JAMES GUNN, SUICIDE SQUAD & LEE MARVIN

James Gunn and Lee Marvin are not two names often associated with each other but surprisingly, recent news via a Google search has done just that. 
Director James Gunn, of Guardians of the Galaxy fame, is also the director of the new and highly anticipated Suicide Squad movie reboot for 2021. He recently tweeted that one film and one film only was the inspiration for the upcoming all-star comic book film and that film was another all-star production from a few decades earlier. That’s right. None other than The Dirty Dozen (1967).

Opening image I used for LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK is the actor’s performance of Major John Reisman in The DIRTY DOZEN, the film that helped make him the number one male box office star in the country.


Matter of fact, the news generated an online story, just a few days ago. I’m not a particular fan of comic book inspired films but I did grow loving comic books, especially D.C. superhero ones. Knowing that, the revelation involving The Dirty Dozen hardly came as a surprise. There were similiar titles even more effective, such as Marvel’s Sgt. Fury and The Howling Commandos. The same Sgt. Fury would later become Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., the only Marvel title I liked, as written and drawn by the great Jim Steranko. But I digress….
 Glad to see Marvin’s most well-known film getting it’s just respect. Of course, it’s influence is far more reaching that that. It proved to be the inspiration for several other films, as well. A short list would include:
• Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (2009), which at one point was to include a character named ‘Babe’ Buchinsky to be played by Michael Madsen, as an homage to Dirty Dozen costar, Charles Bronson. 
• Joe Dante’s fantasy film Small Soldiers (1998), featuring voices of several original cast members.
• The original Italian version of Tarantino’s film with Bo Svenson and Fred WIlliamson, The Inglorious Bastards (1978). Note the spelling difference which Tarantino has never fully explained. 
• Even Roger Corman’s Secret Invasion (1964) used the same premise which predates the novel’s publication by a year. Makes you wonder if Corman knew something the author didn’t.
Kind of makes you wonder if perhaps the premise is based on fact. According to the original novel’s author, E.M. Nathanson: “This story is fiction. I have heard a legend that there might have been men like them, but nowhere in the archives of United States Government or in its military history did I find it recorded.”

Makes sense but then again just because it’s not recorded, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
– Dwayne Epstein

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GUEST BLOGGER PETER STEIN

I’ve never entertained the idea of having a guest blogger before on this site, so bear with me as I try something new. Recently, via social media, I made contact with a gentleman who very much appreciated Lee Marvin Point Blank and made a concerted effort to tell me as much. When I read what he sent me I was, to put it mildly, blown away. I asked his permission to post it here as a guest blogger and he agreed. So, with that in mind, I humbly give you guest blogger Peter Stein. Believe me folks, I did not in any way encourage this unsolicited testimonial on his part. So, enjoy this unedited guest blogger entry….
– Dwayne Epstein

Dear Dwayne,

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Point Blank” … As you know, people watch movies … And we see the actors and actresses play different roles … Those roles seem real to us … because that is all that we see and experience … In the movies, Lee Marvin has a certain persona … He is a tough guy, a man’s man, so to speak … And as movie fans (or as movie fanatics), we naturally want to know about the stars that we see on the big screen … Are they different than the people that we see in the movies? … Are they the same as the people that we see in the movies? … This is an inherent fascination for all of us … Who are they?

Hardcover of LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK

The book, Lee Marvin: Point Blank, written by you, is well researched and well written … It addresses many of those questions … Here are a few passages, which are a brief sample of what one will find in reading this honest and delightful book:

“I thought that I understood the character.  He’s an ex-ballplayer, a has-been, a washout, a drunk who spent his life pursuing Mexican whores – There’s a load of them aboard ship.  He’s a childlike adult, a little afraid, trying to work out values in his own way … A little like me” ,,, (page 145)

Lee Marvin as ex-ball player Bill Tenney takes his lumps from Vivien Leigh’s Mary Treadwell in SHIP OF FOOLS.

“’I think that he drank sometimes to stop the pain’ theorized Betty Marvin.  ‘He would withdraw so much’” … (page 145)

“’I used to look at his body language.  His hands and arms were so relaxed, which I can’t say for all actors.  He was just there … that was a joy to see.  I didn’t see any tension.  I didn’t see any acting.  That’s the ultimate.  That’s the key.  Basically, that’s what it’s all about.’  When it came time to shoot the scene in which Marvin terrorizes (Norman) Fell, who’s locked in a steam box, [Norman] Fell recalled, ‘Well, being who is, he scared the crap out of me.  I was in there with my head sticking out and this guy comes in.  I knew that he would kill me in half a minute.  Just rip me up to pieces.  So, he gave me a chance to give that to the scene.  The fear that you saw was real.’” … (page 137)

“’Have I ever had a part where I didn’t get killed? He asked rhetorically in 1962.  ‘I die beautifully.  The trouble is, how do you live?  It’s not nice to look at a character and see him die.  After all, every character to a degree is yourself.  But there’s a great necessity for dying in this business.  Why do I play these roles?  You know, if you live by the gun, you die by the gun.  And I hate guys that do that.  They deserve to die.  But maybe some day I’ll mature enough to where they audience will let me put the gun down.’” … (page 131)

“Neighbor George Rappaport remembers, “When he was really lucid, and off the stuff and feeling good, you could not find a better guy to be with.  We had some really nice conversations about everything … You would figure the macho guys were always like the rednecks and all.  But that’s not true.  That’s why I say on the inside, he was soft as a pillow.  He really cared about people and he cared about issues.’” … (page 135)

“Lee struggled with his classes, but said years later, ‘It made no sense.  After committing murder, it was hard to find sense in peace.  How could a guy all mixed up in murder get an education?  The two didn’t make sense … I had to do something though.  They gave me a typing test and I couldn’t spell half the words.  I looked around and saw all those frivolous chicks and guys—What was I doing there?  So, I quit’” … (page 54)

In reading this book, one will get a better understanding and appreciation of Lee Marvin, the man and Lee Marvin. the actor … And one may even get a better understanding of oneself … This was certainly true for me as this book impacted my life in a very personal and wonderful way.

