Thursday, June 17, 2010

"King of Cool"

Over at the Egyptian, the late, great King of Cool, Steve McQueen, is being celebrated with several of his best films. Opening the proceedings Thursday is the 50th-anniversary screening of "The Magnificent Seven," John Sturges' rugged American version of "The Seven Samurai." A young McQueen plays one of the seven gunmen hired to guard a Mexican village from a brutal bandit (Eli Wallach) and his men. Also screening is the underrated 1972 Sam Peckinpah modern-day western "Junior Bonner," which casts McQueen as an aging rodeo star.

In Robert Wise's 1966 epic "The Sand Pebbles," lined up for Saturday, McQueen plays an engineer in China during the 1920s who becomes a crew member of a U.S. gunboat on the Yangtze River. It's the role for which he received his only lead actor Oscar nomination. McQueen gives another strong performance in 1973's "Papillion," which fills out the double bill. Directed by Franklin Schaffner, the drama revolves around French convict Henri Charriere.

McQueen and Sturges reunited for 1963's World War II classic "The Great Escape," screening Sunday, which chronicles a massive prison camp escape in Germany. McQueen came into his own as "The Cooler King" in this exciting thriller.

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