Showing posts with label Steve McQueen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steve McQueen. Show all posts

Friday, August 16, 2019

Cinema Shame: Tom Horn (1980)

This post is sponsored by DVD Netflix. 

The completist in me has spoken and I must finish Steve McQueen's filmography. Even if that means watching a terrible movie like Tom Horn (1980). And yes it is indeed terrible. 

This film is part of my Cinema Shame Challenge for 2019 in which I watch 10 movies from my birth year 1980. If you want to participate in your own Cinema Shame challenge whether it by theme, month, year, whatever, visit the official website for more details.

Tom Horn (1980) was directed by Don Siegel. Then Elliot Silverstein. Then James William Geurcio. Then eventually Steve McQueen took over but because the Directors Guild of America (DGA) didn't allow actors to take director's credit after the film had already started, William Wiard was brought on to finish things up and give the film a final director's credit. The end result of that complicated production was a total mishmash of scenes. This aimless Western didn't capture my attention or my interest.

This was Steve McQueen's second to last film and he was already ill from the cancer that would eventually kill him in 1980. In fact McQueen died the same month I was born so I feel this weird connection with him. In Tom Horn, McQueen stars as the title character, a frontier scout with a legendary reputation. He worked for the Teddy Roosevelt administration, for the Pinkerton agency, was known for catching Geronimo, etc. He waltzes into town and gets off on a bad foot when boxer Jim Corbett beats him up. He's eventually hired by cattle farmer John C. Coble (Richard Farnsworth) to help catch (well, kill really) the cattle thieves that are a plague on other farmers. While he's cleaning up the joint, he meets Glendolene (Linda Evans), a local schoolteacher who is instantly smitten with him and the two have a sweet romance. Unfortunately Tom Horn is causing too much destruction and in an effort to get rid of him someone frames Tom for the murder of a young boy. The film follows Tom as he goes to trial for a crime he most likely did not commit. The real life Tom Horn was convicted yet later exonerated for the murder in 1993, 90 years after his death.

The film has a great cast: Steve McQueen, Richard Farnsworth, Linda Evans, Elisha Cook Jr. plays a stable hand at a horse ranch and Slim Pickens plays the town Sheriff who has a soft spot for Tom . The story suffers from woefully underdeveloped characters. The Evans-McQueen romance feels forced and false. There were some moments in the film where it tries to establish some personality traits for Tom Horn including a scene where he eats lobster for the first time or the different charms he carries with him that he ends up using to escape jail. In the end, Tom Horn is a flat and uninteresting character and McQueen was not in the position with both his career and his health to really invest himself in the role. If you're a Steve McQueen fan like I am, give this one a watch to check it off your list and move on.

Have you seen Tom Horn (1980)? What did you think? 

Disclaimer: As a DVD Nation director, I earn rewards from DVD Netflix. Tom Horn (1980) is available to rent on

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Never So Few (1959)

John Sturges’ Never So Few (1959) is part WWII drama and part exotic melodrama. Inspired by true events, it follows the story of American and British troops in Burma (now Myanmar) working on an attack on the Japanese but are in turn attacked by Chinese guerrillas. The troop is led by Captain Reynolds (Frank Sinatra), a fearless leader who isn’t afraid to make difficult decisions under the duress of war or to question the authority of his superiors. His troop is a motley crew of personalities including hard drinking but lovable Sergeant Norby (Dean Jones), macho man Sergeant Danforth (Charles Bronson), semi-incompetent army doctor Captain Travis (Peter Lawford) and Reynolds’ right hand man Captain Mortimer (Richard Johnson). Then there is Ringa (Steve McQueen), Reynolds and Mortimer’s driver, who quickly proves his worth and becomes an important aide to the troop. He’s always got a stash of booze somewhere for the drinking and shares Reynolds’ distaste for authority. Together this band of soldiers works with Kachin leader Nautaung (Philip Ahn) as they make their way through the jungles of Burma. Injected into this war drama is a love story between Reynolds and the glamorous Carla (Gina Lollobrigida). Carla is traveling with her beau, wealthy merchant Nikko Regas (Paul Henreid), but the rough and tough Reynolds quickly sweeps her off her feet. Can Reynolds infiltrate the guerrilla group that is putting his men in danger and still get back safely to Carla?

