MARVIN? QUINN? CASSAVETES? ALMOST!

Of the films Lee Marvin almost made, one of the standouts is a project in which he would have costarred with Anthony Quinn and been directed by….John Cassavetes! Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank have commented to this author on how much they enjoyed the appendix in which films the actor almost made are listed but some have questioned the veracity among the titles. I can assure one and all they are indeed documented as the Marvin-Quinn-Cassavetes project is proof of below.
Actually, Marvin and Quinn had worked together briefly in the early 50s western Seminole (1953) with Marvin in little more than a glorified cameo. However, on the face of it, Marvin and Quinn may seem an unlikely pairing based on their different cinematic appeal. Quinn was ethnic and earthy, while Marvin came off more weather-beaten and militaristic.
Their screen differences aside, Marvin was actually cast in a role meant for the Mexican-Irish actor. According to novelist, JPS Brown, author of the autobiographical novel Jim Kane which was the basis for Pocket Money (1972), Marvin’s character of Leonard, opposite Paul Newman, told me that Leonard was based on Brown’s Mexican business partner:

Lee Marvin as Leonard in Pocket Money, originally meant to be played by Anthony Quinn.

“His name was Andres Canye. He’s the character they tried to base Lee Marvin’s character on. They called him Leonard. I called him ‘The Lion’ in Jim Kane. So they got Leonard from that. A lot of imagination there, don’t you think? There’s only one Gato Canyes [‘Big Cat’] in the world….A man that knew the name of every plant, every weed, every grass, every rock. He knew the medicinal capabilities of everything on the range. He knew the mountains…he lived there in those mountains on horseback. He was a real man. In Pocket Money, here’s the two big gringos on great big stout horses. ….Gatos Canyes was just a great, big, course-looking Anthony Quinn. Really. And Anthony Quinn really liked the book.”
It was actor/director John Cassavetes who thought Quinn and Marvin might work well together. Marvin and Cassavetes had of course, worked together in The Killers (1964), and a few years later in The Dirty Dozen (1967). In discussing his career on the set of Emperor of the North (1973) for Rolling Stone’s Grover Lewis, Marvin opined: “Remember Cassavetes in The Dirty Dozen? Jeez, he was sensational in that. Then you go see Husbands and you have to say ‘What are you tawkin’ about Jawn?’ I mean, he’s a bizarre little guy. Very juicy. John’s a violent little Greek, is what he is.”

Actor/director John Cassavetes around the time he considered pairing Marvin and Quinn.

Grover Lewis also interviewed Cassavetes the same year who at the time mentioned teaming himself with Marvin and George C. Scott. He said at the time, “Maybe it’ll happen. Who knows? The thing about acting is…Well, I like to do it.”

Over a decade later,  when asked about Cassavetes in a 1986 Orange County Register interview, Lee Marvin said:

Renaissance man Anthony Quinn in The Secret of Santa Vittoria, or as he may have looked barhopping the Midwest with Lee Marvin.

“A wild greek. He wanted to get Tony Quinn and me to travel around the country, stop in all these honky-tonk bars, then he’d write a story based on all that and we’d go shoot it. I said, ‘No, John. Please. Oh, Jesus please, no. I don’t wanna die in some barroom brawl in the Midwest.'”

One can certainly understand Marvin’s feelings but it still leaves one wondering. As the old verse goes:
“Of all the words of tongue or pen,
the saddest of these:
‘What might have been.'”

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GOLDEN GLOBES AND LEE MARVIN

Since the Golden Globes airing tonight begins the serious start of this year’s award season derby, it’s worth considering Lee Marvin’s involvement back in the 1960s. It’s of course mentioned within the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank, but a little more depth is always interesting….isn’t it? Well, even if it isn’t, here it is.
It’s often felt that the Golden Globes — put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) — is a sort of precursor to the Oscars. It probably was at one time but with all the awards shows glutting the airwaves these days, it’s hard to tell anymore. The best reason to watch though, is in seeing all the celebrities getting and acting drunk. Sounds like an award show just made for Lee Marvin, doesn’t it?
Marvin was first nominated for a Golden Globe back in 1965 for his dual role in Cat Ballou as broken down, drunk gunslinger, Kid Shelleen and his evil twin brother, Tim Strawn.

Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou as the evil tin-nosed Tim Strawn.

No one was more surprised over the nomination, let alone the victory, than Marvin himself. Drunks are of course favorite performances for Oscar voters but the HFPA doesn’t always agree. The same can be said of dual roles by an actor. What helped Marvin, of course, was his unsung veteran status in films and television. He did win the Globe and went on to win the Oscar, as well. His acceptance speech at the Globes was not nearly as memorable as it would be later when he won the Oscar for the same film. When the thunderous ovation died down, he quipped about his performance, “Oh, I didn’t think it was all THAT funny.”

Golden Glob Winner Samantha Eggar (for The Collector) and Lee Marvin compare trophies at the February, 1966 presentation.

Four years later he was back at the Golden Globes, nominated again in the same category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical or Comedy. I always like the fact that the HFPA separates the performances of Musical/Comedy roles from the Drama category and the year he was nominated (for Paint Your Wagon, no less!) proved an intriguing year indeed. Some of his fellow nominees, all more known for dramatic roles, also sang in their performances. The winner was a warbling Peter O’Toole in the musical remake of Goodbye, Mr. Chips. However, fellow nominee Steve McQueen in The Reivers also sang a few choruses of “Camptown Races” on camera. The non-singing Dustin Hoffman (John & Mary) and Anthony Quinn (The Secret of Santa Vittoria) rounded out the field. Marvin may have finished out of the money, but his nomination was worthy. In my opinion, his performance as Ben Rumson is one of his best, despite the film itself being an overblown, overproduced, over-long albatross. Maybe that should make him more deserving. After all, isn’t it a greater challenge to be impressive in a badly made film than in a good one? Just a thought. Who knows, maybe the HFPA voters will feel the same when they announce the winners tonight.

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RELEASED THIS DAY IN 1953: LEE MARVIN IN SEMINOLE

Lee Marvin’s earliest supporting roles are often overlooked, such as Seminole, released this day in 1953. The film itself is a typical Hollywood take on a fascinating aspect of U.S. history, as pointed out in Lee Marvin: Point Blank. In fact, when Marvin was in school Florida, he found the true story of the Seminole tribal chief Osecola so fascinating, he wrote a book report on the subject. He may have been equally thrilled to get the job in the film only to become equally disappointed once he read the script.

Original poster art for 1953's Seminole, in which 7th billed Lee Marvin is no where in sight.

Original poster art for 1953’s Seminole, in which 7th billed Lee Marvin is no where in sight.

TIME magazine aptly derided the film as “a swampy melodrama,” in which mean soldiers try to eliminate marauding Indians with a sympathetic White officer caught in the middle. Rock Hudson played the sympathetic officer Anthony Quinn played Osceola, and the the mean soldiers were headed up by RIchard Carlson. Marvin was listed SEVENTH down the cast list, but he did have a a substantial scene towards the end of the film.

Marvin (far left) is dutifully militaristic as Richard Carlson (left) and Rock Hudson (center) plot their next move.

Marvin (far left) is dutifully militaristic as Richard Carlson (left) and Rock Hudson (center) plot their next move.

 

Anthony Quinn as Osceola (left) and childhood friend Rock Hudson (right) ride off together in dubious battle.

Anthony Quinn as Osceola (left) and childhood friend Rock Hudson (right) ride off together in dubious battle.

The film’s director, the underrated Budd Boetticher, did point out how the run-of-the-film led to better things for Marvin shortly thereafter…..
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“…..[Marvin] played Sgt. Magruder and he was very, very good. [Seminole’s screenwriter] Burt Kennedy brought him in. He suggested Lee to play the second lead on my next picture with Randy [Scott]. Now Duke Wayne [as producer], and you can quote me on this, Duke was either a son-of-a-bitch or the best friend you ever had, depending on the mood he was in. Burt asked Duke, “Who should we use?” Duke said, “Let’s use Randy. He’s through.”
The result was one of Lee’s earliest lead roles and one of his all-time best performances: Big Masters in Seven Men From Now (1956).

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