Marvin’s story is impressively chronicled in author Dwayne Epstein’s LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK…following two decades of meticulous research. Not content to simply parrot information from others, Epstein took the time to interview Marvin’s family members, his attorney, agent, and several co-stars and directors. Christopher Marvin, the actor’s only son, contributed an afterword shortly before his death in 2013.
David R. Greenland, “What’s Out There” CLASSIC IMAGES Magazine, October, 2017.
A Herculean Effort; Authentic, and Thoroughly Entertaining
I’ve never read a better researched actor’s bio. Mr. Epstein brings Marvin back to life. What Herculean labor! What an accomplishment. What an authentic, entertaining read!
Actor/Author Rick Lenz, via Amazon, January 15, 2016
Via Amazon: Very good JOB!
Very enjoyable read for me. I respect that Dwayne Epstein used all the available material to discuss Lee Marvin’s military service and did not fabricate what many might imagine to have happened that was not documented. Just as it is with so many who served, it is the letters home, kept and shared which provide a peek into all that can go on in combat. As a combat veteran, I resent it when authors go beyond what is available to manufacturer what only can be imagined beyond what is written. We all know Lee Marvin experienced pain, anxiety, even fear, but for anyone to suppose the degree to which he felt all the emotions a combatant experiences and then elaborate to juice up a story is not being honest with the subject. Dwayne Epstein laid out the resources he scoured for and let the reader add conjecture. The stark differences between how his letters to his mother and his brother Robert were written certainly offer insight into those relationships, and Dwayne Epstein could have gone beyond what he had to satisfy those who wanted more facts than were available, but the author stayed his course as a biographer and didn’t venture into becoming a novelist. Anyone who has experienced combat can spot fabrication and I saw none. I wish more information was available. I wish a camera and sound had been right with him throughout his service, but it was not.
The author was very good in tying the similarities of the different stages of Lee Marvin’s life together. The traumatic youth which folded right into the trauma of war at a time when no one knew or explored PTSD is not lost on the author as he kept that thread, really it was the fabric of Lee Marvin’s life at the forefront. Lee Marvin was a survivor and this book told of how he survived a very difficult childhood and continued to survive on throughout his life to learn from it to become successful in his career. His life was tough, and he made it tougher than it needed to be, but Lee Marvin could only build on what he had.
I gathered a great deal of insight into this intricate personality by the skill of the author. I checked the book out on a whim from the library and once finishing it, I just ordered it to include in my collection. I will be proud to add it to my shelves and to pull it out and re-read again as time goes by. I am always happy to find a talented author who stays true to his craft!
– ‘Michel’ US Army Officer Retired, 33 years service, June 18, 2015
LEE MARVIN — a Marine and an actor’s actor, June 17, 2015
“Author Dwayne Epstein’s newest book, LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK, is a detailed and accurate account of the good and not so good chapters of Lee Marvin’s personal and professional lives, off and on the screen. This is an in-depth study of one of Hollywood’s near mythical character actor/ leading man hybrid personas that compares favorably with Cagney, Bogart and Eastwood.
The book is at once an in depth study and as well as a highly readable and entertaining overview of one of Hollywood’s most endearing and enduring action stars.” – Tracy Wynn, Screewriter of The Glass House (1972), The Longest Yard (1974), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974).
“LEE MARVIN, THE MAN, THE ACTOR. THE LIFE IN BETWEEN, April 27, 2015
Author Dwaynet Epstein’s Point Blank is a riveting read, meticulously researched and beautifully written, so very honest detailing the complexities of Marvin’s success, failures and weaknesses as a man. What sets this biography apart is the author’s knowing his subject from birth to death, with special attention to what doubtless created the devils forever churning inside him – the Marines, the Pacific, the war, kill or be killed. By the time Epstein has taken us through WWII, he has injected such genuine empathy for Lee Marvin, that this reader knew he was in a hands of a brilliant biographer. I eagerly await his next subject! Jeb Rosebrook, author, screenwriter, Junior Bonner (1972), I Will Fight No More Forever (1975).
A fine and insightful biography, July 1, 2014
“A book that tells the tale of Lee Marvin’s influence on cinematic violence as filtered through his life experiences. Marvin’s rise from crushing poverty to the pack of fine character actors in Hollywood to finally achieving stardom at a surprisingly late age is both inspiring and tragic. The latent violence of the man is contrasted well with the explicit violence of the characters he played. The “palimony” case is dealt with, but doesn’t dominate the tale. A fine, insightful book that I highly recommend.”
– Phoef Sutton, NY Times Bestselling author and former writer on “CHEERS”
“Love the book…..Loved it. But then I’m the perfect audience!!! Marvin is a god. If I didn’t think it was great you’d be in trouble.”