Never So Few is an adaptation of Tom T. Chamales' novel of the same name, Chamales, an army veteran who served during WWII, based his story on a controversial event that he personally witnessed and wrote about extensively. According to both the AFI and The Hollywood Reporter, the incident involved Chiang Kai-shek’s government authorizing “warlords to cross borders and kill [American and British troops] indiscriminately,” something the Los Angeles Consul General for the Republic of China vehemently denied. MGM bought the rights to the novel in 1956, year before its publication. The novel was adapted to the screen by writer Millard Kaufman. It was filmed on location in Myanmar (then Burma) as well as India, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and Thailand with some scenes shot on the MGM lot. The film was made for $3.5 million. It was a hit at the box office making $5.27 million gross worldwide. While audiences flocked to the movie, critics gave it mixed reviews.

I don’t know about you but I’m a sucker for all-star casts and Never So Few delivers on that front. So many of my favorites are in this movie including Gina Lollobrigida, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, Peter Lawford, Paul Henreid, Charles Bronson, Brian Donlevy and I loved watching scenes with actors I’m fairly unfamiliar with like Dean Jones, Kipp Hamilton (who plays a fun loving army nurse) and Richard Johnson. It’s a male heavy cast but there is enough of Lollo and some other feisty women to give the film a bit of balance. The much beloved George Takei has a small role as a soldier in the hospital scene. This was one of my favorite moments in the movie when Sinatra’s Reynolds stands up to a higher ranking captain because the hospital is feeding the Burmese soldiers an American diet that is causing them dysentery. Reynolds’ character defies racial prejudice and shows compassion that’s lacking among the American/British authorities. Actor James Hong also has a bit part as the corrupt General Chao. Hong and Donlevy have a fantastic showdown which gives the film a satisfying and patriotic ending.

Many members of the cast and crew were war veterans. Here is a snapshot:

WWII experience:
Army: Tom T. Chamales
Army Air Corps: John Sturges, Charles Bronson
British Navy: Richard Johnson
Marine Corps: Steve McQueen, Millard Kaufman, Robert Bray

WWI experience:
Flying Corps: Brian Donlevy

The stand out in Never So Few is relative newcomer Steve McQueen. This was his first big budget movie and the first of his trilogy with John Sturges which includes The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963). The role of Ringa was originally intended for Sammy Davis Jr. At this point in Sinatra’s career, he often had members of the Rat Pack in his movies. Davis and Sinatra had a falling out and Sinatra demanded that Davis be replaced. According to McQueen biographer Wes D. Gehring, Sturges and Sinatra watched several episodes of McQueen’s TV show Wanted: Dead or Alive and were impressed with what they saw. Sinatra set his sights on McQueen and requested that the role of Ringa be expanded to showcase the newcomer. The two got along on set and even pulled pranks on each other. McQueen and his wife Neile Adams quickly became part of the Rat Pack’s social circle. However, McQueen was hesitant about becoming an official member of the Rat Pack (or The Summit as Sinatra called it). McQueen thought it would hold him back in his acting career and he even turned down a part in the classic Rat Pack movie Ocean’s Eleven (1960) so he could distance himself a bit from the group.

Never So Few is an important drama because it looks at a lesser known moment in the history of WWII. The film is well-worth your time for the excellent cast and is essential viewing for any Steve McQueen fan. The story does drag on a bit and I felt Sinatra and Lollobrigida had a little chemistry but not enough to make their romance believable. There is a particular scene when Sinatra and Lollobrigida are about to kiss and Lollobrigida is talking about goat’s milk. It really “soured” the moment for me. And I would be remiss to not point out the very odd opening credits. It features vignettes of all the primary cast members with the exception of the two main stars. When I first watched it I thought I’d missed something and replayed it. Nope. We see Sinatra and Lollobrigida’s names in big letters but no vignette. I thought this a very odd choice.

Never So Few (1959) is available on Blu-Ray from the Warner Archive Collection.When you use my buy link you help support this site. Thanks!

The film looks fantastic on Blu-Ray. You can hear the WAC trio discuss the film on their podcast All's Fair about 4 minutes in. D.W. Ferranti calls the film "half a courageous war movie and half a vengeance movie."

 Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me a copy of Never So Few (1959) on Blu-Ray for review!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Stars & Their Hobbies ~ Steve McQueen

"Racing is the most exciting thing there is. But unlike drugs, you get high with dignity." - Steve McQueen

Becoming a professional race car driver wasn't in the cards for Steve McQueen but that didn't stop him from pursuing racing as a hobby. Over the years he spent much of the money he made from acting on high-perfomance vehicles. His love of racing transferred over to his films too including The Great Escape (1963), Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Bullitt (1968) and the quintessential racing movie Le Mans (1971). For safety reasons, insurance companies prohibited from doing many of the racing stunts in his films, much to his dismay. But when he wasn't a filming a movie, he was free to race to his heart's desire.

