In 1947, at the age of 17, Steve McQueen joined the Marine Corps. He served three years.
McQueen: "The Marines gave me discipline I could live with. By the time I got out, I could deal with things on a more realistic level."
McQueen's G.I. Bill-sponsored acting studies with Sanford Meisner led to his Broadway debut in 1955. Later that year, the actor moved to L.A. and began pursuing movie roles. He is seen here with his first wife, Neile Adams, whom he married in 1956.
In 1958's "The Blob"—his first starring film role. From 1958 to 1961, he also starred as a bounty hunter with a heart of gold in the CBS series "Wanted: Dead or Alive." McQueen is said to have been the first actor to become an equally big star in TV and movies.
The McQueens in 1963, relaxing in a sulphur bath in Big Sur, California.
After his breakout hit "The Magnificent Seven" (1960), McQueen starred in both "The Great Escape" and "Love With the Proper Stranger" in 1963.
On the cover of Harper's Bazaar in February 1965.
In 1967, McQueen received his only Oscar nomination, for "The Sand Pebbles." He lost to the star of "A Man for All Seasons," Paul Scofield.
Wife Neile Adams: "If he'd won, he'd have been impossible to live with. Not because of a big head but because he'd be worrying how to top himself next. I prayed he wouldn't win."
Filming "The Thomas Crown Affair" (1968) with co-star Faye Dunaway.
In "Bullitt," another McQueen classic released in 1968, he plays a supremely cool police lieutenant. Many still consider the movie's famous car chase through the hills of San Francisco—with McQueen in a Ford Mustang GT going after a pair of hitmen in a Dodge Charger—the greatest chase scene ever filmed.
McQueen had two children: a daughter, Terry Leslie, and a son, Chad—born in 1959 and 1960, respectively.
In 1972, McQueen was arrested for drunk driving in Anchorage, Alaska.
Adams and McQueen divorced in 1972, the same year he starred with Ali MacGraw in "The Getaway." MacGraw married McQueen in 1973, but they would divorce five years later.
MacGraw recently told Oprah: "Now, obviously, Steve McQueen is dead for 30-some-odd years and it's very sad to me that as sober, grown-up, non-sexually connected beings, we didn't get to sit down and clean it all. 'Cause something was there."
Filming "Papillon" in Jamaica, 1973.
In 1974's "The Towering Inferno," McQueen made sure that he and co-star Paul Newman had the same number of lines and both got paid $1 million.
Photographed in May 1980 by Barbara Minty, his third and final wife (they had married earlier that year). McQueen died on November 7, 1980, at the age of 50. The cause was mesothelioma, a form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos.
Plane crashes, overdoses, suicides and other sudden deaths that shook the music world
Just in case you don't remember everything that happened when he was young, wild and free
The actress and author best known as Princess Leia was brilliant, funny, honest and inspiring—often all at once
Classic creatures that still manage to give us the creeps
15 quotes from the rock and roll pioneer who could play the guitar just like ringing a bell
A monster mash-up of songs that are a graveyard smash