Long before the immediate gratification of information via the internet, and the misinformation that goes with it, there used to be this thing called books, and one particular series that was always worth looking forward to was the latest edition of Screen World. The annual compendium of the previous year’s releases was highly anticipated by yours truly. In fact, being an avid movie fan at a very young age, I can say my library’s acquisition of it was akin to the anticipation I felt when the Fall preview issue of TV Guide came in the mail. Anybody besides me remember that?
The Screen World annuals were produced under the guidance of John Willis, beginning in the 1940s as a sister publication to Theater World, which chronicled the same for the legitmate theater. Unlike contemporary film chronicles, Screen Worldgave no snarky reviews, cutesy summaries or even box office receipts. It simply showed the year’s releases, with the main cast and crew accompanied by press release photos. As such, it has proven to be a a wonderful time-tested archive of film history.
Take the year 1973, for example. I chose this year as it was my personal favorite of year of U.S. film releases.
Dust jacket for SCREEN WORLD 1974 which illustrated the releases of the previous year.
Luckily, for the purposes of this blog, it also proved to be a very good year for Lee Marvin. Working on Lee Marvin Point Blankand having the majority of each year’s copy of Screen Worldhelped me to get the exact month of his film’s releases and as the two examples below bear out, Emperor of the North Pole and The Iceman Cometh are two of Marvin’s best. The production of both films, by the way, are detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank, of course. Screen World had other features of note, such as illustrious obits, foreign films, actors to watch, and bio data for pretty much every living actor at the time. May not seem like much now, but back before the web and undocumented ‘wikis’ it was a treasure trove of information. As shown below…..
Screen World’s entry on Emperor of the North Pole.
The Iceman Cometh’s release a few months later as shown in Screen World.
One of Lee Marvin’s best and least recognized films was director Robert Aldrich’s violent 1973 hobo opus, Emperor of the North, the production of which is detalied in Lee Marvin: Point Blank. Do you know the film’s connection to the great Jack London? Gotta read the book to find that out. Anyway….
The film failed to find an audience when it first came out, despite efforts by everyone concerned to publicize its worthiness. Below is an example of the novel lengths Marvin would go to promote the film. Although already sporting the walrus-sized mustache and extra few pounds for his next film, Spikes Gang, according to the AP Wire at the time, the picture below, from May 29, 1973, stated: “Hobo Maurice ‘Steamtrain’ Graham (left) of Toledo, Ohio, is joined by actor Lee Marvin, who stars in the film about hobos of the ’30s, Emperor of the North, outside the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. More than a score of Depression Era hobos dined at the Waldorf as guests of Marvin.”
Lee Marvin & ‘Streamtrain’ Graham (left) after dining at the Waldorf-Astoria.
And exactly who was Maurice “Steamtrain” Graham? “Steam Train Maury” Graham (June 3, 1917 – November 18, 2006) was best known as five-time holder of the title “King of the Hobos”, and was later known as “Patriarch of the Hobos”. Born to a broken home in Ohio, he was shunted from father to mother to aunt to married siblings. In 1931, at the age of 14, Graham began riding the rails as a hobo during the Great Depression. He settled in Toledo, Ohio with his wife Wanda in the late 1930s, and worked as a cement mason and founded a trade school for masons. During World War II, he served in the military as a medical technician. In 1969 he returned to the hobo life for another eleven years, finally retiring in 1980.
Maury Graham adopted the nickname “Steam Train” in 1969, when the “Golden Spike Special” steam train came through Ohio, returning home from the 100th anniversary of the completion of the first US transcontinental railroad. He was one of the founding members of the National Hobo Foundation. He also helped established the Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa. He died due to complications from stroke at the Northcrest Nursing Home in Napoleon, Ohio at the age of 89!
Actor Jeff Bridges, best known as ‘The Dude’ in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski, worked with Lee Marvin early in his career, when they costarred in the American Film Theater’s 1973 production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. For a young actor still not sure of himself, working with the likes of Marvin, Fredric March, and Robert Ryan in a classic piece of American theatre, the concept is both understandably a blessing and a daunting gauntlet!
Bridges graciously granted me an interview for my book Lee Marvin: Point Blank. He could not have been more gracious (despite his VERY busy schedule) in taking the time to do a phone interview with yours truly from the backseat of his car going from the set to his hotel room that evening. Not included in the book is the following statement Bridges gave me that was his overall apprasial of Marvin’s work:
“I remember that TV show he did, M Squad and movies, like The Big Red One. That was a good one. I also liked Cat Ballou, Point Blank, Monte Walsh and of course, The Dirty Dozen. He could do those films like no one else, the whole military thing. There was no one like Lee Marvin. There are other actors who are just as fine but no one did what he did, especially the way he did it.”