PRE-STARDOM: LEE MARVIN & THE LADIES

Unlike other male film stars, Lee Marvin didn’t have many romantic entanglements in his films, as readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank are fully aware. When he became a leading star that changed only very slightly but it was even more true in his pre-stardom days.
Oh, he interacted with the opposite sex on screen but certainly not in the manner that normally befitted a future superstar. Take for example 1953’s The Big Heat, in which he played henchman, Vince Stone. His girlfriend, Debbie, was played by Gloria Grahame and anyone who has seen the film knows how their relationship winds up.

A self-satisfied Debbie (Gloria Grahame) hands the phone over to an impatient Vince Stone (Marvin) knowing it’s his boss after she just chided Stone for jumping whenever the big boss calls, in Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT.

Of course Marvin’s chivalry towards the opposite sex is on display earlier in the film in how he treats Carolyn Jones and the way he offers her a cigarette. Talk about foreshadowing!

Then there’s the way Marvin’s aptly named Slob interacts with Terry Moore in the bizarre 1955 cult classic, Shack Out on 101. From the pre-credit prologue until the film’s finale,

Terry Moore as Cotty tries to deal with the advances of Slob in SHACK OUT ON 101.

Marvin and Moore’s way of dealing with each other is one of the highlights of the film. Terry Moore detailed the way in which Marvin threatened her on camera when I interviewed her for Lee Marvin Point Blank and she was delighted with the results. Less delighted was Donna Reed about her equally terrifying scene with Lee Marvin in Hangman’s Knot (1952). Her reaction delighted Marvin but certainly not her.
It seems the only time Marvin was allowed to be halfway human towards women was on television, in which his versatility was put to better than use than on film….

A tender moment with Patricia Donahue in The Last Reunion episode of the NBC anthology series, GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATRE.

As Lt. Frank Ballinger, Marvin has a uncharacteristically tender moment on his show M SQUAD.

Television notwithstanding, once viewers were able to attach a name to the familiar face, Lee Marvin was back in movie theaters enacting some typical love scenes…

As hired killer Charlie Strom, Lee Marvin gently persuades blind receptionist Virginia Christine  to divulge some vital infomation in Don Siegel’s THE KILLERS.

Vivien Leigh drives home her point to Lee Marvin in their heated debate concerning women’s shoe styles in Stanley Kramer’s SHIP OF FOOLS.

On the brink of major stardom in the early 1960s, Lee Marvin’s roles in such films as The Killers and Ship of Fools had him treating the opposite sex very much in keeping as he had throughout his pre-stardom years of the 1950s. By the end of the 1960s, however, he was an undeniable superstar, in the clinches with the likes of Jane Fonda, Jeanne Moreau and the ever present Angie Dickinson. How did he deal with these ladies on camera as well as off? The subject of the next blog entry….and a good portion of Lee Marvin Point Blank.
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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A WRITER’S START, PART 2: YOUNG ADULT NON-FICTION

I learned the key to writing young adult non-fiction was in finding an overall theme to the story, as well as in each and every chapter, all of which I put to good use in writing Lee Marvin: Point Blank. This was a concept radically different from my previous writing and editing of fiction, where the emphasis was on content and comprehension for a much lower reading level. Writing young adult non-fiction biographies for Lucent Books (which also went by Gale, Thomson, Cengage Learning, Greenhaven Press…Whew!) had wholly other challenges. For example, my first young adult non-fiction assignment was Adam Sandler.

ADAM SANDLER, published in 2004 by Lucent Books for their People in the News Series (PITN).

Not a favorite subject, that’s for sure, but in doing the research the themes began to come together. This taught me something else: ALWAYS write the introduction last, even though it’s the first thing to be read. One never knows what the overall theme is until the project is completed. For Sandler, as I wrote in the company’s catalog, the theme proved to be as follows:  “Adam Sandler has become a superstar doing what he thinks is funny, first as a class clown and nightclub comedian, and then on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ hit films and best selling albums. Playing a goofy but lovable loser, Sandler is actually a writer, actor, producer, and musician who’s loyalty to his close-knit group of coworkers has taken him to the highest lever of success.”

