Between the solemnity of Memorial Day and the honor bestowed upon Veterans Day, another day could be set aside for those who served in combat and survived physically, but suffer with PTSD, every day of their lives. Why such a day? Because the numbers are staggering. I discovered through my research of Lee Marvin Point Blank that anyone who has ever experienced combat lives with PTSD. Believe me, I’m no expert on the subject but once I began researching Lee Marvin’s life and work certain patterns began to emerge. These patterns were the result of the interviews I conducted with individuals who were the most intimate with him, such as his brother, first wife, son, and so on. They were the ones who set me on the path of looking into his probable PTSD as they told me of his night sweats, screaming nightmares, trauma-triggered alcohol binges, survivor guilt, and more.
Artist Thomas Lea powerfully captures what the Marines called, “The Gooney-Bird Stare,” in the midst of one soldier’s ongoing nightmare in the jungles of the South pacific during WWII.
Not being an expert, I of course set out to find what I could via the internet and the like. Surprisingly, the best data came from a most unlikely source. My father had been a member of Jewish War Veterans (JWV), but when the membership of his chapter dwindled, he reluctantly joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). As a member, he received their monthly magazine through 2010, even after he passed away from Alzeheimer’s in 2005…as did his two combat veteran older brothers before him. I wonder if their experiences hastened their demise?
It was the April, 2009, issue of VFW that helped me understand what Marvin experienced. Historian Thomas Childers’ decades-long research into the phenomena as it specifically effected WWII veterans is exactly what I needed to set me on the path of understanding Lee Marvin’s war-induced trauma. As he wrote in the table of contents: “For far too long, the myth has persisted that all WWII veterans came home and readjusted without a hitch. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The article helped me immensely in understanding Lee Marvin and that understanding helped make Lee Marvin Point Blank a better book. I’ve been chided on occasion with negative comments on Amazon and the like that my research did not apply to Marvin. Really? Read Childers’ full article below (marked by highlights that helped my research) and read Lee Marvin Point Blank and tell me I’m wrong. Until then, may we never have to have any generation be scarred with the trauma of war. It’s a worthy goal.
I was not planning on writing up this blog entry but after reading a Clint Walker obituary just now, I was compelled to do so. I’m not positive but I’m pretty sure I got the last interview with ‘The Big Fella’ for a recent issue of Filmfax Magazine. It came out earlier this year and by all accounts, seemed to be a popular read.
On a personal note, it was actually the third time I had interviewed the man. The first time was for his work with Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen for Lee Marvin Point Blank and his insights were eye-opening and hysterical. Next, I spoke with him on his work with Charles Bronson on the same film as well as the strange 1970s western/fantasy White Buffalo. This time around it was much more intimate since the purpose of the interview was focused on HIS career and his career alone. When the official interview was over, we chatted like old friends and he could not have been nicer and more effusive on a one-on-one basis. He asked me about my career, my girlfriend Barbara, we laughed about small similarities in our lives and shared a true bonding over the telephone line. I know he wasn’t in the best of health at the time (he took a tumble down the stairs, recently) but we wished each other both lots of luck for the future year ahead.
And now, just days before his 91st birthday, he has relinquished his mortal coil. I was more than lucky to know him, I was honored. It’s cliche but in truth, we shall never see his like again. Read below our conversation and see for yourself. Farewell ‘Big Fella.’ You will be missed.
– Dwayne Epstein
Filmfax Clint Walker interview, Page 1
Page 2 of Clint Walker FIlmfax interview.
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Clint Walker Filmfax interview, Page 7.
Clint Walker Filmfax interview, Page 8.
Writing Lee Marvin Point Blank one discovers amazing things, such as ‘That Funny Face You Make When…” Sorry. I should explain. The man was of course an actor who took his work seriously but he also was someone with a genuinely funny sense of humor. After all, he won his only Oscar for his comedy performance in Cat Ballou, which is a rare achievement in its own right.
Lee Marvin showing his ability to do Shakespeare…or Kid Shelleen in Cat Ballou. Not sure which.
However, despite the majority of his films being action-driven dramas, his sense of humor was a major component of the man and his appeal. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are fully of aware of this aspect of the man both onscreen and off. There are several examples, such as the Robin Hood Party, The Vibrator Salute, Black Helen to the Rescue, and more. Not familiar with those escapades? Read Lee Marvin Point Blank and you will be. But I digress…
I mention this merely to point out what I quickly discovered in my research. I’m currently in the arduous process of archiving all of my research material (more on that later) when I came across some examples of Marvin’s ability to mug for the camera, even late in life, that most of his contemporaries would never even attempt to do. Case in point is the seen image below from the now defunct magazine US Weekly. He was asked about the palimony suit and the results speak for itself. Personally, I like tho think of it as, “That face you make when you learn Donald Trump won the election,” or “Geez, Lee, that’s the worst Robert Morley impression I’ve ever seen.” Feel free to add any interpretation you like. Any and all suggestions are welcome.
– Dwayne Epstein
“What do you mean Donald Trump is president?”