Larry Karaszewski, award-winning screenwriter of Big Eyes (2014), Man on the Moon (1999),The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996) and Ed Wood (1994).
“A well-paced, thoughtful examination of [Marvin’s] work that influenced film portrayals of violence in subsequent decades.”
“Dwayne Epstein may not have intended to spend nearly twenty years working on a biography of Lee Marvin, but had he not started in the mid-1990s he would have missed the opportunity of interviewing the actor’s older brother, many of his directors (from Sam Fuller to John Frankenheimer), and an even greater number of friends and costars. With tireless research and access to so many people in Marvin’s orbit, including his lawyer, his longtime agent, and his first wife, Betty, Epstein has crafted a thorough, intimate, and highly readable portrait of this imposing actor who became an unlikely star.
……Marvin was a complex man. He was proud of his service during the war, but it left him with problems that, Epstein speculates, might be classified as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder today. His erratic behavior, indifference to fatherhood, and often-crippling reliance on alcohol strained some relationships and destroyed others.
He took pride in his craft, however, and despaired over the eroding quality of Hollywood movies in the 1970s and 80s; he worked less and less, and ultimately said yes to some mediocre projects that weren’t worthy of his talent.
Epstein covers all of this and more. He even offers an appendix that lists film projects that might have been. (Apparently, Francis Coppola offered him the role that went to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.)….. doubt anyone will ever match its breadth and depth in assessing Lee Marvin’s life and career. The actor’s son, Christopher Marvin, contributes a poignant afterword about his father.”
Leonard Maltin, Movie Crazy Blog on IndieWire
“Thanks to Epstein’s literary efforts, Marvin’s place in the pantheon of legitimate silver screen heroes is secure.”
MARSHALL TERRILL, author of Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon
“I looked over Dwayne’s shoulder while he was working on early chapters of his Lee Marvin biography, and I know it will be a great book. He had already done unique, unduplicated research into Marvin’s early life, his war experience and the relationship between that and his decision to pursue acting. Lee Marvin: Point Blank will also be the definitive book on its subject: the rare star biography that substitutes passion for pandering, which always makes for gripping reading.”
BILL KROHN, LA Correspondent since 1978 of Cahiers du Cinema and author of HITCHCOCK AT WORK
“Dwayne has a broad knowledge of film and pop culture that comes through in his well-researched articles. His work requires no rewriting, making my job that much easier. Many of the articles he has submitted have garnered sincere praise in letters to the editor from our readers. We at Filmfax are very proud that Dwayne’s initial research on Lee Marvin first saw the light of the day in our publication. I can not say enough about his ability…”
MIKE STEIN, founder and publisher, FilmFax Magazine
“I have always loved Lee Marvin as an actor. Like legions of others, I worship ‘THE DIRTY DOZEN.’ But I also love his awesome performances in ‘THE WILD ONE’, ‘CAT BALLOU’, and, I know this is blasphemy, but I thought he actually stole his scenes with John Wayne in ‘THE COMANCHEROS.’ Author Dwayne Epstein has done an incredibly thorough job of research, including scores and scores of interviews in researching the life of this very fascinating man. As I read the book I could easily see Lee Marvin, like all of us, I guess, as a mixed bag. A brute, a romantic, a tough as nails, crude, crass music lover. A brave man, a strong man who succumbed to alcohol, a haunted, tortured man, who genuinely tried his best, but, like so many of us, had such a hard time overcoming his demons. Lee carried his demons of his service in World War Two with him, never quite managing to exorcise them. Alcoholism was a consequence. I felt immensely sorry for Lee as I read his story. I actually wept more than once. He was a tortured guy who left us a rich legacy of great film work. It’s all here- The failures, the successes, his youth, his early struggles, the marriages, et al. I highly recommend this wonderful book. The stories and anecdotes are wonderful. Dwayne includes a marvelous interview with Lee’s son, Christopher, which made me weep. This is one of the most thorough studies of any figure I have ever read, and I am 100% certain that if Lee Marvin himself had read it, he would been proud, flattered and approved and said to Dwayne Epstein, ‘You c**cksucker, you son of a bitch, you really nailed me, didn’t you?'”
EDDIE DEEZEN, Actor from I Wanna Hold Your Hand, 1941, Grease, The Polar Express, etc.
“Unforgettable…a surprisingly intelligent and heroic figure springs from the page… Epstein looks at a complicated figure and presents him in a full-length, three-way mirror. And it is absolutely impossible to look away.”
STEFAN KANFER, author of the NY Times Bestseller, “Tough Without A Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart”
“Dwayne Epstein has courageously updated the Marvin file with an archive of interviews and research that encompasses a life lived large on the world stage, surging like a Hollywood epic across continents and filled with a cast of the famous and infamous. Epstein hits the bullseye. ”
Noir City, a publication of the Film Noir Foundation
“As a young teen, I went to see Brando in The Wild One. I left talking about Lee Marvin.
