CHARLIE & LEE….TOGETHER AGAIN!

Charles Bronson & Lee Marvin.

Screen grab image from the 1981 interview with Charlie & Lee.

Charlie & Lee, as in Bronson & Marvin, worked together several times in their respective careers but I can’t recall ever seeing them interviewed together..that is until now. Apparently, a local news show out of Fort Worth, Texas on NBC 5 was lucky enough to capture them together back in 1981 as they promote Death Hunt. The interviewer was Bobbi Wygant and she did her homework enough to ask some fairly intelligent questions. Case in point, knowing that they both worked with such legends as Gary Cooper and Spencer Tracy early in their careers (Lee in Bad Day At Black Rock with Tracy and Charlie in Pat & Mike as well as The People Against O’Hara), she knowingly asked them to compare the two legends. 
  Marvin was an old pro at such things as he often promoted his latest endeavors on talk shows. Bronson, on the other hand, hated being interviewed and it shows in the way he constantly fiddles with his microphone cord. It’s a shame really as he comes off as intelligent and insightful in his comments. 
Interestingly, the comments they both make about the location shooting of Death Hunt is in direct conflict to what costar Angie Dickinson told me in Lee Marvin Point Blank. She had talked to Lee about the beautiful locale and his daily response to her is definitely worth reading about. 
One other thing worth noting. Watch the entire clip below as you see Wygant do something after the interview that is akin to what William Hurt did in the movie Broadcast News (1987) that Albert Brooks discovers and upsets Holly Hunter when she finds out. I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen the film but it’s certainly worth watching. Bronson and Marvin are still sitting there when Wygant does it which is quite bizarre. So watch below and enjoy!

– Dwayne Epstein

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RICK SPALLA: 1960’S LEE MARVIN DOCUMENTARY

Rick Spalla, an independent TV producer of entertainment news shows of substance (i.e. not TMZ or Entertainment Tonight), was one of the first people I sought when I began working on my Lee Marvin biography. I had learned of a TV documentary he had done on Marvin back in 1969 and was desperate to see it and find out more about it. Glad I did.
Don’t recall how I managed it back in those pre-internet days of the 1990s, but I secured an interview with Rick Spalla who graciously let me view the show in his studio on a moviola he set up. The 16 mm film was hardly HD, and stopping and starting it to take proper notes was a challenge, but it was well-worth it for the nuggets of info I was able to mine and put in the book.
Spalla died in 2001 and I never did get to see the show again, that is until now.

Lee Marvin being interviewed by Joe Hyams on location in Oregon during PAINT YOUR WAGON as they enjoy the rehearsal of The Nitty Gritty Band.

Imagine my surprise when Facebook friend and fellow film biographer, Gabriel Hershman, wrote me recently to tell me the show has been posted on YouTube! He sent me the link and I viewed it again as if for the first time. It really was well-done and holds up extremely well, in my opinion.
In fact, it reminded me of the quote I got from Spalla as to how his idea for the show came about: “Initially, I was planning to do the show about Keenan [Wynn] and his racing. Keenan invited Lee along. Then, over the years, Lee just got to be such a big star, we had to do one about him once the series started.”

Closing credit from the show PORTRAIT: LEE MARVIN.

Several of the people interviewed for the show had passed away by the time I began working on Lee Marvin Point Blank. Thanks to Spalla, I was able to get quotes from the likes of Keenan Wynn, Robert Ryan, Jack Webb, and others all of which went in the book. Readers know I also got first person exclusives myself with the show’s other guests, like Terry Moore, Eliot Silverstein, Angie Dickinson and more, so feel free to check those out, as well.
All in all rediscovering the show on YouTube thanks to Gabriel Hershman, was a revelation.

Author Gabriel Hershman’s biography of Albert Finney (above) is HIGHLY recommended.

Marvin was candid and whimsical during the on location interview, the film clips are well-placed and the anecdotes told about him are wonderful.

As to Rick Spalla’s opinion of his subject, he told me: “He lived life to the fullest. He loved living. We went down to Mazatlan so I could film him fishing and he was in heaven. He called it ‘Margarita time.’ On the first day he caught 6 sailfish and a marlin. When he was fishing, he was like a kid with a toy. As if he had all the toys in the world. He’d catch a fish and couldn’t wait to throw the line out again. It was like a movie or something. After the first day, he wanted me to go out with him again, but I had enough.”
Luckliy, for the rest of us, we can now see what he meant. So, without further ado, I give you Portrait: Lee Marvin, part one and part two. or click the images below. Thanks again, Gabriel!

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NETFLIX CONTROVERSY IS HARDLY NEW

Netflix, the online streaming service, has been embroiled in controversy for the last several years involving some of its original programming’s ability to be deemed valid as a cinematic achievement. In short, should a project made for online streaming be judged worthy of cinematic awards just because it played briefly in theaters to qualify for award season? It began mostly when Netflix won the Best Picture Oscar last year for the film Roma.
It’s a strange conundrum to be sure but the fact of the matter is the controversy is NOT a new one. Matter of fact, it dates back to the early 1960s.

Theatrical poster for the made-for-TV movie (the first!) THE KILLERS, released in theaters worldwide.

Not an identical scenario, I grant you that, but pretty similar. Meant to be the first ever TV-movie, director Don Siegel’s remake of The Killers, was made on a shoestring budget (and it shows) and was the brainchild of media mogul, Lew Wasserman. The film’s femme fatale, Angie Dickinson, told me that Wasserman came up with the idea by stating, “Why should we keep doling out good money to the studios for their films when we at the networks can make our own!” She paraphrased it but you get the point.
Good idea, right? It did, of course, catch on in time but this first effort fell victim to bad timing. Just as it was about to go into production, Kennedy was assassinated. With the country still in a state of shock even after the production was finished, the network thought the concept, let alone the name, too violent to air on TV and chose instead to release it in theaters. All of which, including exclusive interviews with most of the cast, can be read about in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Blind receptionist Virginia Christie is terrorized by title character Lee Marvin in THE KILLERS in the opening  scene making the point  it was too violent for TV in the wake of JFK’s death.

Now, with the Netflix production of The Irishman sure to be up for a slew of awards, including the Oscars, the question again is raised…but once again, not so fast in terms of this being the first time of such an occurrence. When The Killers was released overseas in 1965, the British Academy of Film Awards (BAFTA) named the winner that year for Best Actor in a Foreign Film won for two films: one was Cat Ballou and the other was, that’s right, The Killers. The actor of course was Lee Marvin who gladly accepted, despite his very publicly known dislike of the medium of television.
Netflix controversy? Everything old is new again.
– Dwayne Epstein

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