Steve McQueen was the coolest movie star ever.
Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood are living icons, but Steve was the champion of cool.
Dead or alive.
As a child my brothers, sisters, and I attended Our Lady of the Foothills south of Boston. The parochial grammar school heavily tressed the Four Rs of reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic, and religion to repress any possibility of independent thought. Once a year Mother Superior picked a film to show the eight grades. We sat throughTHE SOUND OF MUSIC, HEAVEN KNOWS MR. ALLISON, and THE NUN STORY my first three years at the yellow brick school. The nuns hated anything that didn't have to with God, but in 1964 Sister Mary Josef announced over the loudspeaker that this year's movie would be THE GREAT ESCAPE.
My best friend, Chuckie Manzi and I looked at each other with puzzlement. We had seen THE GREAT ESCAPE four times at the Mattapan Oriental. The plot of hundreds of British POWs breaking out of the German stalag was devoid of any mention of the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin, or the Pope. Mother Superior's choice of blockbuster hit had nothing to do with celebrating the freedom of the human spirit.
None of us had free will, if we didn't believe in God.
We discussed the rationale behind her choice for days. Not even the upper class kids could decipher the harridan principal's decision and on the day of THE GREAT ESCAPE's screening we filed into the assembly hall with trepidation. Something was not right. The movie began with the Luftwaffe commander telling the British officers, "There will be no escapes."
Instantly every student in the hall realized that we were the prisoners and the black-clad nuns were the Nazis. Stalag Luft III was constructed to hold the worst of the worst; thieves, counterfeiters, tunnelers and more, but when Steven McQueen aka Captain Virgil Hilts entered the movie, we applauded 'the Cooler King' as if he were the Messiah. Even more shocking was that the nuns refrained from restraining our enthusiasm.
I looked over my shoulder. The sixteen nuns were standing together and their eyes swam with adoration. The brides of Jesus had lost their hearts to Steve McQueen.
He was that cool.
See ON ANY SUNDAY. The 1971 Bruce Brown film features Steve McQueen with Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith.
This movie along with BULLITT, THE GETAWAY, and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN cemented his status as the cool one for all eternity.
Brad Pitt is good, but he'll never be Steve McQueen.
Last time I was in England, I told the hair stylist in the small town, "Cut my hair like Steve McQueen."
And she did her best.
I always wanted a hair cut like his.
Also see PAPILLION. His acting steamrollered over Dustin Hoffman.
In THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN he was told by the producers that he couldn’t stand before Yul Brenner. McQueen accepted that edict, but in every scene he’s the only one moving while Yul Brenner talks.
Several years back his Persol sunglasses sold at auction for $70,000.
The glasses came from THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.
McQueen was always cool enough to admit his friend Bud Ekins leapt over the barbed wire in THE GREAT ESCAPE.
Cool people are cool enough to share in their coolness.
Steve McQueen - the king of cool.