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Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon Hardcover – September 27, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Terrell reprises the warts-and-all portrait of the mercurial Steve McQueen, aided by 32 pages of intimate photographs. Building on the foundation of his 1993 Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel, he delves into the actor's turbulent childhood with an alcoholic, free-loving mother and an absentee father, making for a combustible personality, constantly fighting for his sense of self, not trusting easily, and becoming an at-risk teen in trouble with the law. After a stint with the Marines, McQueen broke on the New York theater scene with an Actors Studio pedigree, a highly rated TV series, and a collection of blockbuster films including The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Getaway, and Bullitt. Terrell's psychologizing of his subject can be too much at times, but in the end he presents an engaging chronicle of McQueen's lifelong inner demons, competitiveness, single-mindedness, obsessive desire to triumph, romantic misfires with women, and final dogged battle with cancer. (Oct.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Approaching the thirtieth anniversary of Steve McQueen’s death, Terrill builds on his previous work, Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel (1994), to delve further into the star’s life. McQueen, known for his ultracool and antiheroic movie persona, started out life in rural Indiana. Born to a young, alcoholic woman and abandoned by his father, he was left in the care of his grandparents. Reunited with his mother at age eight, he was introduced to a series of her abusive and violent boyfriends. Compounding his problems were his partial deafness from a childhood ear infection and his dyslexia, making his adjustment to his new life particularly challenging. The young McQueen frequently got into trouble and soon found himself remanded to a home for troubled teenage boys. Following that, he joined the U.S. Marines and used the G.I. bill to study acting in New York. There, his rebellious angst and good looks helped him become a fixture of the theater scene, with movie and television success soon following. Terrill provides behind-the-scenes stories spanning McQueen’s career, his tumultuous love life, his greatest films, and, eventually, his fight with cancer. Well-written and exhaustively detailed. --Kathleen Hughes

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Triumph Books (September 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600783880
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600783883
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This will not be a lengthy review because I think the work should speak for itself. As a lifelong, die hard, Steve McQueen fan I think I can state without fear of contradiction this is THE best researched and written biography I have ever read on Steve McQueen -- and I've read them all! I've read Terrill's previous work on McQueen and he has outdone himself and any other previous attempts to chronicle the man's life. Why? Minus the sordid nonsense of Darwin Porter or the flagrantly incorrect data of Penina Speigel, William Nolan, Michael Munn, etc, Terrill sets the record straight, backs up his facts, and unearths some truly amazing revelations about the man's ancestry, life and work. I'd love to state what those revelations are but the best way to find out is the way I did...buy and savor the book!
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Format: Hardcover
This book is the culmination of over 20-years of exhaustive research by the celebrated author Marshall Terrill into the unchartered waters of Steve McQueen's life from a historical and emotional perspective that has never been articulated until now. With a rare combination of respect, objectivity, painstaking accuracy (supported by facts) and candor, what emerges is the definitive work of a generation that delivers to the world the most comprehensive treatment of the iconic actors life. Terrill creates a genealogical history of McQueen's ancestry as it relates directly to a troubled life that began in Beach Grove, Indiana and continued through a turmoil-ridden existence on a remote farm in Slater, Missouri. From Slater, we follow McQueen to Los Angeles, California and ultimately to the heartbreak of The Boys Republic, a reform school situated in Chino Hills, California.

In a move that is both provocative and evokative, Terrill enlists the services of psychologist Peter O. Whitmer to deliberately reconstruct the traumatic emotional events and miscuses that formed the basis of McQueen's complicated and tortured existence. Whitmer plumbs the depths of McQueen's emotional psyche with a narrative that allows the reader an unprecedented access into Steve McQueen's long-misunderstood and often mischaracterized conflicts and difficulties resulting in a greater understanding of what drove the actor both in life and on "the big screen". Whitmer's pacing in knowing instinctively when to step forward to speak to the reader and when to step back out of the limelight is undertaken with sensitivity and compassion; this is not a dark expose, but rather an illuminating reconstruction of McQueen's life that fans will welcome and embrace for its authenticity.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I grew up in the 1960's, always fascinated by Steve McQueen and a little bit in love with him. He was amazing on the screen, always interesting to watch and always cool. From the sexy Thomas Crown Affair and his smoldering chess game with Faye Dunaway to his scene stealing in The Magnificent Seven and The Cincinnati Kid, the eyes of the audience were drawn to him. To me he was perfect in Papillon and The Sand Pebbles. Although he hand picked his roles in the 70's, I enjoyed those later movies too; it was still Steve on that screen with those blue eyes that mesmerized and hinted that a little bit of the devil hid within him. Yet I knew nothing of McQueen's youth and how he came to be one of the biggest stars of my lifetime. This biography tells of young Steve's heartbreak in never knowing his father and the pain he endured because of his alcoholic mother and stepfather. It is remarkable that he survived his unfortunate childhood, but I am grateful that he did, as we have his films as a lasting tribute to this talented actor. Sadly, this American icon left us too soon. The author follows the diagnosis and progression of his cancer and his tragic death. Thirty-one years after his death he is still immensely popular, still the King of Cool, still the Man. I couldn't put this book down, there is so much information on Steve McQueen I had never read before. This is a must read for his fans, for those who like movies from the 60's and who want to know more about McQueen's real life.
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Format: Hardcover
Steve McQueen, The Life and Legent of a Hollywood Icon is a fantasticaly complete biography. It covers all aspects of his 50 year life and those close to him. This beautifully written book is especialy well researched and documented. As a person who grew up and "lived and breathed" Steve McQueen, I had read everything I could find on him. This is the full story. The coverage of McQueens battle with cancer is enlightening and appears to be very accurate. A complete picture of Steve McQueen is painted, although I find the psychobabble from Peter O. Whitmer a bit overdone. I was a fan all the way from Wanted Dead or Alive to The Hunter and this was like going back in time. Pure joy.
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Format: Hardcover
Yes, I liked the late actor Steve McQueen, but I was certainly not in the category of devoted 'fan'. That is why I was very surprised that I liked this biography so very much.
The author did an awesome job of researching his subject and put together a not always flattering portrait of McQueen, who managed to garner a lot of publicity as well as high box office receipts over 20+ years in Hollywood.
Steve had a fairly insecure childhood as he was shuttled among relatives while his self-absorbed and negectful mother traversed the country in search of good times. He never knew his father, but always yearned to make a connection with both parents that was never realized. While his relatives offered him stability and tried to instill him with a moral compass, his childhood left him with an almost life-long insecurity that was never dealt with. He had an additive personality and indulged in sex, drinking and drugs in alarming amounts. He could be generous and at times kind-hearted, was a wonderful father, a dreadful husband to his first two wives, was known as a cheapskate in the film community, and could be cruel, unrelenting, and irrational.
What made this book work for me was the extent of research and documentation that was counter balanced with a psychiatrist's explanation of the extenuating factors in McQueen's background that triggered his bad behavior. Usually I don't care for this approach, but it really worked in terms of explaining what made McQueen tick as well as often behave so badly.
In the last three years of his life, McQueen had reached a peace of sorts in his life. He was more caring and introspective and had entered into a relationship with the woman who became his third and last wife. The story of the discovery of the cancer that would take his life and his last year was moving and poignant.
This book was very easy to read and not in the slightest way slow or boring. It made me appreciate his work and view it it a new light.
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