Movie Stars: McQueen, Steve–Career Beginning

Steve McQueen was one of a rare breed of movie stars who did not have to act or do anything in particular to engage and attract viewers.

He dominated the screen on the strength of his screen presence alone, his handsome physical look and cool charismatic personality.

How did it happen?

In John Sturges’ WWII melodrama, Never So Few, Sammy Davis Jr, Frank Sinatra’s pal and Rat Packer, was originally cast to play Steve McQueen’s role, but Sinatra removed him after Davis made some critical comments about him in a radio interview.

At the time, Steve McQueen was known for the TV series Wanted: Dead or Alive and the 1958 sci-fi horror movie, The Blob. 

Steve McQueen and John Sturges Collaboration

Never So Few marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with director John Sturges. It was Sturges who cast McQueen in his breakout role the following year, as second lead in the Magnificent Seven, which became a major hit, and later on, in 1963, as the motorcycle-jumping lead in The Great Escape, which catapulted McQueen to major international stardom.

Power of Stardom:

On the original US theatrical poster, only Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida were top billed. However, in the picture’s 1967 re-release, McQueen’s credit was moved in front of Peter Lawford’s and above the title, and he was featured prominently in the artwork.