Cast & Crew
Buzz Rickson and Ed Bolland are American bomber pilots stationed in England during World War II. Buzz exults in combat and is often brilliant in his exploits against the enemy though his superiors have to censure him because of the great risks he takes. Ed is more cautious and abhors the act of killing but realizes it is a job that must be done. Eventually the two men become involved with an English girl, Daphne Caldwell, who, aware that to Buzz she is merely another potential conquest, offers her love to Ed. While Buzz and Ed are piloting a Flying Fortress on a bombing mission, their plane is crippled; and the crew bails out over the English Channel. Buzz, however, refuses to abandon the controls and, after forcing Ed to jump, attempts to reach England alone. But his luck runs out and he meets his death as he crashes into the Dover cliffs.
Charles De Temple
John, (capt.) Crewdson
Great Britain--royal Air Force
Arthur Hornblow Jr.
Arthur Hornblow Jr.
Robert F., (lieut. Col.) Spence
Kenneth Mccallum Tait
William, (lieut. Col. Usaf) Tesla
United States Air Force
The War Lover
McQueen was just coming off the first-rate World War II combat drama Hell Is for Heroes (1962). Several accounts of the making of The War Lover mention that his wild ways on and off the set caused quite a bit of fireworks. For instance, McQueen arrived in London some time before filming started so that he could indulge his penchant for racecar driving. Columbia Pictures, however, was none too happy about the prospect of their film's big star injuring himself before the shoot, and they made him agree to pay the film's entire $2.5 million budget if he had an accident that ruined production. Furthermore, he wasn't allowed to race at all once filming started. Director Philip Leacock, however, was lenient with McQueen and allowed him to race on his days off. Sure enough, before the last major scene was filmed, McQueen had a racing accident that battered his face. Fortunately, the last scene called for McQueen to look bruised and bloody anyway, so the real injuries weren't a big problem.
Another off-screen incident created a stir in the London tabloids. McQueen arrived in London in advance of his wife and kids, and checked in at the posh Savoy Hotel. One night, a fire broke out in his room, and McQueen could be seen by other guests running through a hotel corridor in his underwear looking for a fire extinguisher. The official story was that McQueen had simply been cooking on a hot plate in his room, which caused the fire. That may be true, but what was omitted -- and which the tabloids quickly figured out -- was that McQueen was throwing a wild party with his racing friends, their girlfriends, and several more women. The hotel made a show of tossing him out the next day, though he was actually scheduled to check out anyway. His wife and kids then arrived, and they all moved into a fancy house in Belgravia provided by the studio.
On the set, McQueen clashed terribly with actress Shirley Anne Field. He resented what he saw as her emotive, externalized acting style for interfering with his more subtle approach, and he let her know it, antagonizing her during and between takes. Mike Frankovich, Jr., a studio publicity executive, later said, "He was bullying Shirley Anne and playing a little bit of the Ugly American... He often goaded her: 'We Americans, we're real movie actors. Here, you don't know how to act in movies.'"
Field was not afraid to stand up to McQueen. She later recalled filming a love scene in which "Steve threw me so hard that I went up and over the sofa and out of the shot altogether... I still have the scar on my lip." Her lip bleeding, she sought help from the makeup artist, who suggested giving McQueen a taste of his own medicine by biting his lip in the next take. According to Field, "The scene started and I did just that... He looked at me, knowing what I'd done, and I said, 'It takes one to know one.'"
Field also said in an interview 47 years later: "Steve used to get in a fury if Robert [Wagner] and I were on a magazine cover, which there were many of. He was very aggressive."
McQueen might have attributed his volatility to his immersion in the role. In a letter to columnist Hedda Hopper at the time, he described his character and working methods this way: "He is kind of schizophrenic. He revels in war and destruction. He lives for killing. I've got too involved with him. By the time I get home at night, after a day's work, I'm physically and mentally exhausted."
Hopper further reported after filming was done that McQueen told her the film "really twisted me up... I'm not an actor who can go on the set and just turn it on when the cameras start to roll; I have to live with it and it's very uncomfortable... But I think it'll be a magnificent picture. It's the best work Bob Wagner has ever done."
Robert Wagner, in his 2009 memoir, later described his own take on McQueen's aggressive ways: "I found Steve very self-conscious, and very competitive, even about small things. For instance, Steve was about five-nine, smaller than me, so he made sure to never have his wardrobe hanging next to mine where anybody could see it. It's the sort of thing that strikes me as wasted effort -- why not use that emotional energy for something constructive? Steve was such a complicated man: always looking for conflict and never really at peace. That kind of personality can be very wearing, to say the least. But Steve was a good friend at a difficult time in my life."
Wagner had recently been jilted by Natalie Wood and was brokenhearted. McQueen, he wrote, "was very sympathetic, and I grew to like [him] a lot. I think he trusted me as much as he trusted anybody, which wasn't all that much."
Critics were ho-hum about The War Lover, with The New York Times especially dismissive, calling the picture "tepid" with "dull" characters. The trade papers Variety and The Hollywood Reporter found the film to be serviceable, with especially well-mounted action scenes, but all agreed that McQueen's character was simply too undefined and enigmatic. The Hollywood Reporter said: "The premise is interesting but Koch's screenplay does not exploit its potential." That would be a reference to screenwriter Howard Koch, whose previous credits included Casablanca (1942).
This was producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr.'s final film before he retired. The industry veteran, once married to Myrna Loy, had produced many famous titles primarily (but not exclusively) at Paramount, such as Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), Gaslight (1944), The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957).
McQueen and Wagner would each immediately move on to films that became tremendous hits and pop-cultural touchstones: McQueen in The Great Escape (1963) and Wagner in The Pink Panther (1963).
Also in the cast here, in the part of "Junior," is 19-year-old Michael Crawford, of future Phantom of the Opera fame.
By Jeremy Arnold
Marc Eliot, Steve McQueen
Wes D. Gehring, Steve McQueen: The Great Escape
Marshall Terrill, Steve McQueen Robert J. Wagner, with Scott Eyman, Pieces of My Heart
The War Lover
What's the matter Bolland, afraid to die?- Captain Buzz Rickson
Damn right I am. But you're scared to live.- 1st Lt Ed Bolland
Opened in London in June 1963.