DETROIT — By 1968, Steve McQueen was already established as the ‘King of Cool’ on the big screen thanks to classics such as “The Magnificent Seven”, “The Great Escape”, “The Cincinnati Kid”, “The Sand Pebbles” and “The Thomas Crown Affair”. But it wasn’t until “Bullitt” that he became both an icon and a legend thanks to the single greatest car chase ever shown onscreen.
To celebrate the movie’s 50th anniversary, Ford is showcasing the vintage Mustang drove by McQueen at this year’s North American International Auto Show in downtown Detroit.
“He did the majority of the stunts himself,” said actress Molly McQueen, the granddaughter of the late Steve McQueen. “As he had issues with a bunch of movies in the past, a lot of insurance companies were hesitant to have him do it because if he get injured, the movie’s gone. There was a stunt driver but he did a lot of them.”
Considered to be the precursor to Clint Eastwood as 1971’s “Dirty Harry”, Bullitt followed the story of the titular San Francisco police detective assigned to protect a witness set to testified against powerful organized crime figures, while the politician Chalmers (Robert Vaughn, McQueen’s Mag 7 co-star) hopes to capitalize this case into a career-making opportunity. Co-starring the lovely Jacqueline Bisset, “Bullitt” paves the way for films with memorable car chases such as 1971’s “The French Connection” starring Gene Hackman as NYPD cop Popeye Doyle.
“My mom always told me amazing stories,” Molly McQueen explained because her grandfather Steve passed away before she was born. “Yes, he was just as cool off screen. He was the first person to transfer successfully from TV to film. I think ‘The Cincinnati Kid’ was my favorite movie. For the purposes of this, we’ll say ‘Bullitt’ was my favorite.”
Steve McQueen was one of the rare few actors to ever make the successful transition from television to movies. Not only that, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the CBS Western “Wanted: Dead or Alive” with McQueen as Josh Randall, who was first introduced as “The Bounty Hunter” on “Trackdown” (1957-59) starring Robert Culp as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman.
Airing from 1958 to 1961, “Wanted: Dead or Alive” was a Saturday night favorite with McQueen as Randall, the bounty hunter with the sawed-off Winchester rifle – and the heart of gold. Though he brings in criminals for the reward, Josh Randall continues to prove to the people of whatever town he rode in week after week that he is one of the good guys on the side of justice. Reruns of “Wanted: Dead or Alive” can be seen on Heroes & Icons, Encore Westerns, and Me-TV; check your local listings.
Look for the 1968 Ford Mustang “Bullitt” as well as the 50th anniversary edition 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt on display at the NAIAS in Detroit.
Stay with AmericaJR.com for continuing coverage of the 2018 NAIAS all week long…