Steve McQueen was the prototypical example of a new sort of movie star which emerged in the 1950s and would come to dominate the screen in the 1960s and '70s -- a cool, remote loner who knew how to use his fists without seeming like a run-of-the-mill tough guy, a thoughtful man in no way an effete intellectual, a rebel who played by his own rules and lived by his own moral code, while often succeeding on his own terms. While McQueen was one of the first notable examples of this new breed of antihero (along with James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Paul Newman), he was also among the most successful, and was able to succeed as an iconoclast and one of Hollywood's biggest box-office draws at the same time.
Terrence Steven McQueen was born in Indianapolis, IN, on March 24, 1930. In many ways, McQueen's childhood was not a happy one; his father and mother split up before his first birthday, and he was sent to live with his great uncle on a farm in Missouri. After he turned nine, McQueen's mother had married again, and he was sent to California to join her. By his teens, McQueen had developed a rebellious streak, and he began spending time with a group of juvenile delinquents; McQueen's misdeeds led his mother to send him to Boys' Republic, a California reform school. After ninth grade, McQueen left formal education behind, and after a spell wandering the country, he joined the Marine Corps in 1947. McQueen's hitch with the Leathernecks did little to change his anti-authoritarian attitude; he spent 41 days in the brig after going Absent With Out Leave for two weeks.