Here are some vehicles McQueen owned:

Motorcycles - Triump Bonneville, Husquarna 400 CR, Indian Chief, a variety of antique motorcycles that dated from the 1920s and earlier.

Sports cars - Siata 208, Lotus XI, Porsche 356 Speedster, Jaguar XK-SS, Ferrari 250 GR Lusso

Read my review of the book Steve McQueen: A Passion for Speed here.

McQueen in the Green Ford Mustang Fastback GT390 from Bullitt (1968)

 Cycle World 1964. Source
My series Stars & Their Hobbies explores how notable actors and actresses from Hollywood history spent their free time. Click here to view a complete list of entries.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Steve McQueen: A Passion for Speed

Steve McQueen: A Passion for Speed
by Frederic Brun
Hardcover - 192 pages
ISBN: 9780760342480
October 2011

Barnes and Noble
IndieBound (Your local bookstore)

"McQueen will be remembered as one of the finest exponents of speed to ever grace the big screen." - Brun

Steve McQueen: A Passion for Speed is a coffee table book for McQueen fans and car enthusiasts alike. In its 192 pages you'll find beautiful black-and-white and color photographs depicting the actor's passion for racing cars and motorcycles and his enthusiasm for physical sport.

In text written by French journalist Frederic Brun and translated into English by Flo Brutton, we learn about how McQueen's passion for speed influenced all parts of his life including his career as a film actor. The book is divided into six sections with an introduction providing much of the background of McQueen's life, the history of racing and some key figures including John Newton Cooper and Peter Revson. It's followed by 5 chapters each with a different theme: Speed, Physique, Film, Life and Collection. Each chapter starts off with a few pages of text and then continues with single and (almost) double-page spread photographs. These include photos of McQueen in action, candids of him at home, advertisements, movie posters, publicity photos, magazine covers and behind-the-scenes shots. The fun part of reading the book is looking through all the photographs and wishing you could be as cool as Steve McQueen.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter devoted to McQueen's physique, which he kept in tip-top shape with regular exercise. It includes some photos of him exercising at home and some of them are quite revealing of McQueen's physique and unmentionables (oh my!).

Although McQueen was known for having abused his body with cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, I admire his dedication to fitness because it's something that is very important in my life as well. McQueen had a home gym and a personal trainer, in a time when it was very rare to train if you were not a professional athlete. McQueen loved swimming, boxing and martial arts and all of his fitness efforts were ultimately to make him stronger and better suited to his greatest passion: racing.

So if Steve McQueen loved racing so much why didn't he become a professional race car driver instead of an actor? Brun explores this in the book. McQueen was a talent on the race track and kept himself in good shape but even he knew that even that wasn't enough for him make it professionally. He needed to be more fine-tuned in his driving skills and lacked some of the finesse of other more talented drivers. Besides, McQueen's career as an actor allowed him time and money to devote to collecting high performance cars and motorcycles and to influence Hollywood to add more racing and luxury vehicles into their movies.

McQueen's passion for speed was one major aspect of his personality that made him so charismatic and cool. Author Brun says:
"speed has the taste of forbidden fruit; the effect of a powerful stimulant, an unstable force set to destroy whoever consumes it. It is this that makes Steve McQueen so dangerously irresistible."
Steve McQueen glamorized racing and luxury cars on screen. The films discussed at length in the book include The Great Escape (1963), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Bullitt (1968),  Le Mans (1971) and On Any Sunday (1971). And of course in this book you'll find photos of the famous green Ford Mustang he drives in Bullitt as well as the Porsche from Le Mans.

I'm not going to pretend that I know anything about cars because I don't. I relied on my car enthusiast husband Carlos to translate some of the language in this book for me. You can still enjoy the book even if you're not into cars but knowing the lingo helps, especially when it comes to makes and models.

This book was published by MotorBooks, a company that seems devoted to putting out coffee table books about Steve McQueen. They have five in total! The others include Steve McQueen: A Tribute to the King of Cool, Steve McQueen: The Last Mile... Revisited (written by his third wife Barbara McQueen),  Steve McQueen: The Actor and His Films and McQueen's Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) Filming Locations ~ Part 3 Cambridge Cemetery

After finding the filming locations in Downtown Boston and Beacon Hill for The Thomas Crown Affair (1968),  Carlos and I headed to Cambridge, MA to find the cemetery from the film. Finding specific locations in cemeteries is more difficult than it seems. I personally have tried to find the graves of the author Henry James (Cambridge, MA) and the actress Thelma Todd (Lawrence, MA) with no luck and even though I had photo and location references from the Find-A-Grave website.

