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March 24: Steve McQueen was born on this date in 1930

Justin Hyde
March 24, 2014

Even now, 33 years after his death, Steve McQueen's aura of coolness holds its power. How else to explain how the former toys of a reform-school graduate now command millions of dollars at auctions? McQueen's movies have receded into the fog of Robert Osborne narrations; while McQueen starred in a few all-time classics (and car-guy cults use "Bullitt" and "Le Mans" as sacred texts), at the height of his popularity he turned down many others — from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" to "Apocalypse Now" to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Time has also smoothed out the rougher details of McQueen's messy personal life; by the time he died from asbestos-related lung cancer in 1980, he had all but quit Hollywood. Whatever the facts, we see McQueen today as the rebel with a cause; the guy who would throw away stardom in favor of running motorcycles through the desert, whose style can't be imitated because few people would be willing to make such sacrifices. As he famously said: "Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.” Here's McQueen's own passion project come to life, the opening laps of "Le Mans:"