The Sandler bio proved successful enough to garner more assignments. Next up was a subject I was was much more enthusiastic about. In fact, I even pitched this one instead of being assigned to it and the editor agreed!  Will Ferrell was a much more fun subject, as I also described in the catalog:

My bio on Will Ferrell published by Lucent in 2005 for PITN.

“Where most comedians have overcome a tragic upbringing, Will Ferrell has gone from a relatively happy childhood to become one of America’s most popular funny people. In this first ever biography of the sought after film and TV star, discover how Ferrell has parlayed his ability to turn outrageousness and hubris into one of the most successful comedy careers in contemporary show business.”

I actually pitched several ideas to the editor on a regular basis. Some were accepted, some not, but in the mean time I asked about another series by Lucent called History Makers. They had several titles available and so, being the movie fan that I’ve always been, I agreed to write about Lawmen of the Old West which was released the same year as the Will Ferrell bio. Six real life individuals of my choosing (‘Hanging’ Judge Isaac Parker, Wyatt Earp, Frank Canton, Pat Garrett, Bat Masterson, and Bill Tilghman) were written about by yours truly within the following theme:

Lawmen of The Old West published by Lucent in 2005 for the History Makers Series.

“The western frontier was a time of immense change and extreme behavior, requiring men like Wyatt Earp, Pat Garrett, Bat Masterson and Bill Tilghman to enforce the law. They were not the icons of virtue legend has painted them, nor were they the extreme opposite as portrayed by revisionists.”

From that assignment, I was able to pitch my next project and it was accepted. In the midst of writing it, however, I was informed that the word count had been radically changed as the publisher decided to make the book’s entire design different from their previous titles. Bigger fonts and color photos meant I had to redo all that I had already written to fit this new format. I was informed that other authors had bailed on their projects and I was offered the same option. Undaunted, I redid the work, and created the following theme for the book:

Hillary Swank, in living color, for Lucent’s PITN release in 2006.

“As a lonely child growing up in a trailer park, Hilary Swank dreamed of becoming a successful actress. Her determination and talent took her from living in a car to eventually earning two Academy Awards by the time she was thirty. The amazing momentum of her career continues for the woman now considered one of the greatest actresses of her generation.”

Granted, the subject’s staying power as a movie industry force may not have lasted, but it was a great challenge to redo the work for the new design and delve into such themes as transgender issues, voting rights, and more, all based on Swank’s career choices.
I was next assigned to write about Joe McCarthy for the company’s seres called Heroes & Villains but in the midst of my research, they cancelled the series. Undaunted, and still in a political vein, I took on the challenge of writing about Congress’s first female Speaker of the House.

Nancy Pelosi, published by Lucent in 2008 for PITN.

The challenge here was deceptive in that her life was pretty straightforward but detailing the complex inner workings of Congress — with it’s rules and hierarchy — for young adults in a simplified manner, now THAT was a challenge! The result was described this way…
” Describes the life and career of Nancy Pelosi, from her childhood in Baltimore and early political career to her rise as the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives.” Talk about deceptively simple!
Anyway, I got the Pelosi assignment because of a previous project that I had done in 2007 on another nationally known female political figure. On rare occasion, a subject is updated, which is what I was asked to do for a previous book I had done…..

Both Hillary Clinton titles I did for Lucent’s PITN series, first in 2007 and then again in 2009.

Although I still had to deal with such events in Hillary Clinton’s life as the White Water scandal and Monica Lewinsky, the timing was such that I was able to avoid having to write about Benghazi, her e-mail server, and the painful presidential bid against Trump last year. In other words, it’s still a worthy read.
Practically at the same time as the Hillary Clinton revision I also wrote this…

2010’s PITN offering on Denzel Washington by Lucent Publishing.

Few things are more enjoyable to me than being able to research and write about a talented film personality, and Denzel Washington certainly filled that bill!

