About Dwayne Epstein

Dwayne Epstein is the author of a number of young adult biographies, covering such celebrity personalities as Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Hilary Swank, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Denzel Washington for Lucent Books’ “People in the News” series. Epstein also contributed to Bill Krohn’s bestselling books “Hitchcock at Work” and “Joe Dante and the Gremlins of Hollywood.”Prior to writing biographies, Epstein contributed to film chronicles on a regular basis. He wrote for Filmfax Magazine on subjects such as Bobby Darin, the Rat Pack, television pioneer Steve Allen, film director Sam Fuller, comic book artist Neal Adams, “Invasion of the Body Snatcher’s” Kevin McCarthy, John Belushi and comedy legend Sid Caesar. Epstein later contributed to Cahiers Du Cinema’s “Serious Pleasures” which had a high profile in Europe. He wrote on American films chosen for rediscovery by directors Oliver Stone, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood. Early in his career, Epstein earned his first professional writing credit reviewing films for Hearst Community Newspapers. Epstein was born in New York’s Coney Island in 1960, and moved West with his family at age 8, spending the rest of his childhood in Cerritos, Calif. He moved back east, attended Mercer Community College in New Jersey, and also served as an assistant editor for the five area newspapers of Cranbury Publications. Epstein made one more cross-country move and currently resides in Long Beach, Calif. When he is not writing, he enjoys watching and reading about movies and collecting soundtracks.

JACK WEBB: HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE!

Jack Webb, the legendary TV icon who created Dragnet, Adam-12, Emergency! and more, would have been 100 years old today.  Known mostly of course for his groundbreaking radio and TV series Dragnet in which played Detective Joe Friday, his deadpan delivery and ping-pong patter became the stuff of both legend and great parody.
What’s less known about the versatile Webb was his offbeat film career. Small parts as the goateed paraplegic buddy in Marlon Brando’s film debut, The Men (1950), as well as the high-energy buddy Artie Green to William Holden’s Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard (also 1950) lead to even bigger roles in film and eventually his own cinematic pet projects. One  such bigger role before major success was You’re in the Navy Now (1951) in which he costarred with Gary Cooper in the naval comedy that marked the film debuts of such New York actors as Harvey Lembeck, Jack Warden, Charles Bronson and, wait for it…Lee Marvin.

(L-R) Gary Cooper, Lee Marvin and Jack Webb in YOU’RE IN THE NAVY NOW, aka U.S.S. TEAKETTLE.

Webb’s versatility went beyond the shows and films he created (as well as wrote, directed and starred in). He had a specifically good eye for spotting young and emerging talent that may have come from his previous film work. In Lee Marvin Point Blank, Lee’s agent Meyer Mishkin recounted to me how Webb not only went out of his way to cast Marvin in an early Dragnet episode, but what he did to ensure the episode got Marvin more work. It was an effort that at the time, may not have even been allowed by the powers that be. Such was Webb’s belief in young talent.
Best of all, was an anecdote I was able to uncover by viewing an exclusive interview Webb gave in a rare late 1960’s interview in which he describes Marvin’s hysterical professionalism during the episode’s key scene. Gotta read the book to find that out!

Lee Marvin and Jack Webb tangle in “The Big Cast” episode of DRAGNET.

Webb’s love of jazz (he was reported to have one of the greatest rare jazz record collections) was something he also shared with Lee Marvin. It made Marvin an easy choice to play clarinetist Al Gannaway in Webb’s loving tribute to 1920’s jazz, Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955). According to costar Martin Milner, Lee Marvin was the only one who avoided Webb’s direction by telling Webb he’d do a scene the way he described it, then, Marvin would perform it the way he intended all along. Milner was amazed at Marvin’s manipulative powers. Might also be the reason Marvin never appeared in any other Webb productions, like The D.I. (1957) and -30- (1957).
All in all, I think Jack Webb’s output, versatility and impressive legacy deservers remembrance. Even if you think his canon of work was campy (“You’re pretty high and far out, aren’t you? What kind of kick are you on son?”) it was certainly ground breaking and I for one was always a fan. Anything Webb did, in my opinion, was infinitely more entertaining than what came after him in the years that followed.

“This is the city…my name is Friday. I carry a badge.”

