WILD BUNCH REMAKE? DON’T FORGET LEE MARVIN!

The Wild Bunch remake has recently been announced, to be written and directed by Mel Gibson. Lots of voices are arguing over whether it should even be done but to my mind, the question is will Lee Marvin finally get the credit he so richly deserves? What credit, you may ask? Well, as I discovered in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, he was heavily involved in the project’s creation and was set to play the William Holden role of Pike Bishop.

Lee Marvin in THE PROFESSIONALS as Henry ‘Rico” Fardan, looking a lot like….

William Holden as Pike Bishop in the original version of  THE WILD BUNCH.

I discovered this lost nugget of information thanks to the files at the Academy Library in Beverly Hills in which the notes and communications between producers Phil Feldman and Ken Hyman tells the remarkable story in detail of Lee Marvin’s involvement in Sam Peckinpah’s renowned classic.
For Marvin’s part, he told his version to Grover Lewis in a 1972 Rolling Stone interview: “Good ol’ lovable Sam. …He approached me about doin’ The Wild Bunch. Shit, I’d helped write the original goddamn script, which Sam eventually bought and rewrote. Well, I mean I didn’t do any of the actual writing, but I talked it out with these guys who were writin’ it, Walon Green and Roy Sickner. Sam said, ‘Jeez, aren’t you even interested?’ I told him I’d already done The Professionals and what did I need The Wild Bunch for? And when the picture came out I didn’t think it really succeeded. It didn’t have the — I mean, it had all the action and all the blood and all that shit, but it didn’ have the ultimate kavoom, you know? It didn’t have the one-eye slowly opening it should’ve had.”
What Marvin failed to mention was the real reason he turned it down and why he made Paint Your Wagon, instead. Career-long agent Meyer Mishkin revealed that to me, which of course, is in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank.
As to The Wild Bunch remake? I reserve judgement on Gibson’s version until I see it. Bad enough he ripped off Marvin’s Point Blank with his bizarre remake Payback. Hopefully, with The Wild Bunch remake, he’ll give the devil — in this case Lee Marvin — his due.

(L-R) Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode in a p.r. still from THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

(L-R) Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden and Ernest Borgnine in the climatic scene in THE WILD BUNCH (1969).

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ROYCE EPSTEIN, ON THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF HER PASSING

Royce Epstein, my mother, passed away exactly ten years ago as of September 18th of this year. A lot has happened in those ten years that I wish she could have lived to see. Her first granddaughter, Natalie, graduated from Cal Tech, went on to Cornell, married a great guy and is living her dream as a research scientist. Her other granddaughter, spunky little Danielle, also graduated with honors, works in a phenomenal occupation and is engaged to a future U.S. Army officer.

My niece, Natalie (left), my mom (center) and Natalie’s sister Danielle at Natatalie’s Cal Tech graduation.

My sister, Belinda, Natalie & Danielle’s mother, has successfully retired from the phone company and is spending her retirement volunteering for various causes for which my mother would have been very proud. My other sister, Fern, is a surgery R.N. specially trained in robotics and is looking forward to retirement soon. Not bad for a family of transplanted Coney Islanders.
As for me, my mother missed out on the one accomplishment she would have also been extremely proud of but was also partly responsible for….

How was she was responsible? My love of movies came directly from her, and although she wasn’t much of a Lee Marvin fan, she knew and appreciated his work, which is why she would have been proud to see Lee Marvin Point Blank published, let alone make the NY Times Bestseller list.

Naturally, I miss her dearly but she was a difficult person to get along with a lot of times. As a cousin of mine said when my mom came up in conversation, “Your mother, Royce Epstein, was a force of nature.” I considered that an apt description.
There were good and bad times in dealing with my mom but now that she’s been gone for a decade, I like to remember the good times. My favorite childhood memory of her was watching old movies together. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night by her if a classic she always wanted me to see was on the Late Show, or if a cherished favorite was being repeated. When I reached adulthood, and went to the movies with friends, I’d get home late at night and she’d ask me to tell her all about what I had seen. Usually, is was a classic playing in downtown L.A. somewhere and I’d spend the next hour or so telling her all about it. She made me, like herself, a lifelong movie fan. For that reason, more than probably anything else, I am most grateful to her. I do regret that she, nor my dad, lived long enough to see my book published. I like to think of it in terms of the last few lines Bruce Springsteen wrote in a song about his mom called “The Wish.”  This is for you, ma…

“And if it’s a funny old world, ma,
where a little boy’s wishes come true.
Well I got a few in my pocket and a special one just for you.”

– Dwayne Epstein

Some time in the 1980s, my mother and I in our family room doing what we did best, watching old movies.

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BURT REYNOLDS (R.I.P.) REMEMEBERED LEE MARVIN

Burt Reynolds, who passed away this week at the age of 82, will of course be sadly missed for the movie icon that he was, especially in the 1970s. His charm and wit were also on full display as a frequent talk show guest, making a career out of self-effacingly making fun of his career.
In researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Burt Reynolds knew and liked Lee Marvin. He tells a great anecdote in his 1994 autobiography concerning one of his very first professional acting jobs. In a 1959 episode of M Squad he played a young, troubled student battling some bullies at a trade school.

Lee Marvin (back to camera) as Lt. Frank Ballinger tried to get troubled trade school student Burt Reynolds to testify against school bully, Tom Laughlin.

His nemesis in the episode was none other than Tom “Billy Jack” Laughlin, playing his role like an ersatz James Dean. The casting made sense as Reynolds was often compared facially to a young Marlon Brando, so the two most famous juvenile delinquents of the 1950s appeared to square off against each other.

The cover of Burt Reynolds’ 1994 autobiography.

Reynolds wrote that he was late to the set the first day as he misunderstood the call sheet time he was supposed to show up. Despite his remorse, the assistant director chewed out the young actor in front of the cast and crew.

Lee Marvin puts the heat on the ‘late’ Burt Reynolds in M SQUAD.

A hung-over Lee Marvin came out of his trailer angrily asking what all the noise was about. When the A.D. told Marvin that Reynolds was late, Marvin angrily shouted, “So was I! What’s the big deal? Now shut up and let’s get to work!” Reynolds praised Marvin no end for helping to salvage his fledgling career.

A decade later Burt Reynolds wrote a second memoir, focusing mostly on the fascinating people he met and knew throughout his career aptly entitled But Enough About Me. He and co-author Jon Winokur dedicate an entire chapter to Marvin, apparently cribbing much information from another source that blog readers may be aware of…ahem….How do I know? Because a large portion of his Marvin biographical material was rather exclusively based on MY research. One need only see the way he incorporates Marvin’s war record and more to see the source. Don’t take my word for it, though. If you’ve read Reynolds’ book, read Lee Marvin Point Blank and then see for yourself.

Burt Reynolds’ 2015 memoir, published 2 years after Lee Marvin Point Blank.

In any event, he ends that chapter on Marvin with a rather poignant personal anecdote all his own that says much about both men. (pp. 89-90)

“Just before Deliverance was released, I went to a screening at Warner Brothers with Lee Marvin, who took me aside and gave me some unsolicited advice: ‘Don’t let’em fuck you up, pardner! You’re gonna be a under a microscope and it’s gonna change your life forever.’
‘I sure hope so,’ I said.
Lee grabbed me by the lapels. ‘No, listen to me! It’s gonna change everything and you’ve got to be careful. Don’t let’em fuck you up!’
‘I won’t,’ I said.
‘Goddamn it! You’re not listening!’
And I wasn’t.
I had no idea.”

Rest in Peace, Mr. Reynolds. Like all greats, we shall not see your like again.
-Dwayne Epstein.

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