Tags: Hollywood | steve mcqueen | tv | star | power

Steve McQueen on TV: How His Star Power Went Beyond the Big Screen

By    |   Monday, 13 Apr 2015 08:28 PM

Steve McQueen’s famous brand of cool debuted on TV as the lead actor in the hit Western series “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

Then in his late 20s, McQueen turned the role of bounty hunter Josh Randall into a magnetic gunslinger, an antihero whose pursuit was justice not simply enforcing the law.

According to TV by the Numbers, television audiences ate it up, with program viewer numbers propelling the series into the top 20 Nielsen ratings during the show’s run from 1958 to 1961. Nearly 13 million households tuned into CBS every Saturday night to watch McQueen hunt down a fugitive or punch a wrong-headed sheriff if crossed.

His portrayal of Randall was likeable and admirable, qualities that would permeate McQueen’s legendary film roles.

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McQueen’s acting career began in New York City, with a few well-received parts in Broadway and off-Broadway plays during the early 1950s. He moved to California hoping to break into show business. TV was his entrance.

Hardcore McQueen fans and historians list every obscure appearance the star made on television during the 1950s, including scenes in a 1952 infomercial called “Family Affair.”

In the mid-1950s, McQueen worked on several live television venues, including the Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse and Studio One. Both productions featured up-and-coming stars, and McQueen played roles with heft.

In 1955, he had a part in “The Chivington Raid,” a 45-minute production on the 1874 Colorado massacre of Cheyenne Indian men, women, and children led by U.S. Army Col. John Chivington. In a March 1957 live TV production, “The Defender,” he played a young man on trial for murder with a pre-Star Trek William Shatner as his defense attorney.

In 1959, while still acting in “Wanted Dead or Alive,” McQueen appeared in two “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episodes. In one, McQueen is a newspaper reporter whose editor wants him to interview a Martian. In the second episode, he becomes part of a dangerous bet.

McQueen’s TV career ended after the third season of “Wanted Dead or Alive,” when he quit the series in 1961. The silver screen had beckoned. McQueen, now 28, had won the part of Vin Tanner in his first big-budget movie, “The Magnificent Seven.”

“He became a star on television, and was one of the few early ’60s TV stars (Eastwood was another) able successfully to make the transfer to motion pictures,” wrote film critic Roger Ebert in a profile about the magnetic McQueen.

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Steve McQueen’s famous brand of cool debuted on TV as the lead actor in the hit Western series “Wanted Dead or Alive.” His portrayal of Randall was likeable and admirable, qualities that would permeate McQueen’s legendary film roles.
steve mcqueen, tv, star, power
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2015-28-13
Monday, 13 Apr 2015 08:28 PM
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