Bullitt (1968): Starring Steve McQueen at his Coolest

In one of his most famous roles, Steve McQueen stars as tough-guy police detective Frank Bullitt, assigned for 48 hours to watch a witness before his trial. However, when the witness and another officer are shot, Bullitt decides to investigate the case on his own, much to the dismay of an ambitious Senator (Robert Vaughn) who wants to shut the investigation down, hindering Bullitts plan to bring the killers to justice.

Directed by Peter Yates (it’s his best work), Bullitt put Steve McQueen at the forefront of American movie stars, a position he held for almost a decade.

Robert Duvall, in a small part of cab driver, seen through a rear-view mirror, and the young and beautiful Jacqueline Bisset, as McQueen’s love interest Cathy, also appear in the film, though it’s pretty much McQueen’s sole showand a brilliant vehicle that updates Bogart’s genre works of the 1940s.

“Bullitt” contains one of the most exciting car chases in film history, a sequence that revolutionized Hollywood’s standards. Chasing the hoodlums, McQueen drives up and down the hills of San Francisco, while an impressive hand-held camera records the perilous pursuit and traffic in thrilling minutia detail, as his sexy vehicle narrowly misses intersecting cars and trucks; other barriers during the chase are pedestrians, buildings, and so on.

Oscar Alert

Bullitt was nominated for two technical Oscar, winning for Best Editing, by Frank P. Keller. The other nomination for Best Sound, orchestrated By Warner Bros-Seven Studio Sound Department; the winner, though, was the musical “Oliver!”

The fifth top-grossing film of the year, Bullitt reaffirmed McQueen’s bankability and box-office success.

McQueen’s Career

Steve McQueen first began acting in 1952 when he enrolled at Sanford Meisners Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. After making an impression in a number of small off-Broadway productions, McQueen was accepted into the Actors Studio and in 1956, he made his film debut with a bit part in Somebody Up There Likes Me alongside Paul Newman. Two years later, McQueen scored his first starring film role in the sci-fi cult film The Blob, but it was his role in the television series Wanted: Dead or Alive that brought him to stardom.

McQueen soon became one of Hollywoods most bankable leading men and starred in a long string of box-office successes, which included, in addition to the titles in the Collection, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Thomas Crown Affair. In 1968, McQueen was nominated for an Oscar for his outstanding portrayal of a cynical sailor in The Sand Pebbles.

During the next decade, McQueen starred in numerous films, achieving varying degrees of commercial success. But after 1978, McQueen appeared in only two more films before taking ill with an aggressive form of lung cancer. He died of a heart attack at the age of 50 shortly after undergoing lung surgery.

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