Top positive review
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The best book about the most real action hero in history
on September 20, 2001
First consider how fine an actor Steve McQueen was:
From the 50s through the 70's, Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, and Paul Newman were in close competition for the best "blue-eyed-blonde" parts in Hollywood. Newman and Redford are intelligent, versatile actors. Steve had a little less brainpower and range.
But from a physical standpoint, Steve wiped the floor with Newman and Redford (who are no sissies), or anybody else for that matter.
From playing golf and polo (Thomas Crown Affair) to marshal arts (Great Escape, Sand Pebbles) to auto racing (Le Mans) to motorcycling (Great Escape, On Any Sunday) to handling firearms (many), to handling tools (Sand Pebbles), every move Steve made was quick, balanced, controlled, and deadly. Steve's athleticism was inherited - his father was a "dashing flyer." It was psychological - Jim Coburn said Steve was "the most competitive person I've ever met." And it was nurtured - he was a decorated Marine, a bona-fide auto and motorcycle racer, and a serious student of marshal arts. He studied for years with the great Pat Johnson, and with the greatest, Bruce Lee. And Steve loved working on motorcycles and cars. No other actor in history had Steve's physical credits.
In all his roles, Steve understood that films are much more visual than verbal, and exploited his phyical qualities to the limit. That's acting intelligence.
Perhaps most importantly, Steve was INTENSE. Would you hesitate to make Newman or Redford angry? I wouldn't. Would you hesitate to make McQueen angry? I would. Read the book and see why.
And for what it's worth: Newman and Redford are pretty. Steve was swarthy. How many blue-eyed-blondes are swarthy?
Next consider the book:
Mr. Terrill's account of Steve's personal life is clear, comprehensive, balanced, and filled with great photos. Terrill's direct access to many people who personally knew or worked with Steve is evident on every page.
Terrill builds up the story with a thorough account of Steve's extremely tough, fascinating early years. You get to know the forces behind Steve's failures and successes as an adult. Although you know all along that Steve eventually "makes it," Terrill makes you feel intensely how unlikely a candidate Steve was for acting stardom.
Terrill covers Steve's great romance and marriage with Neile Adams, the immensely painful breakup, the scandalous romance and marriage with Ali McGraw, and the twilight-marriage with model Barbara Minty.
Not least of all, Terrill makes you appreciate McQueen's extremely underestimated acting talent. Steve was not a "yes-sir" actor. He molded all his parts strongly. He was particularly good at understanding how to stay just on the "reality" side of things, even though he was primarily an action star. So he deserves a great deal of credit for his own success.
By the end, Terrill has taken you through the many lives of Steve McQueen.
Plus, Terrill includes a filmography and a great treat: a list of movies Steve ALMOST made. The list is long and often surprising.
Finally consider the combination, and buy this book.
I've read it three times and will end up reading it many more times.
PS: I understand that there are plans in Hollywood to make a movie about McQueen's life based on Terrill's book. If it captures one-tenth of the romance, adventure, and excitement in the book, it will be a wonderful movie!