|Low Rider: The Super-Charged
Cinema of Steve McQueen
"In my own mind, Im not sure that acting is
something for a grown man to be doing." -- Steve McQueen
From his escape-artist anti-heroes in PAPILLON and THE GREAT
ESCAPE to his hardboiled loners in THE CINCINNATI KID and JUNIOR BONNER, to his speed
demon cop in BULLITT, actor Steve McQueen (1930 1980) blazed across the
screen with the same intensity and competitive spirit he brought to his off-screen passion
for racing. One of the most popular and acclaimed actors of his generation, McQueen is
arguably even more popular now, emerging as a kind of archetype for the ideal Hollywood
male star: defiantly independent (but nursing a wounded soul), always close to the boiling
point, a man of few words and much action. In other words, the King of Cool.
Born in 1930 in Slater, Missouri, McQueen was abandoned as a
child by his father, and later spent time in a boys reform school in Chino,
California (years later, now a Hollywood star, he continued to send money and clothes to
support the school). After a brief stint in the Marines in the late 1940s, he worked
as a lumberjack, bartender, carnival barker, and TV repairman among other jobs, before
joining the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York in 1952 to study acting. He first gained
attention in the teen drive-in/sci-fi flick THE BLOB in 1958, followed that same year by a
star-making role in the Western television series "Wanted: Dead Or Alive." From
the early 1960s through the mid-1970s, McQueen enjoyed an unbroken run as one
of the most phenomenally successful actors in Hollywood; he died at the age of 50 after a
protracted battle with lung cancer, robbing American cinema of one of its brightest stars.
This is the first major Los Angeles retrospective of Steve
McQueens work ever mounted, and features new 35 mm. prints of his classics THE GREAT
ESCAPE and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN - !
Thursday, November 7 7:30 PM
Brand New 35 mm. Print!
THE GREAT ESCAPE, 1963,
MGM/UA, 172 min. Dir. John Sturges. Superlative WWII drama chronicling the real
life, large scale prison camp escape of Allied POWs in Germany, featuring Steve
McQueen in his (literally) breakout role as Captain Virgil Hilts, "The Cooler
King." Nail-biting suspense and exhilarating action are punctuated with just the
right amount of raucous humor, aided by composer Elmer Bernsteins rousing score.
This is the film that helped to solidify the careers of already rising stars McQueen,
James Garner, Charles Bronson and James Coburn, with excellent support from Richard
Attenborough, James Donald and Donald Pleasence
Friday, November 8 7:30 PM
Double Feature William Fraker
and Bob Relyea In Person!
BULLITT, 1968, Warner Bros., 113
min. Dir. Peter Yates. An unbelievably tense, pared-to-the-bone thriller, BULLITT
helped to pave the way for not only cinema verité-style policiers like THE FRENCH
CONNECTION, but every cinematic car chase since then. Steve McQueen is über-cool
Detective Frank Bullitt of the San Francisco P.D., a lone-wolf homicide cop who goes up
against mob hitmen as well as ambitious bureaucrat Robert Vaughn, when he fights to
safeguard a witness. With Jacqueline Bisset, Simon Oakland, Don Gordon.
THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR,
1968, MGM/UA, 102 min. One of our favorite guilty pleasures from the 1960s: Steve
McQueen stars as bachelor supremo Thomas Crown, whos just pulled off the perfect
multi-million dollar bank heist until he runs into mondo-chic insurance
investigator Faye Dunaway, who cant decide whether she wants to make love to
him, or throw him in the slammer! Features some of the grooviest split-screen images ever,
courtesy of director Norman Jewison and co-editor Hal Ashby, with beautiful
cinematography by Haskell Wexler. Academy Award winner for Best Song, the haunting
"The Windmills Of Your Mind," by Michel Legrand and Alan & Marilyn Bergman. Discussion between films with BULLITT producer Bob Relyea,
cinematographer William Fraker and actor Pat Renella (schedules permitting).
Saturday, November 9 5:00 PM
PAPILLON, 1973, Warner Bros., 150
min. McQueen gives one of his greatest performances in the true-life story of French
convict Henri "Papillon" Charriere and his confinement on the hellish penal
colony of French Guiana. Brilliantly directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (PLANET OF
THE APES, PATTON), with terrific support from Dustin Hoffman as McQueens
myopic buddy Louis Dega. Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple Jr., adapted from
Saturday, November 9 8:45 PM
Steve McQueen - Sam Peckinpah Double
THE GETAWAY, 1972, Warner
Bros., 122 min. Director Sam Peckinpah adapts writer Jim Thompsons
savage pulp classic with tightly wound Steve McQueen as escaped bank robber Doc
McCoy. To spring him from the joint, devoted wife Ali McGraw enlists the help of
corrupt fat-cat Ben Johnson, who wants McCoy to execute a seemingly impossible robbery. Al
Lettieri is the memorably sleazy killer who dogs the couples trail after thieves
JUNIOR BONNER, 1972,
Cinerama (Walt Disney), 100 min. Dir. Sam Peckinpah. Steve McQueen is Junior
Bonner, a restless rodeo star trying to deal with drifter con-man dad Robert Preston
and outspoken, responsible mom Ida Lupino, as well as girlfriend Barbara Leigh --
while hes not getting his head busted on bucking broncs. A sometimes funny,
sometimes melancholic meditation on Americans whove forsaken the 9-to-5 straitjacket
to thrive in a much more rugged lifestyle. With Ben Johnson and Joe Don Baker.
Sunday, November 10 3:00 PM
Brand New 35mm Print!!
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, 1960,
MGM/UA, 128 min. Excellent, Americanized version of Akira Kurosawas classic THE
SEVEN SAMURAI, helmed by noted action auteur John Sturges (THE GREAT ESCAPE, BAD
DAY AT BLACK ROCK), with charismatic Steve McQueen making his first star turn
alongside Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad
Dexter and Horst Bucholz as seven gunmen hired to safeguard a Mexican farm village from
marauding bandit chieftain Eli Wallach. With an instantly memorable Elmer Bernstein
score that inspired everything from future westerns to cigarette commercials (!) for
decades to come.
Sunday, November 10 6:15 PM
THE CINCINATTI KID, 1965,
MGM (Warner Bros.), 102 min. Dir. Norman Jewison. Steve McQueen is perfectly cast
as an ambitious young gambler poised to triumph over master poker player Edward G.
Robinson at a high stakes game in Depression-era New Orleans. Adapted from the Richard
Jessup novel by Ring Lardner, Jr. and Terry Southern, this suspensefiul character study
features a rogues gallery of greats including Ann-Margret, Tuesday Weld, Rip Torn, Karl
Malden, Joan Blondell and Cab Calloway.
HELL IS FOR HEROES, 1962,
Paramount, 90 min. McQueen teamed with master genre director Don Siegel (DIRTY
HARRY) for this savage, nihilistic portrait of a group of American GIs trying to
hold off an overwhelming German assault during World War II. Ranks with Anthony
Manns MEN IN WAR and Robert Aldrichs ATTACK as one of the most powerful
anti-war films of the era. Co-starring Fess Parker, Bobby Darin, Harry Guardino, James
Coburn and Bob Newhart.