I truly enjoyed Lee Marvin: Point Blank. It enlightened me on who the man was. Some of you may know I’m an actor. I could relate to a lot of the stories. Especially when he was a NY actor and ‘making the rounds’ and doing live TV. I was unaware that he had been a New York actor.
There are wonderful stories of his adventures in movie making. Dwayne Epstein paints a 3 dimensional picture of the man: A good, kind, thoughtful and extremely troubled man. I highly recommend Point Blank. Well done, Dwayne Epstein.”
RON THOMPSON, star of Ralph Bakshi’s American Pop and award-winning stage and film actor.
“A laptop in the hands of the right cinephile can yield something important — something to be enjoyed by film scholars and fans, something for the ages.After nearly twenty years of eating, breathing, and sleeping Marvin, Dwayne Epstein delivered Lee Marvin: Point Blank, the first authoritative and exhaustive document about the steely-eyed actor’s family background, the ghosts of his Marine past in WWII, his marriages, and his PTSD, which cast a dark shadow over a career marked by alcoholism, rage and depression. This is a worthwhile read, to say the least and up there with some of the better researched biographies.”
Steve Karras, The Huffington Post
“Wash his Face, He’s Fine”
“It being Valentine’s Day, I can think of no more romantic way to waste the day (before I get to work) than by dipping in and out of a tender, caring, just-published biography of America’s former sweetheart, Lee Marvin. In Lee Marvin: Point Blank, written by Dwayne Epstein, the action star who terrorized the West with a bullwhip in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, taught a squad of murderers and borderline psychos how to love again in The Dirty Dozen, and let Angie Dickinson use him as a punching bag for her furious little fists in the movie that gives this bio its subtitle weaves through the pages like the big rangy scary cat he was.
I’d often wondered why Marvin and director Sam Peckinpah never worked together in movies. Such simiarities. Both tough ex-Marines, both heavy intakers of alcoholic content, both volatile, both white-haired with a silvery patina to their appearance. Maybe it was because their experience shooting a TV’s Route 66 killed off any chance of bromance.
…Frustrated with his career, at odds with director Sam Peckinpah, and hating the dreary Pittsburgh location, the actor drank too much during work hours and paid the price. “What I remember most was his eyes,” recalled co-star Bert Remsen [who would go on to become a member of Robert Altman’s rep company, appearing in California Split, Thieves Like Us, Nashville, et al]. “He’d come in from the night before with his eyes all red and that strange walk he had, and say with that voice, ‘Hiya baby! You going out drinking with me tonight?'” I’d say, ‘No way! I gotta work the next day.’ He could do it though. He’d come in all disheveled and go throw up in the corner. Sam would say, ‘Wash is face. He’s fine.’ He’d do the scene and never miss a line…”
It’s never good to work woozy, however, and during this episode there was a fight scene with Martin Milner where one of the actors zigged when he should have zagged and the result was a punch that split Marvin’s nose wide open, the resulting damage putting his career in jeopardy. He was fortunate, notes Epstein, that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was shot in black and white, masking the discoloration.
The pages devoted to Donovan’s Reef, the “rollicking comedy” (an extinct genre) that reunited Ford, the Duke, and Marvin, confirm the impression that I acquired at an early age that Donovan’s Reef is one of the booze-bathed movies of all time, a sot’s vision of tropical paradise. “For tax reasons [Ford] had to sell his beloved yacht, The Araner, so he decided to use it in the movie before selling it off, and figured he could have a good time drinking on board during the film.” This is the sort of consideration that seldom comes up in film-studies courses. As it turned out, Ford wasn’t allowed to drink for health reasons, so he “had to referee” while Wayne and Marvin went watery-eyed.
I once heard someone compare Donovan’s Reef to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but that person might have been drinking too.”
James Wolcott, Vanity Fair Online
[Following the airing of Cat Ballou] “Such a funny film that is, and the making of it is covered very much in this new biography, Lee Marvin: Point Blank by author Dwayne Epstein. Good book, too. There’s all sorts of interesting tidbits in it……”
[Following the airing of The Dirty Dozen] “Of course, it’s no secret that Lee Marvin’s rough and tumble persona onscreen was matched, if not surpassed, by the the rough and tumble life he led offscreen. According to the this new biography, Lee Marvin Point Blank by author Dwayne Epstein, most of the time spent by Lee when he wasn’t shooting The Dirty Dozen in England, was spent in one English pub after another, where many pints were consumed and several bar fights ensued.
The amazing thing is, to a man, all the cast members that Epstein interviewed for this book said that despite his boozing and brawling at night, Lee Marvin always showed up on time the next day, prepared for work, knowing his lines and always considerate of his castmates and crew.”
Robert Osborne, Film Historian and on air host of TCM.