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The Roy Schatt connection.

The "smoke" shot.
Steve McQueen
Photo by Roy Schatt.
Roy Schatt (1909 - 2002), achieved world renown for his photography of many of cinema's most
iconic stars, such as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. Roy took approximately 85 photographs of Steve, 8 of which were published, and several of which were given to Steve. What makes his McQueen images unique, apart from their visual beauty, is that they were taken during 1956 while Steve was still an unknown struggling actor, 2 years before he achieved stardom as Josh Randall on the hit TV series Wanted: Dead or Alive.


Back in July, 2005 I contacted Elaine Schatt (Roy's widow), interested in learning the story behind Roy's relationship with Steve and the famous pictures he took of him.

Elaine put me in contact with Roy's close friend Franklin, with the following recommendation:

Franklin is a 20 year plus dear friend to Roy much like Jimmy (Dean) was. He helps me with my computer work and sales and knows every story from the old days as he and Roy spent years together reading, shooting and talking about the old days.

Franklin was kind enough to share his very clear memories of his conversations with Roy on the subject of Steve McQueen, and they can be read below.
Franklin:

Roy did not talk as much about Steve as he did Jimmy (Dean) but Steve was a good pal of Roy's as well. Steve showed up at Roy's door knocking right after Jimmy died, he apparently had a tough time with Jimmy's death and wanted to see Roy's studio as he knew Jimmy and Roy were good friends.

Roy actually did not like Steve when he first met him, he felt like he was trying to be Jimmy and it turned Roy off. To the point that Roy, after reading some lines with Steve (Roy was also a method coach as well as a photographer, Lee Stradburg (Actors Studio) titled Roy the "method photographer"). Roy told Steve he did not think he had a career in acting, WOW was Roy wrong and much like Jimmy, Steve changed Roy's mind, literally a week later Steve came back and blew Roy away with a monologue. Well, that was it and they became friends.

Roy shot all the images of Steve in the studio and in the studio back garden. The ones of Steve in front of the drop cloth were posed for headshots for Steve. But the candid photos of Steve with the sweater on were taken when the 2 of them were just hanging out together. Like the SMOKE shot attached. Steve frequented the studio and read with Roy over the years. He introduced Ali (MacGraw) to Roy when they first started dating. After that Roy and Steve lost touch until many years later, Steve called Roy when he was not well and talked to Roy on the phone for 4 hours. Roy adored Steve as much as he did Jimmy, and Roy does not like actors in general, but obviously these were 2 of the all time greats.

Frank.