SUPERBOWL SUNDAY: HOW LEE MARVIN HELPED THE NFL, SERIOUSLY!

With the Panthers & Broncos battling in the Super Bowl this Sunday, it seems as good a time as any to consider another unmentioned aspect in Lee Marvin: Point Blank worthy of exploration… Although in truth, there is very little in the book left unexplored but that’s what this blog for. So, besides being gridiron legends, do you know what Woody Strode, Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson (ahem!) and Joe Namath also have in common? You probably have already guessed based on the theme of this website but yes, they all co-starred in films with Lee Marvin.
The kind of films Marvin made probably had a lot to do with it, but Marvin himself saw film acting as a logicial progression from football. While making The Dirty Dozen with Jim Brown, he joked, “You see those guys on the field every Sunday and they’re acting. When they take a hit and walk off, you see how they play to the crowd with a little extra limp and grimace…and thos guys are the pros!”
Known more for his impressive presence in films, the proverbial gentle giant, Woody Strode is not often remembered for his pro ball career. However, along with Kenny Washington, they integrated the NFL playing for the L.A. Rams, a full year before Jackie Robinson did the same in baseball.  Strode was also a professional wrestler but told this author that the time he spent working with Lee Marvin in both The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and later (and more prominently) in The Professionals, bonded a life time friendship with Marvin like none he had ever known in other films….

Woody Strode (left) and Lee Marvin on location during The Professionals and bonding a life long friendship.

Woody Strode (left) and Lee Marvin on location during The Professionals and bonding a life long friendship.

Sometimes called the greatest fullback in NFL history, Jim Brown’s tailor-made role in The Dirty Dozen established him evern more than his previous film, Rio Conchos. His acting career then skyrocketed with other big budget films but it was the blaxploitation genre of the early 70s for which he’ll be most remembered cinematically. One such film was even an update of Marvin’s Point Blank entitled The Split.
None of this would have even happened had Brown not made a fateful decision during the filming of The Dirty Dozen. The film ran over schedule due to the constant rain in England, forcing Brown to confront a difficult choice. When Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell threatened a heavy fine if Brown wasn’t back in time for pre-season training, Brown’s decision was thus made: He quit the NFL and set out on his film career. Helping him decide was Lee Marvin, who rightly predicted of Brown’s future: “He’s going to be a wild actor. He’s not afraid of himself. He lets everything show he thinks is right. He’s not pretending. Pretending has no value. To do it right with control has real value.”

Jim Brown & Lee Marvin on set of THE DIRTY DOZEN from the NY Times article annoucing his NFL retirement.

Jim Brown & Lee Marvin on set of THE DIRTY DOZEN from the NY Times article annoucing his NFL retirement.

NY Jets quarterback Joe Namath had a fairly decent film career that in no way eclipsed his record-breaking NFL career. Such films as C.C. & Company with Ann-Margret, as well as The Last Rebel, co-starring Woody Strode, certainly did not break box office records, but he was able to put on his resume that he worked with such veteran performers as Lee Marvin, Robert Shaw, Maximillan Schell, Horst Bucholtz and others in the tepid cold war thriller, Avalanche Express. Namath went on record as stating that in spite of his famous partying days with the Jets, he had never seen anybody drink a tumbler full of vodka for lunch each day as he witnessed Marvin and Shaw do….and then go to work!

Lee Marvin & 'Broadway' Joe Namath in AVALANCHE EXPRESS

Lee Marvin & ‘Broadway’ Joe Namath in AVALANCHE EXPRESS

And then there’s O. J. Simpson. Perhaps the les said about him the better, as the man who worked with Marvin in the wince-inducing disaster titled, The Klansman, was reputed to be more clean-cut than what we now know and think of him. Then again, the still from the film below, might just be the most appropriate. Had Marvin pulled the trigger, who knows…..

Lee Marvin contemplates doing what the Goldman family might have done.

Lee Marvin contemplates doing what the Goldman family might have done.

 

 

 

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