A Real Man’s Man

by Marc Eliot
Crown Archetype, $26.00, 354 pages

We all have heroes, some good, some bad, and some tarnished. Steve McQueen is one of my heroes. Who can forget his portrayal of the cooler king in “The Great Escape”, escaping from the POW camp in Nazi Germany only to be caught and returned to the cooler and handed his baseball and mitt, somewhat content to sit and play catch with himself while the rest of the camp went on with their escape activities. Or, his icy blue eyes focused only on the back-end of the fleeing Dodge Charger as the bad guys calmly loaded the shotgun, Lt. Frank Bullitt staying with them in his Mustang through the streets of San Francisco and the fiery crash that ended what is arguably one of best car chase scenes in movie history.

But, like most Hollywood heroes, Steve was somewhat tarnished. Drugs, womanizing – even though he was married – and an ego that he was never quite satisfied with just acting in his movies. He wanted to direct, he wanted to write his own scripts and he wanted more women in his bed and more booze and drugs.

From 94 television shows of “WANTED: Dead or Alive” to his final movie “The Hunter”, he was a force, he made money, he lost money, he married and divorced and remarried three times. So I will forgive him his misdeeds and I will remember his cool demeanor in “Bullitt”, his cooler than cool as an escape artist in “The Great Escape”, and his let’s steal from the art museum, just because we can, in “The Thomas Crown Affair”, which I like far better than the remake.

If you are old enough to have seen these movies, then this biography is for you. Now, you’ll have to excuse me while I pop a DVD of Tommy Crown into the player and watch a hero come to life.

Reviewed by Dick Morris