I would very much love to do more such work as the lives and impact of certain individuals are fascinating to me.
As you can see, my fascination casts a pretty wide net, from comedy to film to politics and more, so…..
Anybody need a freelance young adult non-fiction writer who also happens to be an award-winning (see number 33), NY Times bestselling author?
-Dwayne Epstein

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A WRITER’S START, PART 1: YOUNG ADULT FICTION & MORE!

Professional writer’s get their start in a variety of ways and for yours truly, author of Lee Marvin Point Blank,  it actually began with the genre of young adult fiction and later non-fiction. As noted in a previous blog, I was working as a waiter when I met Mike Miller of Miller Educational Material. He took note of my past experience writing for local newspaper and decided to hire me on to work on his company’s catalog. In short order, one catalog became two and then two became three when he decided to branch out into publishing his own short fiction for the young adult market.

THE COOLR KING, published 2001 by Artesian Press.

My first was The Cooler King, described in the company catalog (also by yours truly): “Marty Berger had been terrorized by Ricky Hyde for as long as he could remember. Even worse, Theresa was watching as Ricky challenged Marty to a fight. All Marty really wanted to do was just watch old movies on his VCR. Why couldn’t he be cool like his hero, Steve McQueen? With the help of a little man and a magical videotape, Marty gets more than he bargained for…he gets the late, great Steve McQueen! Can the original “Cooler King” help Marty face Ricky Hyde?”

The subject of the young adult fiction was my own, with publisher Mike Miller’s approval and artwork by his former Disney artist wife, Fujiko. It was one in a series of five short books published by his Artesian Press, the small company’s newly formed publishing division.

FANTASY TEACHER’S RESOURCE GUIDE written by, me, Dwayne Epstein!

In fact, each of the various series put out by Artesian Press required a resource guide, all written by yours truly. They included Horror and Romance Resource Guides, also.

Speaking of horror,
I was also offered to write one of those in the series, as well, entitled From The Eye of the Cat...

FROM THE EYE OF THE CAT, published 2002 by Artesian Press. .

As summarized in the catalog, written by your humble narrator:
“Saturday was Ernie’s favorite day of the week because he got to play in the fields with his friends. Lately, the’ve been spending more time taunting the neighborhood cats. They’ve even taken to calling themselves the Cat Stalkers. Ernie would rather just play army. Then, one morning, he woke up to a living nightmare. Somehow, he became a cat himself. Now he must survive in this frightening new world he sees from the eye of a cat.”
Granted it’s not Hemingway but it did fit within the requirements of the company’s guidelines of young adult fiction subject matter and, most important of all, the reading level dictated by schools nationwide. Sales were decent and some name authors in the field contributed to the various series via Mike Miller’s persistence. I found myself on the receiving end of a promotion, a small staff that I had hired and of course, more responsibility. This included help editing all the titles and, on occasion, adding to the series, such as my entry into (gulp!) the Romance Series entitled Connie’s Secret:

CONNIE’S SECRET, published 2003.

“Shy Connie Martinez has a secret for doing well on school tests. Class clown Jerry Gordon has a secret to being popular. Even though she’s not sure of his reasons, Connie and Jerry agree to share their secrets. Will romance blossom for the mismatched pair?”

In several instances, I was required to do something more. Take for example another title, this time in The Ancient Egyptian Mysteries Series called The Great Pyramid.
“The Oldest and greatest “Wonder of the World” stands silently and demands explanation — how and why? The Great Pyramid of Khufu is so big, so old, and so beautiful that many can’t believe it was built by an ancient people…but it was! And that is the greatest mystery of all — the mystery of the this great people; their organization, enthusiasm, and genius.”

There was yet another mystery which had nothing to do with the pyramids but the actual author of the title. The credited author was a friend of the publisher but the resulting manuscript he turned in left much to be desired in terms of readability. Now I can solve that mystery: I rewrote the entire thing!
As Johnny Carson used to say, more to come!
-Dwayne Epstein

THE GREAT PYRAMID published in 2004.

 

 

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