart failure at 3:45 a.m. at the Juárez clinic, in Mexico, after surgery to remove or reduce numerous metastatic tumors in his neck and abdomen. He was 50 years old. His memorial service was held in the Ventura Missionary Church. McQueen was cremated and his ashes spread in the Pacific Ocean.

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