The Art of War
For those who have never done so, such as myself, it is impossible to ever really know what it is like to experience warfare. Writers as varied as Ernest Hemingway, Ernie Pyle and Dalton Trumbo have famously come close, as well as the photography of Robert Capa and others. Words, pictures, even film, do not do justice to what actual combat inflicts on the human psyche. Lee Marvin spent most of his career trying to get that point across to an audience as his time in WWII proved to be one of the most defining aspects of his life. Even before becoming an actor, Marvin was so overwhelmed by what he went through, he sought to get the emotional impact of the war down on paper in both words and images. I myself knew it was impossible to even try so when writing that chapter of LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK, I let Marvin write it himself via letters home he wrote during the war.
During WWII, the U.S. government attempted it as well in an effort to get across to its citizens what their friends and family were going through overseas. Commissioned by the War Dept. in 1943 under the auspices of The Army Corps of Engineers, 42 artists (half civilian, half already in the military) were asked to channel the “essence and spirit of war” into their work. The Navy created their own such commission following the sinking of the Ruben James and it’s artistic rendering. The USMC public relations director Robert Denig, who had sent field correspondents and photographers into battle, went one better. He expanded the program to include artists who would be trained as Marine recruits tasked with going into battle as soldiers and artists. Also LIFE magazine and artwork commission by the Abbott Pharmacuetical company (!) got into the business of sending artists into battle. The belief was that the emotional impact of artwork could say more than words or photos ever could. Amazingly, these artists were not hampered by gov’t censorship or propoganda requests. Instead, they created what the saw. By the end of the war they had created more 2,000 pieces. For example, here’s some images Marvin himself might have experienced….
– Dwayne Epstein
The two paintings above, although badly reproduced, do evoke the image of what Marvin may have gone through as a combat Marine going into batle since the enemy was often encountered even before landing on the beachhead. Once Marvin did make one of his 21 landings, the next paintings was what inveitably followed….
The title of the above image shows what followed in the steaming jungle, which could often be shattered without warning by next image. In Part II, combat itself…….