So, to Jack Webb. Happy centennial! Thanks for all the years of wonderful entertainment…intentional or not.
– Dwayne Epstein

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MORRIS & ROYCE EPSTEIN: A TALE OF MY PARENTS

Morris & Royce Epstein, the parents of yours truly, have been on my mind a lot lately.
Why write about my parents on a blog dedicated to Lee Marvin and Lee Marvin Point Blank? Well, Marvin’s family background encompassed much of the history of our country and in my opinion, my parents did the same when it came to the 20th century. My father escaped the Nazi Holocaust in Poland (just barely!) and my mother survived the Great Depression (also, just barely!). Consequently, my two older sisters and I are all “Baby Boomers,” and experienced all that the generation entails, culturally.
Now, with the Corona Virus pandemic, we are dealing with something nobody has ever had to deal with, that includes Lee Marvin..and Morris & Royce Epstein.

Morris & Royce Epstein, proudly showing off their holiday tradition: family recipe latkes!

However, allow me to recount a little anecdote about my folks. When we left New York for California in 1968, my father was able to get another job as a Teamster truck driver as he had in NYC. He made friends with a guy named Chris Mojica who helped get him the job. Mojica was very philanthropic with his free time and convinced my father to help with several of the charities Mojica was involved in. Every Christmas, he and my dad would drive to Tijuana with a truckload of toys to give to the needy children there with my father dressed up as Santa Claus. My father loved doing it and told me he got a great kick out hearing the little children say, “Gracias, Santa Claus!”
One of the many charities Mojica needed help with was a clothing drive for homeless families he was organizing. I was a teenager at the time so the idea of spending a Saturday morning at a homeless shelter helping out underprivileged was not my idea of a good time. However, Mojica needed the help and BOTH my parents were going and ‘volunteered’ me.
It all came down to one amazing moment for me. Anyone who knew my mother knew how feisty, aggressive and head strong she could be. My cousin once aptly described her as a force of nature. It’s for that reason I witnessed her do an astonishing thing that day. The rule was individuals could go through the lines of clothes and get what they need but only once. A woman got a bunch clothes for her children, left contented and then suddenly came back in stating she needed a warm coat for herself and forgot to get one. The place was pretty crowded so she was politely turned away. She left in tears when I saw my mother rush over to her. My head strong mother literally gave the woman the coat off her back. The lady tried to return it but my mother would have none of it. The woman thanked my mother profusely and as my mom walked back we made eye contact: “Shut up,” was all she said to me.
When we went home my father asked my mom what happened to her coat. My mother feigned ignorance and then glared at me to make sure I didn’t say anything about it.
I guess you can figure out now why I posted this story. In the current climate of fear, stress, and social isolation, even the worst of us can and do rise to the challenge. My parents were living examples of that and I’m trying to do the same. Stay safe everybody and don’t ever stop rising to the challenge.

The Epstein mishpoche back in the day doing what we did best, EAT!
(L-R) Yours truly, my mother, my niece Danielle, my sister Belinda, my niece Natalie, my sister Fern, brother-in-law Jose and my dad.

 

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SETH GREENBERG: MY 1995 INTERVIEW

Seth Greenberg, ESPN’s popular college basketball broadcaster and analyst, may not seem to be in my wheelhouse as an interview subject but back in the day, February, 1995, to be exact, that’s exactly what he was. I recently came across the piece I did on him while reorganizing some of my files and it brought back a flood of memories. Also, since “March Madness” has been cancelled due to the Corona Virus pandemic, I thought this an appropriate time to reflect on what was.
The interview with Seth Greenberg came about like this: At the time of the interview, Greenberg was the head basketball coach at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) and managed to bring the school to the NCAA Finals for what I believe to be the first time. I was the editorial assistant for the Jewish Community Chronicle here in Long Beach while I was researching and working on Lee Marvin Point Blank in its earliest stages. My editor, Harriette Ellis, wanted me to interview Greenberg due to his involvement with the Maccabi Games, a sort of Jewish version of the Olympic Games, as well as the newly built Pyramid stadium at CSULB.
Obviously, interviewing an individual who’s claim to fame was athletic, proved to be quite a challenge to yours truly. My knowledge of such things is limited at best and other than touching base on what Harriette wanted covered, I was at a complete loss as to what else I would discuss with Greenberg. I remember that at the last minute, I decided to go with the concept of the cultural belief that generally speaking, Jews are not necessarily known for their athletic ability. Once again, for better or for worse, the result can be read below.
Oh, one more thing: due to the way in which I archived the article, the orientation of columns read straight down from one page to the next as you’ll see. Just so you know. Well, for better or for worse, here it is…..
– Dwayne Epstein

Seth Greenberg interview, page 1.

Seth Greenberg interview, page 2.

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