I knew that Lee Marvin served in the Marine Corp during World War II and saw action in the Pacific.  I also heard that he had problems with alcohol … But in your book, I learned first-hand how he was haunted by his experiences in close combat throughout his life.

And one day, while I was taking a long walk along the ocean under sunny skies in Santa Barbara, I was thinking about this.

The beach at Santa Barbara.

I realized that I would have had similar problems if I had seen combat in Vietnam.  Knowing myself, I knew that I would have suffered greatly from what I have seen …. from what I probably would have done … and from returning home while there were many others who did not come back … I also realized that if that had happened, I could have easily ended up an alcoholic and another homeless man, who was living on the streets.

At this point in the walk, I knew that I would soon be approaching a group of homeless people, who gathered every day, at the same place, near the path where I would be walking … And I thought about how I continued to think about how easily I could have been one of them.

Prior to this, I would be somewhat apprehensive and rather uncomfortable, because they were different and unkempt … I also knew that some of them were likely to have some serious mental issues/problems … And as a result, they could at times be threatening and aggressive.

Interestingly, I switched my thinking from “Lee Marvin, myself, and homeless people” … to … “Mother Teresa, myself, and homeless people” … And I asked myself, ”What would Mother Teresa do if she were walking past a group of homeless people?”

Promotional image for MOTHER TERESA (1986) documentary

To be clear, I am no saint.  I am just a regular guy.  And yet, at the same time, I always try to do the right thing, because my parents have raised me that way and because I have found that it is just a better way to live one’s life.  So, at this time, I was just asking myself, “What would Mother Teresa do?”

And remembering an excellent 1986 documentary movie on her by Ann and Jeanette Petrie, I decided that I would treat them in a nice friendly manner … and in the same way that I would treat anyone else … I would greet them warmly and enthusiastically … by saying “Hi” … by noting how beautiful the day was (it always seems beautiful in Santa Barbara) … by sometimes noting how lucky we are to be surrounded by all of this … and by sincerely wishing them a great day … I decided that I would do this with every homeless person that I encountered.  And when this happened, almost every time, they would respond back to me is a similar friendly manner.

One day, I was doing my Santa Barbara walk and I was lost in my thoughts.  Suddenly, I heard loud applause and acknowledgement.  It came from a group of my homeless friends.  These were people, who had nothing, but who shared their love with me.  I was deeply touched.  And, in a very real way, I felt unworthy of such great love.

And so, every time that I am in Santa Barbara, I make a point of doing what I have described.  I have also come to a better understanding of the difficulties and challenges that veterans deal with.  And essentially, I try to help others a little bit more than I did in the past.  The result is that my life has been greatly enriched … all because of Lee Marvin and the book that you have written … For that, I am most grateful and I thank you.

Perhaps, Lee Marvin’s son, Christopher, said it best when he described his father and commented as follows … “Aside from being a great actor, my father was very complex.  He was independent, kind, funny, generous, and could spot a phony a mile away.  Hopefully, I have inherited some of those qualities” … (page 255)

Who was Lee Marvin really? … And what formed that tough guy image? … This book is loaded with information … And it gives the reader an honest glimpse of Lee Marvin, the actor … This book gives the reader an honest glimpse of Lee Marvin, the man … It might also change your life as it did mine.

With thanks and very best wishes,

Guest blogger Peter Stein and friend, Zara. 

Peter Stein

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DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION CIRCA 1960

Now that the 2020 Democratic convention is in full swing despite the pandemic, I thought it a good time to revisit another Democratic convention, circa 1960. I’ve posted this previously but I thought it a good time to remind folks of a few things, such as the fact that not all badass movie stars are conservative Republicans. So without further ado…..

The 1960 Democratic Convention…..with Lee Marvin?
In researching Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I encountered many surprises, not the least of which was the actor’s personal politics. The popular theory was that in being such a macho tough guy on screen, he must have been a conservative Republican, like his frequent co-star John Wayne. Not so, in Marvin’s case, according to friends and family.

Fans may think of him as a classic badass who thought like Wayne, but the truth is he was, by all accounts, a lifelong liberal Democrat who despised Republican stalwarts, such as costar Ronald Reagan, as mentioned at length in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Marvin rarely made his politics publicly known but he felt so strongly for candidate John F. Kennedy, he agreed to appear on stage at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in support along with several other like-minded celebrities of the day (Ralph Bellamy, Lloyd Bridges, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Tony Curtis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Rosemary DeCamp, Anthony Franciosa, George Jessel, Phyllis Kirk, Hope Lange, Peter Lawford, Janet Leigh, Shirley MacLaine, Mercedes MacCambridge, Sheree North, Arthur O’Connell, Alma Pedroza, Vincent Price, Edward G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Jan Sterling, Inger Stevens, Shelley Winters).

Lee Marvin takes his bow when introduced on stage at the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles.

Marvin warbles the national anthem along with the likes of Nat ‘King” Cole, Shirley MacLaine and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Kennedy’s assassination during the filming of The Killers devastated the cast & crew and made for a poignant and ironic event in Marvin’s relationship with his son, also recounted in Lee Marvin Point Blank. He would never again publicly endorse a political candidate. But, in the heady days of 1960, his endorsement of JFK was shown in full flower with other Hollywood celebrities, as shown in the video below.  Enjoy…
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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