Book Review: Santa, Baby
Reviewed by Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 2, 2011
Steve McQueen: The Actor and His Filmsby Andrew Antoniades and Mike Siegel
Dalton Watson Fine Books, 492 pp., $69
He is the "king of cool," one of cinema's great rebel outsiders. He looks sensational in Western chaps and military uniforms, racing helmets and well-tailored suits. He might be bare-chested or wearing tattered prison garb or a fire chief's heavy jacket. He is Steve McQueen, and though he died in 1980, he remains an enduring icon of raw, American masculinity.
Can more than 1,000 pictures do an icon justice? That's the fond hope of the publisher of this handsomely designed, oversized volume that catalogs the movie star's film career. Dalton Watson Fine Books is a British publisher of art books about automotive-related subjects, though Steve McQueen: The Actor and His Films is a product of the company's Icons division, an offshoot of its Motoring division. And, certainly, the most iconic image of McQueen's acting career is the picture of the prisoner of war he played in The Great Escape soaring to freedom over a barbed-wire fence on a Triumph motorcycle. Add McQueen's famous love of motorbikes to his passion and skill as a race-car driver (and the films Bullitt and Le Mans that serve as testaments to his fanaticism), and it's understandable why Dalton Watson views him as an icon. Looking over its catalog, however, it's instantly noticeable that this is not the first but rather the third book on McQueen from this publisher. At this rate, Dalton Watson will soon have to open an Obsessions division.
Joking aside, Steve McQueen: The Actor and His Films does the screen idol justice. The book's 790 photographs are supplemented by another 230 illustrations taken from posters and lobby cards, all reproduced with immaculate care. The text, by avowed McQueen fans Andrew Antoniades and Mike Siegel, is know-ledgeable and thorough. The material repeats information culled from other biographical sources but arranges it in a film-by-film chronology. (Apart from Wanted: Dead or Alive, McQueen's television career is overlooked by this volume – but maybe that's being held in abeyance for a fourth McQueen bio from Dalton Watson.) Chapters at the beginning and end offer a biographical overview and reflections on the star's legacy, but these chapters serve mostly as refreshers. They won't provide any new insights for McQueen loyalists, who will nevertheless luxuriate in this marvelous collection of images.
More to feed your celebrity fetish: Then Again by Diane Keaton (Random House, $26); The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner and Jon Winokur (Simon & Schuster, $25.99); Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (Crown Archetype, $25); God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem by Darrell Hammond (HarperCollins, $25.99)