Thursday, December 05, 2013

Steve McQueen's really bad decision; The Career of John Sturges


From Cinema Retro

The feud between John Sturges and McQueen was tragic...he had made McQueen a star in Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. However, McQueen's long-delayed plans to bring a racing movie to the screen culminated in the ill-conceived Le Mans. The two old friends feuded over the film's concept. After Sturges quit the project, "B" movie director Lee H. Katzen took over. The film was one of the few outright bombs of McQueen's career, consisting mostly of footage of speeding cars and virtually no plot. (Thanks to Cinema Retro contributing writer Steve Saragossi for sharing this rare photo). 

From Suspense

The Career of John Sturges  by Steve Badger

Perhaps due to the blue-collar workmanship of his films, no director ever made as many enduringly popular movies as John Sturges while being largely forgotten himself. Rarely has an artist ever made such popular body of work while making himself as anonymous as possible. No "look at me, I'm a director" touches. The movies occur. Stories of beauty and substance are told well. Just for that accomplishment alone, John Sturges deserves to be remembered as one of America's greatest filmmakers.

The Great Escape (1963). Simply THE World War II prison camp movie, which says a lot. Several stars Sturges' uses time and again are here, including Steve McQueen. First Sturges made McQueen a star. Then he made him a superstar. Finally, in The Great Escape, Sturges made McQueen a film icon. Based on the true story of the largest escape from a German prison camp during the war, Sturges conveys the triumph of the human spirit in the meticulous escape planning, the ingenious details, the courageous escapees, the ultimate tragedy -- and even the disillusionment of the non-Nazi Germans. It has equals, but you can't make a better movie.

The Magnificent Seven (1960). While this is a remake of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and is set in Mexico, in many ways it is the archetype American film. The near-perfect mix of story, music, personalities, pacing and visuals hits on every cylinder. When the peasants offer gunman-for-hire Yul Brynner the combined fortune of everything in the village, Brynner replies: "I've been offered a lot when I work... but never everything." Likewise, this film has everything. While some elements may seem cliched today, this is the film that made those cliches. James Coburn and Robert Vaughn became movie stars, and Steve McQueen became a superstar: "I never rode shotgun on a hearse before."

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Peter L. Winkler said...

"The feud between John Sturges and McQueen was tragic...he had made McQueen a star in Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape."

I don't agree. McQueen's talent and his inimitable screen persona made him a star. Fortuitous casting gave McQueen those roles, but it's not entirely clear who was responsible for casting McQueen in Mag. Seven and The Great Escape. Also, McQueen achieved TV stardom in Wanted: Dead or Alive, which undoubtedly influenced the decision to cast him in The Great Escape.

Also, Robert Vaughn never became a movie star. He became a TV star in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and later had some good supporting roles in film, but did not become a movie star.

Dana King said...

Interesting timing. Last Saturday the American Film Institute showed a enhanced (?) print of THE GREAT ESCAPE, with all new sound and a cleaned up print. Wonderful movie, a credit to everyone connected to it, as well as the men they honored.

Don said...

The film: The Great Escape inspired me to research and locate the film's locations: which hopefully the fans of the film will enjoy.....