You would figure that cemeteries would not change much over time, with the exception of new headstones, but that's just not the case. Weather causes damage, teenagers vandalize and knock over headstones, many gravestones get replaced, plants and trees grow or are taken down, etc. Also, unless you are looking for something in a small cemetery, most cemeteries are complex labyrinths of stone, pavement and plants and are difficult to navigate if you don't know what you are looking for or don't have some guidance.

I went into this particular project with an open mind. Carlos didn't. He thought he could find the exact spots right away but I knew better! Our first mistake was thinking that the cemetery scenes in the film were shot at Mt. Auburn Cemetery. We went there and good thing Carlos asked someone at the visitor center because we were told the actual filming location was the adjacent Cambridge Cemetery and not Mt. Auburn. IMDb clearly states Cambridge Cemetery so I'm still confused why I thought it was Mt. Auburn to begin with!

The well-organized bank heist in the films ends with a money drop off at a cemetery just outside of the city. The bags of money are deposited in a trash can and shortly afterwards Thomas Crown arrives to pick up the loot. There are several shots of the Cambridge Cemetery, before you get to the drop off location, and I picked this one above because it stood out. The sculpture is of four cannons topped off with cannon balls and what look like graves of veterans surrounding it. I figured this one would be the easiest to find. It took some time but I found it.

And here it is! Notice how all the headstones are gone? They were replaced by flat markers. See what I mean about cemeteries changing over time? This part of the cemetery was a Civil War memorial and the graves were of fallen soldiers. It was very sobering to be there.

What the Civil War memorial looks like from the other side
Then we started looking for the money drop off location. I knew this one would be tricky and that we would need to compare screen shots from the movie with the areas and specific headstones we came across. I made an album on Picasa of my screen shots and accessed them on my iPhone. It helped a lot to have the screen shots on hand to compare with what we were seeing in real life.

This is the spot we were looking for!

This is the one screen shot I was most grateful for because it helped me find the exact location of the drop off. Compare the three tombstones in the foreground of the shot with the ones below.

I tried to line up the shot as close as I could to the original, even trying to get that pointed headstone in the bottom left of my picture. Notice how different the tombstones look 45 years later. That one on the right seems to be sliding off some sort of pedestal. The trashcan where Steve McQueen picks up the trash would have been towards the back.

Here are some more shots of the area.

If you watch the film closely, you'll spot these two headstones, the Skelton above and Nourse below. Kudos to Carlos who took the time to note the names.

We looked for this headstone in particular but couldn't find it. It was supposedly next to the Skelton and Nourse headstones but when we were there that spot was empty. There wasn't even a marker. I'm wondering if this was a fake headstone added for effect. "Blessed are the Pure in Heart" is what you see when Steve McQueen drives away with the bank loot.

You might think it's pretty strange of me to visit a cemetery looking for filming locations and photographing graves. That's actually pretty normal for me. Ever since I was a teenager, I have been fascinated with cemeteries and I did a lot of photography work at many of them.

I hope you enjoyed my little series on the filming locations of The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Carlos and I plan to find more locations but we may have to wait a while before we have time to do this kind of research again.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) Filming Locations ~ Part 2 Beacon Hill

After Carlos and I explored Downtown Boston in search of filming locations for The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) (you can see a post about that here), we headed to Beacon Hill where the character Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) lived. Beacon Hill is a district of Boston that has great historical importance for both local history and American history in general. In Beacon Hill you'll find the Massachusetts State House and the African Meeting House, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad,  important writers, politicians and dignitaries have lived and worked there. It's also an aesthetically beautiful neighborhood. It is so sought after that properties there have a very high value and are sold for top dollar. Where else would Thomas Crown, a man whose main goal in life is to seek wealth at any cost, call home?

In the film, we first see Beacon Hill when Thomas Crown drives up Mt. Vernon Street.

What the drive up Mt. Vernon Street looks like today

Thomas Crown's car takes a left and enters the driveway of 85 Mt. Vernon Street.

85 Mt. Vernon Street
The same cobblestone driveway you see in the movie is still there. It's a private residence so we couldn't go in. It looks like some contractors were there hence all the extra cars parked in the driveway.

Source: GlamAmor
In the film, Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway) and Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) attend an auction in Beacon Hill. I wasn't even looking for this location and didn't grab my own screen cap for it. However, Carlos really wanted to find it and we did! 

46 Beacon Street

46 Beacon Street

Vicki Anderson and Thomas Crown have a love affair. Is she trying to use her feminine charms on Thomas Crown to find out if he was responsible for the bank heist or is she falling for him in earnest? The line between business and pleasure starts to get really blurry. In this scene, Thomas Crown is taking Vicki Anderson back to his place. They walk up Acorn Street in Beacon Hill, one of the most photographed streets in America.

