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Movie Critic Article: King of Cool

Edward Morehouse was a student at HB studio in the early fifties.
Coming from class one day, he was climbing down the narrow, dilapidated stairway when a rather messy-looking fellow with grease-stained clothes pushed by him. "Hey! Your fly is open," the fellow called.
Morehouse looked and sure enough, it was. He had hurriedly changed out of his costume after presenting a scene and neglected to zip up.
Morehouse turned to say, "Thank you"- and saw that the boy's jeans were riding dangerously low. "Hey! Your ass is out," he called.
And Steve McQueen laughed.
From then on, they called each other "Bare Ass" and "Smart Ass." Morehouse was Smart Ass because Steve had noticed something about him: Morehouse always carried with him a book or two.
Over greasy corn beef and dime beer at Louie's, Steve would quiz Morehouse on what he was reading and why, what it meant. They were an odd pairing, the scholarly, genteel Morehouse and the motorcycle kid. Steve felt he could ask him anything without shame. Morehouse recalls explaining "onomatopoeia" to Steve. Steve found the concept difficult to grasp. Perhaps to demonstrate his own expertise, Steve took Morehouse out riding on the back of his bike. Steve didn't have to do anything special-his everyday speed was breakneck-- and Morehouse was satisfactorily terrified. "It was my first motorcycle ride," Morehouse declares, "and I sincerely hoped it would be my last!"
There was another area in which Steve outshone his erudite friend. When he arrived at the studio looking cleaner than usual, Morehouse asked Steve if he was presenting a scene. "Even better," Steve grinned. "I have a date." His date was with Monique, then considered one of the most sensitive, gifted, and promising actresses at the studio, a personal protegee of Uta Hagen, she who refused Steve a scholarship because she saw insufficient evidence in him of talent.
When Morehouse next saw Steve, he paid for the privilege. Steve was up on a movie screen, larger than life, looking glamorous--and clean! The way he wore clothes, the way he held a cigarette--Someone must have coached him, thought Morehouse. Steve's transformation seemed magical, as if he had switched personalities between the two coasts. Sitting in that theater, Morehouse, too, thought of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Today Morehouse is a teacher at the HB studio. "What did I do wrong?" he wonders. "I'm better educated. I worked harder. I did all the right things. Why him and not me?"
He consoles himself with the thought that Steve got lucky. Despite his occasional displays of arrogance, in his heart of hearts, Steve was tormented by the same thought.
Although the second half of the sixties would bring him many honors, including, in 1966, an Academy Award nomination for The Sand Pebbles, nothing would change that feeling.


The preceding passage is from Penina Spiegel's book McQueen: The Untold Story of a Bad Boy in Hollywood.
There are many books on Steve McQueen.
A lot of ordinary people bought these books because of a crush on Steve and later sold it in garage sales, probably inadvertently. I wouldn't think of anyone wanting to part with such an inspiring account of a pub cultural hero (or rather, antihero!)
Spiegel's book which required me to bend down low to examine it, as it lay on the sidewalk in a festival, at once felt like a future reference for me. I was more than sure that one day I would write something on Steve MaQueen! That was years back in Ottawa.

Spiegel's book reveals the quintessential Steve McQueen. The embodiment of the rise of a core of insecurities over feelings of undeservedness. The towering of expression over weaknesses. The transformation of affections into power and glory. Steve was abandoned by his father and then his mother who could not live up to her responsibility as a mother, also abandoned him. Steve starved for love and affection. It's he who said: "I live for myself and I answer to nobody." He also said: "My life was screwed up before I was born." But Steve never, quite understood what was happening to him. He was always in fear of losing everything. He wasn't an intellectual. He was not a book-reader. Not a cultured individual. This brings the remembering of his competition with Paul Newman (The met in The Towering Inferno 1974 ) who was known to be a very learned person who spoke high language compared to the raw, but expressive, man-of-the-street language of Steve. "Success gave me a chance to find my place, to learn I didn't have to be a nut. I'm no longer a crazy kid. I've learned to read. The president of a company have to know what is going on." Thus spoke Steve McQueen. His first wife, Neile, a kind and honorable lady indeed, was quoted as saying: "Steve had a heart of steel, but inside was a great yearning to be tender. We both hungered for the same thing: someone to love and be loved by and never to feel left out again."



Steve was largely a Frank Sinatra discovery. He had a small part in a Sinatra movie, Never So Few. 'Sinatra saw something special in McQueen and ensured that the young actor got plenty of good closeups in a role that earned McQueen favorable reviews. McQueen's character, Bill Ringa, was never more comfortable than when driving at high speed—in this case at the wheel of a jeep—or handling a switchblade or a tommy-gun.' John Sturges who directed this Sinatra movie picked Steve to costar with Yul Brynner, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronson and James Coburn in The Magnificent Seven (1960). Sturges was quoted as saying: "Steve's own instinct guided him into being a star. He knew exactly what he was doing and where he was at every moment." He gave Steve the leading role in The Great Escape (1963). 



This month of June 2013 coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of The Great Escape, a movie that is now saying goodbye to generations, as it, astonishingly gains momentum with new and rising generations!
"There are classic films, and there are those - very few - that take on extraordinary lives of their own. One of them, the prisoner-of-war adventure The Great Escape, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, is woven deeply into the cultural tapestry, a landmark in its own right, endlessly quoted, watched, its style endlessly emulated. The film is now enthralling a new generation."
Endlessly quoted, watched, its style endlessly emulated! The scene of the motorcycle jump is just unforgettable.
The Magnificent Seven, a remake of a Akira Kurasawa's The Seven Samurai, also has very memorable moments. In that movie, not only Steve but also James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Eli Wallach and the German actor Horst Buchholz were brought close to the masses to love them.

Horst buchholz
Steve McQueen who amassed a lot of money from his movies, was never a happy person. His instinct-guided search for love has taken him to excesses of self-realization. He had a wonderful wife, two marvelous kids and a good home. He could go into a store, buy what he wanted, without asking the price, yet he wondered what could any man want! Steve loved girls, especially pretty girls, 'with bubble asses.' He divorced his wonderful first wife (shown on picture above) to marry Faye Dunaway who worked with him in The Getaway. His daughter from his first wife, Terry, said that her father "hated all women but me!" His first wife said that he hated women. Period.
Other films in which he did great performances were Peter Yates' Bullitt (1968, exciting car chase in there!) for which film editor Frank P. Keller won an Oscar. Dustin Hoffman was his side-kick in Papillon (1973). Great acting from Steve and Hoffman.
Although not directly a cause for the illness that killed him, Steve's excesses contributed to that illness. The asbestos-caused malignant cancer that he contrived from early on in his life when he had to work with paints and coatings. He died at the age of fifty in 1980.



Steve was nicknamed King of Cool, probably by his fans, because he was, apparently, relaxed, calm, low-key, mellow, suave and rough! Cool!
Steve is always remembered by one noble thing he used to do.
He used to 'demand free items in bulk from studios when agreeing to do a film. Things like electric razors, jeans and other items. It was later discovered that McQueen requested these things, because he donated them to the Boy's Republic reformatory School, where he spent time during his teen years. McQueen made occasional visits to that school to spend time with the students, often to play pool and speak with them about his experience!
Sheryl Crow has a song “Steve McQueen”, Ford Mustang owed its popularity to Steve. He is The King of Cool!


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