EMMY.COM’S LEE TV: STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Emmy.com’s Lee TV article that went online the day after Lee Marvin’s birthday was culled from my book Lee Marvin Point Bank, obviously. The brief story behind it I think is interesting and at the very least, worthy of this blog. If you haven’t seen it, it’s available for your perusal here.  Readers of my book are certain to get a sense of deja vu as it’s contents are largely from my chapter about Marvin’s TV work entitled “Man in a Straitjacket.”
What makes the story interesting? Well, it works like this: In need of some freelance work, I was fortunate to contact the managing editor of Emmy.com late last year and submit my resume. She liked what she saw and eventually offered me some freelance work. My first was an interview with Nick Rutherford of Dream Corp. LLC, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Since it was near the end of the year, I didn’t get another offer until I interviewed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Vella Lovell this month, which I also enjoyed. It was terrific speaking with these talented up-and-comers, as I discovered not all interesting things for me to write about has to be retro. However…..
I took a chance and pitched the idea of writing about Lee Marvin’s TV work. I was surprised and elated when the Emmy.com’s managing editor went with the idea and so, Emmy.com’s Lee TV was born. I thought it best to take the point of view I had in the book, that Marvin hated the medium contrasted with his versatile performances within the medium.
That proved to be misstep, as I was told the negative quotes from the actor were not in keeping with the TV Academy. If it were to fly, a rewrite was in order. Had this been me, say 10-20 years earlier, I’d have balked and walked. With age comes wisdom and so, less than a day later, I rewrote it and re-submitted it. I’m glad I dd as the editor was right, it reads much better. The result was the currently posted article of Emmy.com’s Lee TV. Live and learn, right?

Lee Marvin (left) & Patricia Donahue in a romantic clinch fro G.E. Theatre’s “The Last Reunion,” something you’d rarely see the actor do on film.

The idea was to show how much Marvin did things on the small screen he never did on film, which includes actually playing a Marine…TWICE!
I got to thinking about it some more and realized there are a plethora of such legendary actors who proved more versatile on television than they ever were on the silver screen. When the medium was still in its infancy, so too were the careers of several future postwar superstars. For instance…..

Paul Newman & Eva Marie Saint are the singing leads in a TV musical of OUR TOWN. Narrator Frank Sinatra had a hit song from it with “Love & Marriage.”

Did you know that Paul Newman actually sang in an original musical adaptation of Thornton WIlder’s Our Town? I kid you not! And how about this…

(L-R) Lillian Gish as Mary Todd Lincoln, Raymond Massey as Abraham Lincoln, and Jack Lemmon as John Wilkes Booth, in an episode of the dramatic anthology series ‘Ford Star Jubilee’ called ‘The Day Lincoln Was Shot,’ February 11, 1956.

Known on film mostly for his brilliant comedic and dramatic performances as a harried, middle-class contemporary man, Jack Lemmon once played John Wilkes Booth on an episode of an anthology series AFTER Lemmon had already won an Oscar for Mr. Roberts.

Then there’s my personal favorite example. Most folks don’t know that cult favorite Charles Bronson had an extensive career on television long before his middle-aged international stardom n the 1970s. He even had his own series based on a real-life individual…..

The rarely seen smile of actor Charles Bronson from his show MAN WITH A CAMERA as freelance photographer, Mike Kovac.

The possibilities are pretty impressive, don’t you think? I’ll be looking into such possibilities in the not too distant future but in the mean time, anybody need an award-winning, NY Times Bestselling writer? You can reach me here. Thanks!
-Dwayne Epstein

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LEE MARVIN’S SHACK OUT ON 101 PLAYING AT BERKELEY!

