Way back when Wednesday: Steve McQueen comes to St. Louis

by chuckofish


Spoiler alert! Crime does not pay!

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery is a 1959 heist film shot in black and white. The film stars a 28-year old Steve McQueen as a college dropout hired to be the getaway driver in a bank robbery. The film is based on a 1953 bank robbery attempt of Southwest Bank in St. Louis.

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It was filmed on location in south St. Louis in 1959 and for anyone who grew up here, it is a fascinating movie, which captures a moment in time, that is gone, gone, gone.

I watched it one Friday afternoon at work–“previewing” it for a film course at school–and my assistant (who is from South St. Louis) and I had so much fun pointing out landmarks–

Planning the heist in Tower Grove Park

Planning the heist in Tower Grove Park

Tower Grove Park! Magnolia Avenue! The Southtown Famous Barr!

Love those St. Louis names!

Love those St. Louis names!

We wondered where the bar was where Steve goes and drinks a Budweiser.


No need for a concealed carry permit in the good old days!

Well, it’s a small world really.

You want to know how small? The film was directed by Charles Guggenheim, who was a neighbor of ours on Westgate Avenue for awhile back in the 1960s before he got famous and won three Oscars for documentary films. His daughter Gracie was a friend of my dual personality. (Actually I don’t think my sister liked Gracie too much, but they got invited to the same birthday parties.) Be that as it may, the point is that there really are/were six degrees of separation between me and old Steve McQueen.

Anyway, Guggenheim’s switch to documentaries was a good move on his part. This movie is not very good, despite Steve’s best efforts trying really hard. Who knew he would become such a star? No one who saw this movie. (Don’t worry, I thought he was terrific!) But I do recommend it to anyone from St. Louis. It is a hoot and a half. You can find the entire film on YouTube.