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Biography

Actor, born Terrence Steven McQueen on March 24, 1930, in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father left the family when he was six months old, and McQueen spent his early childhood on a great uncle's farm in Slater, Missouri. When he was nine, he moved to California with his mother, who had remarried. The teenage McQueen started running around with what he later called a "bad crowd," leading his mother to send him to the Boys' Republic, a reform school in Chino, California. McQueen dropped out of school in ninth grade and became a drifter, working as a seaman until he joined the United States Marine Corps in 1947. Always a rebel, he once went AWOL for two weeks and spent a 41-day stint in the brig as punishment.

After his discharge from the Marines in 1950, McQueen settled in New York City, where he took a cheap apartment in Greenwich Village and worked as a salesman, a bartender, and a television repairman, among other jobs. McQueen took up acting at the suggestion of a friend, and in 1952 joined Sanford Meissner's Neighborhood Playhouse in New York under the G.I. Bill. After landing his first role, as a walk-on in a Yiddish play in New York's Lower East Side, he studied acting at the Uta Hagen-Herbert Berghof School and the prestigious Actor's Studio. In 1956, McQueen got his first big break when he replaced Ben Gazzara in the Broadway production of Hatful of Rain.

McQueen became well-known to audiences when he starred as bounty hunter Josh Randall in the popular TV series, Wanted: Dead or Alive, which aired for three seasons from 1958 to 1961. After landing roles in films such as the science fiction classic, The Blob (1958) and The Magnificent Seven (1960), starring Yul Brynner, he made his breakthrough big screen performance as a soldier imprisoned in a German camp during World War II, in The Great Escape (1963), which included a dramatic final scene involving a motorcycle chase. A car and motorcycle racing enthusiast, McQueen insisted on performing most of his own stunts.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, McQueen was one of Hollywood's biggest stars, commanding up to $3 million a film (then a huge sum). Nominated for an Academy Award for The Sand Pebbles (1966), he also starred in Love with the Proper Stranger (1963), with Natalie Wood; The Cincinatti Kid (1965), with Edward G. Robinson; The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), with Faye Dunaway; Bullitt (1968); The Reivers (1969); The Getaway (1972); Papillon 1973), with Dustin Hoffman; The Towering Inferno (1974), with Dunaway and Paul Newman. A strong-willed, independent man who was known for his intense dedication to acting, the extremely private McQueen developed the on-screen persona of an unlikely hero--a rebel struggling to survive in a hostile society. Of his stardom, he once said, "I don't know why it happened--but it's kinda nice. Maybe it's because I'm someone off the streets. Maybe people relate to me."

McQueen was married three times, first to dancer Neile Adams, with whom he had two children. The couple married in 1956 and divorced in 1971. He had a highly publicized relationship with the actress Ali MacGraw (best known for her role as the doomed Jenny Cavilleri in the hit 1970 tear-jerker Love Story) while they were co-starring in The Getaway (1972); she divorced producer Robert Evans to marry McQueen in 1973. McQueen and MacGraw divorced in 1977. He married Barbara Minty, a model, in January 1980. McQueen died of a heart attack at age 50, on November 7, 1980. At the time of his death, he was in Juarez, Mexico, undergoing surgical treatment for mesotheliomia, a type of cancer linked to asbestos exposure, which had spread from his lungs to his chest and abdomen. His last film, The Hunter, was released in 1980.

McQueen's son Chad is an actor; his daughter, Terry, died in 1998 shortly after undergoing a liver transplant.

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