I like listening to music as I write. Sometimes I find great music soundtracks on YouTube and listen to them for hours at a time. And one soundtrack I particularly enjoy is the one from The Magnificent Seven (1960). I’ve been listening to it over and over, and I noticed something odd about the movie poster used for most of the video.
Once I started thinking about it, I realized that it’s indicative of much more than just the placement of names on a movie poster. It says a lot about one man on that poster: Steve McQueen. McQueen was an incredible movie star with a string of hits almost unparalleled before and after him. As a result, he kind of had a big ego.
When he shared top billing with other actors or wasn’t the top-billed actor, he found creative ways to make himself stand out from the crowd. Let’s talk about three examples.
The Great Escape
This will provide a nice baseline for the other movie posters we’ll analyze. By the time Steve McQueen starred in The Great Escape, he was already an established movie star. So, even though he’s in a film alongside many Hollywood legends, it’s no surprise to see him appear front and center on the cover.
His name is the first one you see because it’s on the top left, ahead of everyone else. In fact, by the end of this article you’ll probably notice that he loves being on the extreme left of the acting credits, even if he’s not top-billed. However, he’s not exactly conspicuous among all the names on this poster. But that will change in the next two posters.
The Magnificent Seven
Before the Western genre was introduced to Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, there was Steve McQueen. Well, sort of. On this poster for The Magnificent Seven, you’ll notice that Steve McQueen is the only actor who doesn’t have his character name listed. I’m pretty sure his character does have a name, but you wouldn’t be able to tell just from looking at the poster.
Once again, you’ll notice that McQueen and his name appear on the left side of the poster. So they’re likely the first things your eyes are drawn to when you look at it, after you read the title, of course. As readers, we tend to look left to right. The Magnificent Seven is another ensemble film starring some of the biggest names in the business at the time. And Yul Brynner is the main star. Yet McQueen stands out by the placement of his name and the absence of his character name.
The Towering Inferno
And now the big one. The Fire Chief in The Towering Inferno wasn’t originally intended to be such a big part. But when Steve McQueen got involved in the project, he demanded more lines be written for his character so he’d be just as important to the plot as Paul Newman’s Architect. However, one sticking point was the placement of the two actors’ names on the movie poster.
Newman was the star of the movie, so he had to receive top billing. Thus, his name is higher than anyone else’s. But McQueen cleverly demanded that his name be put to the left of Newman’s. That way, he’d still be the first name people’s eyes were drawn to, even if Newman’s name would be higher and supposedly more prominent. Such a shrewd move.
McQueen: The King of Name Placement
Steve McQueen starred in many other films in his illustrious career. But in the rest of those, he’s clearly the main star. The Sand Pebbles, Bullitt, even The Blob. No other actor could be argued to be as important as him in those films. Thus, he had no problem being the most prominent name on the movie poster for each one.
The three films above, which are highly competitive for their star, offer an interesting insight into how he fought to retain his prestige as the biggest star among his peers. McQueen lived up to his name by demanding (and receiving) the royal treatment.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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