Sign for Acorn Street, which is to the right of this picture

Acorn Street, Beacon Hill
Acorn Street is beautiful and if you compare the screen cap from the movie and these pictures, it doesn't seem that much has changed from 1968 to 2013. Acorn Street seems to be frozen in time.

Acorn Street, Beacon Hill
It's a gorgeous little street, perfect for a romantic walk and a discreet kiss.

I hope you enjoyed my second installment in this filming location series on The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Next up, I look for the cemetery featured in the film.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Watch Bullitt (1968)

My contribution to the TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon

Bullitt (1968) will be showing on August 9th (Friday) 4:00 PM EST on Turner Classic Movies as part of the Summer Under the Stars Steve McQueen day. Here are my top 10 reasons why I think you should watch this fantastic film.

1. The fantastic car chase through the streets of San Francisco - I do enjoy a good car chase scene and this one does not disappoint. The exciting twists and turns and jumps along San Francisco's hilly and windy streets are perfect for this scene. And there is a nice big finale that is just oh so satisfying. I could watch this car chase over and over again and never be bored. While there was a stunt driver for some of the difficult maneuvers, Steve McQueen does a lot of the driving himself. There is also a really good airport chase scene too.

2. Steve McQueen - This is the ideal type of role for Steve McQueen. McQueen was especially good at performances in which there was limited dialogue because his efforts were better spent being cool, commanding the screen, racing cars and doing other physical work. This film was produced by McQueen's production company Solar Productions in conjunction with Warner Bros. and Seven Arts. So it's got the special Steve McQueen touch.

3. Confusing Plot - The plot is convoluted and confusing and pretty typical for a 1960's detective movie. Why is this a good thing? Because it gives you the opportunity to sit back, relax and take in the movie without having to preoccupy yourself with the plot details on your first viewing. With repeat viewings, the story starts to make more sense. And because of the convoluted nature of the plot, you find something new with each viewing that you didn't quite catch before. This film just begs to be watched over and over again.

4. Robert Vaughn - He is so wonderfully despicable in this film. According to IMDB, Vaughn didn't want to do the film. McQueen had his heart set on having Vaugh in the film and Warner Bros. kept offering more and more money until Vaughn said yes. Looking back on the film, Robert Vaughn said it was one of his best performances. Vaughn's character Walter Chambers is the polar opposite of McQueen's Frank Bullitt. Chambers's style is a lot more formal and conservative and his motivations are more political. Bullitt just wants to get the bad guy.

5. Steve McQueen's Style - Turtleneck, gun holster, sports coat, dark trousers and Chukka boots (or brown suede boots depending on which fashion guru you talk to). Gentleman, take special note of McQueen's outfits in this. He's casual and while his outfits may seem understated at first glance, they stand out from all the rest.

6. Young Jacqueline Bisset & Robert Duvall - Jacqueline Bisset is so young in this that she's barely recognizable! Bisset plays Cathy, Bullitt's architect girlfriend. Her role is small but very important. She represents the innocence and the emotion that Bullitt is missing in his life. Watch for Robert Duvall . He has a small role as a taxi driver who feeds Bullitt some useful information.

7. 1960s San Francisco - If you want to see what 1960s San Francisco looked like, watch this film! There are lots of great shots and views, especially during the car chase scene.

8. Realism - On location shooting, McQueen doing his own stunts, real life doctors and nurses in hospital scenes. This is not a glossed up Hollywood production. This is a gritty detective film.

9. Lalo Schifrin's Score - I have a difficult time writing about music so I don't often discuss soundtracks or scores on this blog. Lalo Schifrin is an Argentinian musician and composer with a long history of composing music for TV and film. The score for Bullitt is especially good. What I like about the score is that it complements the film very well. I think contemporary films are often weighed down with too much music. Bullitt has moments of silence and moments when the score is needed to build tension or excitement. 

10. Cinematography, Film Editing and Direction - This film was beautifully shot. It's directed by Peter Yates and the cinematography is by William A. Fraker. Film Editor Frank P. Keller won the film's only Academy Award for Best Film Editing! The editing and cinematography is especially noticeable in the car chase scene. There is one particular shot I love of Bullitt wearing sunglasses and looking in a rear view mirror. If you watch the movie, look for it. It's classic!

So there you have it. Clear off your schedule or rev up your DVR and make sure to watch Bullitt (1968). If you miss it on TCM, the film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

A special thanks to my husband Carlos who helped me with this post!

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