MARY HOSFORD, LEE MARVIN’S MISSOURI TRAVELER COSTAR DIES

Mary Hosford, who’s only film was playing Lee Marvin’s love interest (!) in the largely forgotten film Missouri Traveler, passed away July 19th at the age of 93. If this info slipped under your radar amongst the passing of other more famous celebrity deaths, your not alone. It slipped under mine as well, until I did a google search for something else. There’s a reason she wasn’t heralded as an actress starring with Lee Marvin as his first romantic lead. The biggest reason being she was not known as Mary Hosford for very long, at least not according to this fascinating obituary in The Washington Post.

Poster for The Missouri Traveler (1958).

I knew she had become a Whitney shortly after the film was made, but I had know idea she was such a well known entity among the wealthiest of America’s elite! No wonder they put her one film appearance at the end of the obit.
As to the film itself, it’s one of Lee Marvin’s least remembered and has been in the public domain for decades. Kind of a shame as it’s not a bad little film, actually.
The title character is adolescent Brandon De Wilde, a young runaway at the turn-of-the-century who is sort of adopted by the citizens  of a small town. That is except for Lee Marvin’s character of Tobias Brown, the richest and meanest man in town.
The film plays out like a live-action Disney film, which includes an annoying harmonca on the soundtrack and a few of the vaudevillian type slapstick bits by the supporting cast.

The wonderful veteran ensemble of The Missouri Traveler included (L-R) Frank Cady, Brandon De Wilde, Lee Marvin, Gary Merrill and Paul Ford, as well as the likes of Kathleen Freeman, Ken Curtis, Will Wright and Eddie Little Sky (not pictured).

That aside, Marvin is great as usual and the fight scene and twist ending are very well done. That ending will NOT be given away here, even with a spoiler alert. Just watch it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

Lobby card depicting (L-R) Lee Marvin, Brandon De Wilde, Mary Hosford (later Whitney) and Gary Merrill.

As to Marvin’s attitude about the film’s extremely wealthy producer and future husband of Hosford, one Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney? Well, you have to read Lee Marvin Point Blank, as Lee’s first wife, Betty Marvin, recounted an anecdote that must be read to be believed and it’s one of my all-time favorites.
– Dwayne Epstein

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MARVIN MOVIE BLOOPERS, PART 1

Marvin movie bloopers is not a subject I’ve dealt with before but I got the idea for it from the last blog entry I did. When director Buzz Kulik told me the story of Lee Marvin being face down on the courtroom table in Sergeant Ryker and how he left the shot in the movie, it reminded me of similar moments that we either told to me or that I witnessed myself while working on Lee Marvin Point Blank.
For instance, costar Kelly Ward offered a funny anecdote concerning a scene in The Big Red One, in which Lee Marvin kept stumbling over the line, “Nothing but combat rejects on the beach at Colleville-sur-Mer.” Try as he might, he just couldn’t pronounce the name of that little French town. The moment he did finally get it right, it’s not only left in the film, but he does a take to the camera to let everyone know what he thought of that line. It’s in the movie and the details to the story are in my book. Pretty funny, especially the James Coburn reference.

“Psst! Hey, Buddy! Tell me again how to pronounce this French beach, will ya?”

Always fun to look for things left in a movie that has not been noticed before. Another example of a Marvin movie blooper is in The Professionals. Watch one of the dialog scenes in the desert between Marvin and Burt Lancaster and see what the horse is doing in the background. One of my best friends and I had watched the film so many times, he was the one who caught it after multiple viewings and could not stop laughing. We like to think of it as the animal kingdom’s critique of the film before it was released.

“Hey Lee! Look what your horse is doing! Heh, heh.”

That’s pretty much it for now but as Johnny Carson used to say, more to come, such as moments in Cat Ballou and The Dirty Dozen to look for.
– Dwayne Epstein

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SERGEANT RYKER: WHAT YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T KNOW

Sergeant Ryker was a 1968 theatrical release for Lee Marvin but if you think it looks like it was made a few years earlier, you would be right. It’s just one of several aspects of this strangely intriguing, yet at the same time, run-of-the-mill production.

Cover art for SERGEANT RYKER’s VHS release, borrowed from the theatrical release.

Why does it ‘look’ like it was made earlier? The original production was a 1963 two-part TV episode pilot of the Kraft Theatre originally titled The Case Against Paul Ryker, which is an infinitely more apt title than the theatrical title or the poster above. By 1968, Marvin was already grayer, craggier, and an Oscar-winning superstar. Making a film with such a macho sounding title sounded like a sure bet at the box-office. Only problem was it was a court-room drama, NOT a macho war movie.
To be fair, it’s TV-movie trapping aside, it’s a well done story. Marvin is Ryker, already found guilty of conspiring with the enemy  — in this case the North Koreans — and is awaiting the hangman. New evidence may prove his claim of being on a secret mission behind enemy lines to be true, but the only officer who knew of the mission has died. A new trial is ordered and the truth may or may not finally come out. It begs the question, is Ryker an unrecognized hero or an undeniable traitor?  Cool premise, huh?
The production boasts a terrific ensemble for its day, including Vera Miles as Ryker’s wife, the criminally underrated Bradford Dillman as Ryker’s lawyer, Peter Graves as the prosecutor, Murray Hamilton as a sleazy associate, venerable Lloyd Nolan as Dillman’s commanding officer and the always less than cheerful Norman Fell as a put-upon corporal.
Those are the plusses. On the minus side of the ledger, the production values are strictly from hunger. Even as a 1963 TV show it looks pretty bad. I can’t imagine what it must have looked like on the big screen. It’s style is so nondescript, costar Norman Fell didn’t even remember being in it when I asked him about it back in the 90s.
He did, however, remember a similar project that was made for TV but later released theatrically. He worked with Marvin in The Killers and he is quoted extensively about it in Lee Marvin Point Blank, THAT was a much memorable experience, as far as he was concerned.
Pity the poor moviegoer of 1968 who wanted to see Lee Marvin in a ‘new’ release with a typical rock-em-sock-em sounding title like Sergeant Ryker, only to be treated to a TV courtroom drama (!)

A page from the SERGEANT RYKER pressbook in which Universal attempted to promote the project cinematically.

 

There is one other interesting aspect to the film if one ever gets around to watching it. Veteran director Buzz Kulik told me a great anecdote concerning Lee Marvin and the filming of the project. It didn’t make the cut as far as my book was concerned, but was brought to life on the pages of this blog a while ago.

Screen capture of Lee Marvin (head on desk) with Bradford DIllman from that ‘moment” Buzz Kulik described.

The advent of home video, cable TV, and now other digital media platforms, makes the likelihood of such a phenomenon near impossible today, thankfully. However, the sense of being ripped-off by Hollywood on occasion may never go away. I point to the plethora of superhero moves being cranked out as a prime example.
Want to know about some other less than savory doings that took place behind the scenes during the 1960s and 1970? There’s the time the time Lee Marvin was duped by a gay producer for starters. For that read Lee Marvin Point Blank.

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