WHY DALTON TRUMBO OPENS LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK

There are several reasons why I chose to open Lee Marvin Point Blank with this quote from Dalton Trumbo:
“You plan the wars you masters of men
plan the wars and point the way
and we will point the gun.”

My hardcover and well-read copy of JOHNNY GT HIS GUN, the book that started it all.

First and foremost is the fact that it fit the theme of Lee Marvin’s life, work and legacy. Just as important is the fact that Trumbo was, is, and will always reman my favorite writer of all time. As a matter of fact, when I was able to land my first professional writing job in the late 1980s on a local newspaper in New Jersey, my then bulky Mac office computer boasted only one image on the side of its screen….

The image that adorned the side of my Mac in the 1980s depicted Dalton Trumbo hard at work.

Like most writers, I have both classic favorites (Jack London, Mark Twain) as well as contemporary ones (William Goldman, Richard Price). All choices are based both on subject matter as well as style. For me, Dalton Trumbo remains neck-creakingly high in both categories. Why? No other writer has ever come close to achieving his level of haunting, simple prose. In my opinion, it’s an amazing accomplishment. I read Johnny Got His Gun as a freshman in high school. Read it again as an adult. I’ve read it several times since in the intervening years and it just gets better and better every time!
Explaining the premise of the book to anyone has often resulted in being told that it sounds too depressing to read. On the contrary. Granted the premise is quite dark: In the waning days of WWI, Joe Bonham becomes the ultimate victim of war as a bomb leaves him without limbs, face, or the use of any his five senses other than touch. However, his struggle to reconnect with the outside world, flashbacks of his life before the war (both comical and poignant) and the ultimate resolution of his plight, makes for a book more than just depressing but an amazing exploration of the human condition. It goes without saying that I highly recommend it, if just for the spare and powerful writing alone.
When I was working as managing editor for a multi-educational and distribution book company, I suggested putting it in our catalog. The company owner, Mike Miller, was reticent but agreed on the condition that at least one order had to be placed for it to remain in the catalog each year. Interestingly enough, in the seven years I worked there, and titles were to be either added or removed, there was always at least one wise teacher somewhere in the country smart enough to order a copy for their class or library.  Luckily, the heavy metal band Metallica also managed to keep it the minds of their fans by buying the rights and recording the song “One” in homage to the book, with a music video incorporating scenes from the 1970 film directed by (ad costarring) Dalton Trumbo.
In these days of rising international tensions and U.S. wars now stretching into decades, the book is clearly now more relevant than ever. It might not be a popular consideration but when high school and college students are required to read certain titles before going out into the world, Johnny Got His Gun should be at the top of the list. It just might help end those international tensions and decades long wars. It might not. Certainly worth a try as at the very least a classic anti-war novel will be consumed and kept alive for the next generation.
I wonder if Lee Marvin ever read it.
-Dwayne Epstein

Other titles in the Dalton Trumbo canon…

One of Trumbo’s first books, later turned into a film starring a young William Holden as small town accountant helped by the spirit of Andrew Jackson.

Two of Dalton Trumbo’s pamphlets addressing his experiences as one of The Hollywood Ten.

A long sought title by yours truly finally discovered at The Strand Bookstore in New York.

Trumbo’s last work, left unfinished at the time of his death in 1976 but published with its first ten chapters and subsequent notes. A riveting read and powerful companion to JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN.

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LEE MARVIN MAKES LIKE……JERRY LEWIS TELETHON??

Just because I spent nearly 20 years researching Lee Marvin for my book Lee Marvin Point Blank, does not mean I’ve seen everything about him, as I recently discovered this little gem of him which is eerily reminiscent of the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

Lee Marvin, yes, Lee Marvin in the early morning hours of the WHAS telethon.

Anyone not old enough to remember the Jerry Lewis Telethon to benefit those stricken with Muscular Dystrophy, is missing out on a hard-to-explain show business phenomenon the likes of which we’ll probably never see again. Every Labor Day, Jerry Lewis would stay on the air for 22 hours while he begged for money to help his kids. In between were local and major business people, novelty acts, Broadway acts, community volunteers, lots of Vegas acts and literally the biggest names in show business (John Lennon, anyone?). My friends and I looked forward to it every year for one specific reason: Come 3: 00 in the morning, Jerry would get really weird, nasty, snarky and hilarious. “Gimme the damned check and get the hell of the stage,” was said more than once by the King of Comedy. With our dark senses of humor, my friends and I loved it! But I digress..

Jerry Lewis with one of Jerry’s kids on the annual Jerry Lewis Telethon aired every Labor Day.

This clip below was something I recently came across and was quite surprised to see Lee Marvin making like Jerry Lewis. Apparently, it was from 1959, around the time that Marvin was doing “M Squad” and my guess is he was talked into it by his agent, Meyer Mishkin, who always was looking to raise Marvin’s profile where ever and whenever possible. Know as the WHAS Crusade for Children, it still exists to this day as one of the longest running telethons in broadcast history. Named for the station’s call letters out of Louisville, Kentucky, and benefitting local children stricken with Cerebral Palsy and the like, it began in 1954, serving Kentucky and southern Indiana.
In watching the clip, you gotta give Marvin his props. He’s smooth and likable with the kids on live TV and even though he has a cheat sheet binder, he can hold his own with Jerry Lewis any day. It’s dated, it’s blurry and clunky, but watch to the end and the kid with the glasses and bowtie. Hey it’s live TV. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein

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FILMFAX, STEVE RUBIN, TWILIGHT ZONE, LEE MARVIN & ME

So, what do the Twilight Zone, Filmfax Magazine, author Steve Rubin, Lee Marvin and yours truly have in common? A simple phone call. Filmfax publisher/managing editor, Mike Stein, calls me up and asks if I’d be interested in doing an interview with Steve Rubin, author of The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia. It’s a trifecta in my mind since The Twilight Zone has always been one of my favorite shows, I’d get work in two issues in a row of the quarterly magazine and Steve Rubin is actually a friend of mine. How could I say no?

Filmfax #151 cover which includes my interview with author/friend Steve Rubin.

Turns out, Rubin is a wonderful person to interview as we are simpatico on several levels. He also has an impressive resume of other written work an is an independent producer of some quality films. Our talk drifted in many directions for that reason, but the core of the conversation, of course, was his wonderful new tome on The Twilight Zone. Do not let the term ‘encyclopedia’ leave you cold. It’s anything but a dry and uninteresting read like most encyclopedias. The format fits the word but the writing style certainly doesn’t. Its chock full of great, fun facts that is quite accessible and undeniably addictive.

The cover of Steve Rubin’s new book, THE TWILIGHT ZONE ENCYCLOPEDIA.

How does Lee Marvin play into this? Well, in Lee Marvin Point Blank I devoted an entire chapter to Marvin’s TV work, discovering some gems along the way. As most fans know, Marvin appeared on The Twilight Zone in two great episodes. I didn’t write much about them but Steve certainly did. One of Marvin’s best performances was in the Richard Matheson penned episode, “Steel,” and Rubin enviously interviewed co-star Chuck Hicks!

The Twilight Encyclopedia’s entry of “Steel.”

Part 2 of Rubin’s entry on “Steel.”

All told, both the interview and the book are worthy reads. Below is my introduction to the interview, but don’t simply take my word for it. Check out Filmfax #151 for yourself at your nearest bookstore or newsstand. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
-Dwayne Epstein

Steve Rubin Filmfax interview introduction.

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