I interviewed the legendary TV pioneer Steve Allen in his Burbank office back in 1997 for a two-part piece that ran in Filmfax magazine. The experience remains one of my favorites as it yielded wonderful anecdotes and observations. At one point during our talk, he asked me what else I was working on. When I mentioned the Lee Marvin bio he offered the following thoughts that didn’t go into the final pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank as he spoke of the experience of seeing Bad Day at Black Rock when it first came out in 1955…..
(above, L-R: Dean Jagger, Walter Sande, Lee, Walter Brennan, Russell Collins, Robert Ryan and Spencer Tracy.)
Steve Allen: I still think his marvelous performance in Bad Day at Black Rock — which is one of my favorite movies, anyway — was a powerhouse. One of the reasons that picture was so good was that it had three schmucks in the cast: Lee, Robert Ryan, and Ernest Borgnine. As a result of that clever, accidentally fortuitous story plotting, the moment when poor one-armed Spencer Tracy finally lashed out as the good guy, elicited from a good neighborhood totally white audience the loudest ‘Yeah!’ I ever heard in my life in a movie. I mean you hear it at football games and such but I never heard a [movie] audience do that before.