Shack Out on 101 at Berkeley? Yeah, as the accompanying link will attest, you read that right. It’s revival is also long overdue, in my opinion. I had never even heard of this strange, little film until I saw it by chance at a movie marathon, years before I started working on Lee Marvin: Point Blank. It really does defy description, but I knew that I once I started researching Lee’s career, I HAD to give it special attention. In fact, I made sure to include an image in the book depicting Marvin and Len Lesser (Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo) “at play”….
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There are a number of things that makes this film so strange and watchable at the same time: from the opening near rape scene to the happy conclusion of a man being harpooned, it really is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Take for instance these ads from the pressbook….
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The ad lines are of course typically exploitative for its day and subject but check this out: the bottom panel depicting “Eddie” is a scene with Lee Marvin who plays “Slob” (aka Leo) but Eddie is played by Whit Bissell. And these ads are by the guys that made the movie!!! There’s a little more subtle ad below…..

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Not that it matters, but Terry Moore’s character is named Kotty, not Kitty. It just gets better and better, doesn’t it? I love the dialogue, too. For example, during a heartfelt talk between Bissell and burger joint owner Keenan Wynn, Bissell quitely asks Wynn if he loves Terry Moore. Wynn answers by slamming his fist down and shouting, “I’m on the hook and I can’t get off!” I just love this stuff. It probably can better be explained by a better authority than I. Way back in 1978, FILM COMMENT magazine started its fairly regular column called Guilty Pleasures, in which film makers cited their favorite bad films and why. Bonnie & Clyde’s co-screenwriter David Newman I think summed up it better than I ever could. He makes some now outdated references that I’ve taken the liberty to wiki but other than that….

Number 3: Shack Out on 101 (1955, dir. Edward Dein). Forget about those movies like Blood of the Poet that want to look weird and strange and wind up kind of silly. Here is perhaps the most bizarre picture ever made. Yes. I have it seen eleven times and I’m still not sure if it knows how nutty it is. Every time I submit myself to Shack Out, I think I’m stoned or running a high fever.
This black-and-white production looks like it was made for about $2.75 below the line. Except for a beach scene, the entire film takes place on one set: a hamburger joint that makes the Alice cafe on television look like a Max Reinhardt spectacle.

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How can I impart the weridness of this movie to you? To begin with, all the men in it are desperately in love with Terry Moore. Wait, wait, there’s more. The romantic hero is Frank Lovejoy. Terry’s miffed because he alone acts cold to her. Is he, ergo, a Commie spy?
More? You want more? Lee Marvin plays a short-order cook [….] in a manner so baroque as to render his performance in The Wild One a gem of nuanced understatement by comparison. Keenan Wynn, as the love besmittne creep who owns the joint, has one scene with Marvin where they work out together, lifting weights, doing push-ups, that, frame for frame, will take you further out of your skull than any amount coke you care to mail me for testing purposes.

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The dialogue is so off-the-wall elliptical that it recalls the true zaniness of a Vic ‘n Sade script. I promise you that at no point is it possible to get a grip on this movie. What in the blazes did they think they were doing? Were all they all whacked-out? What is it really about? All I can tell is that I recommended this only once — to a friend who almost punched me out the following day.
But once more unto the breach. Fully aware that its lunatic charm may be apparent only to me, I unhesitatingly recommend that you look for it in the TV Guide, stay up till 4 in the morning (it is never on earlier, when normal people ar awake) and watch it … if you dare.”

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So, if you are in the Berkeley area tomorrow night, August 27th, run don’t walk to see Shack Out on 101. You won’t be disappointed. Or, more in keeping with the spiirt of the film: YOU’LL BE ON THE HOOK AND CAN’T GET OFF!!!

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BRISTOL SPORTSCAR IMPRESSES NEWMAN

BRISTOL SPORTSCAR?
Here’s a rarely seen photo from 1956. On the studio lot while filming The Rack, Lee Marvin proudly shows off his new Bristol sportscar to his very impressed costar, Paul Newman. Even though Newman had the public reputation akin to Steve McQueen when it came to fast cars, especially later in life, the look on his face below clearly shows Marvin has outshone him, at least back in 1956. Who knows, perhaps Marvin’s Bristol began Newman’s fasicantion with fast cars? Interestinglly, in Lee Marvin: Point Blank, friends and family of Marvin related several anecdote concerning the rare sports car. Click to enlarge…

Here's a rarely seen photo from 1956. On the studio lot while filming The Rack, Lee Marvin proudly shows off his new Bristol sportscar to his very impressed costar, Paul Newman.

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