A rose among the thorns: Faith and healing with Steve McQueen’s widow

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An interview with Barbara Minty, widow of “Sand Pebbles” hero Steve McQueen, covers Christianity, married life in Santa Paula, picking up the pieces and moving forward instead of letting bitterness rule, and more. In the accompanying still McQueen exhibits his premiere onscreen beard as doomed, head-strong Private John Reese of the 95th Infantry Division between takes of director Don Siegel’s modestly budgeted World War II German film “Hell Is for Heroes,” dropped on June 26, 1962, to enthusiastic reviews but limited box office appeal when Paramount lost faith and placed it on a double bill with Yul Brynner’s “Escape from Zahrain.” The future mastermind of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Full Metal Jacket” telegrammed McQueen and said, “Dear Steve, I want to congratulate you for your performance in ‘Hell Is for Heroes.’ It’s the most perceptive and realistic performance of any soldier in any war film I have seen. Best regards, Stanley Kubrick.” Incidentally, Siegel was originally attached to McQueen’s penultimate film “Tom Horn” before dropping out, and it was truly a shame that the King of Cool and the “Dirty Harry” helmer never collaborated further. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
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Dressed in blue jeans, brown cowboy boots, and a warm tan parka, a perm-wearing Steve McQueen prefers to sit down against a fence post and meditate amidst the peaceful surroundings of Montana, winter 1978. Photography by Barbara Minty McQueen / appears in “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile…Revisited”

The Barbara Minty McQueen Interview

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Long in the tooth teenagers Steve Andrews [Steve McQueen] and Jane Martin [Aneta Corsaut] are unable to convince residents of a rural Pennsylvania town that a meteorite crash may have unleashed more than they bargained for in director Irvin Yeaworth’s cult classic “The Blob,” distributed on September 12, 1958. Corsaut later gained television immortality as Sheriff Andy Taylor’s icy school teacher girlfriend Helen Crump on “The Andy Griffith Show.” In real life Griffith and Corsaut were lovers. He proposed several times while he was still married to Barbara Edwards, but Corsaut always politely rebuffed him. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures / screengrab
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“The 90-page New Testament Bible that evangelist Billy Graham gave to Steve days before his passing became Steve’s proudest possession and was on his chest when he died,” according to Steve McQueen’s widow Barbara Minty. Image Credit: Courtesy of Marshall Terrill / appears in “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile…Revisited”
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Steve McQueen and flight instructor Sammy Mason circa December 1979 outside the Santa Paula, California, airport, shortly after McQueen had completed filming on final film “The Hunter.” Known as the “Antique Plane Capital of the World,” the community about an hour north of Malibu became the King of Cool’s final home with third wife Barbara Minty. According to Marshall Terrill, Mason had “more than four decades of flying experience. He was a fearless acrobatic flyer who formed his own touring air show and was previously an engineering test pilot with Lockheed. He was featured in ‘Life’ magazine in the 1940s, but became a legend as the first pilot ever to do an intentional loop in a helicopter, which he performed at the Paris Air Show in 1967.” Mason turned into a father figure for McQueen, played a pivotal role in his conversion to Christianity, and was a witness for his final marriage to Minty. Mason’s memoir, “Faith & Flight,” was posthumously published by his estate two years after his November 29, 2001, death at age 83 exacerbated by Parkinson’s disease, ironically the same day as spiritual Beatle George Harrison’s passing. Whenever friends and strangers alike would call Mason’s house, wife Wanda Lee would answer and say, “Jesus loves you.” Photography by Barbara Minty McQueen / appears in “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile…Revisited”
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A wedding photo of Steve McQueen and third wife Barbara Minty taken inside the couple’s Santa Paula, California, home on January 16, 1980. Reverend Leslie Miller presided over the efficient ten-minute ceremony that found McQueen opting for a casual gray puffer vest, blue jeans, turquoise belt, a long sleeve white shirt, and an elegant white carnation. Image Credit: Courtesy of Marshall Terrill / appears in “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile…Revisited”
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Steve McQueen and third wife Barbara Minty officially say “I do” after their quaint wedding ceremony on January 16, 1980, inside the couple’s Santa Paula, California, home. McQueen’s Christian flight instructor Sammy Mason and wife Wanda served as witnesses. Image Credit: Courtesy of Marshall Terrill / appears in “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile…Revisited”
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At Christmastime 1981 Grady and Judy Ragsdale are seen standing in front of the fireplace found inside the former Santa Paula, California, home of Steve McQueen. A man’s man, McQueen’s ranch foreman preferred the casual comfort of white T-shirts nearly every day of his much too short life. The soulmates had two children — Erica and Tami. Image Credit: Courtesy of Judy Ragsdale
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Barbara Minty McQueen poignantly reflects, “Having coffee, reading the paper and enjoying an open fire in a lit smudge pot in the backyard of our Santa Paula home. These shots were the last pictures I took of Steve before he became seriously ill, late spring 1980.” Photography by Barbara Minty McQueen / appears in “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile…Revisited”
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“Dave Friedman’s picture of Steve and me on the set of ‘The Hunter’ [circa October 1979, Chicago] captures the warmth and tenderness between us. This is my favorite photo of us. I loved that bad boy,” remembers Barbara Minty, widow of Steve McQueen. Photography by Dave Friedman / appears in “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile…Revisited”
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It’s not an illusion, it’s a foregone conclusion — Steve McQueen loved the Lord. An autographed inscription reads, “To my friend Steve McQueen, may God bless you and keep you always. Billy Graham, Philippians 1:6, Nov. 3, 1980.” The inside cover of an abbreviated version of the New Testament belonging to the world’s most famous evangelist. Image courtesy of Marshall Terrill / as seen in “Steve McQueen: The Last Mile…Revisited”

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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