FEBRUARY 2021 ON TCM

February 2021 is upon us and so is a new list of watchable films for interested Lee Marvin fans. Unfortunately, they are only showing one actual Lee Marvin film for February 2021, but there are a couple of interesting highlights to consider, as well. All times are PST so set your DVRs accordingly…

AVALANCHE EXPRESS (1979): Tuesday, February 2nd, 4:45 am. 

Old style advertising artwork for AVALANCHE EXPRESS, which was infinitely better than the film.


Lee Marvin heads an all-star cast of Robert Shaw, Maximillian Schell, Linda Evans, Horst Bucholtz, Mike Connors and Joe Namath in this Cold War thriller that’s part dated spy film and part creaky disaster film. Marvin had been off-screen for a few years and he effect is jarring as he looked infinitely older than his mid-fifties. The production was fraught with disaster itself, including the untimely death of both the film’s director Mark Robson and costar Shaw. Readers of LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK discovered the truth behind the finished film and the input of filmmaker Monte Hellman. Like any Lee Marvin project, though, it’s still worth viewing. 

THE RISE & FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND (1960): Friday, February 5th, 6:30 am. Dashing Ray Danton stars as the title character in this classic genre film that also proved to be the film debuts of both Dyann Cannon and Warren Oates. The Marvin connection? The film was directed by Budd Boetticher, known largely for his cult westerns starring Randolph Scott, his contribution to Marvin’s filmography gave the actor’s career a major boost. As he told yours truly in an exclusive interview, “I directed a couple of westerns and they typecast me as western director. After Legs Diamond they called me a gangster director. Go figure.” Check it out and see how veteran filmmaker put his touch on the tommy guns and molls entry.


IN COLD BLOOD (1967): Monday, February 15th, 5pm.

IN COLD BLOOD writer/director Richard Brooks (behind the camera) and cinematographer Conrad Hall behinds Brooks.


Writer/director Richard Brooks brought this Truman Capote true-crime thriller to the screen with bone-chilling reality. Shot on actual locations by Conrad Hall in stark black & white and starring Robert Blake and Scott Wilson as Dick and Perry, the Marvin connection had been recounted here the last time TCM aired the film. Watch it again but by all means, leave the lights on!

THE PAWNBROKER (1965): Wednesday, February, 17th, 6:45 pm.  
Marvin won his only Oscar for Cat Ballou (1965) but the odds on favorite that year had been Rod Steiger who plays this film’s title character. As concentration camp survivor Sol Nazerman, Steiger gives an emotionally powerful performance as a New York City pawnbroker grappling with his memories of the camp. He seemed a shoo-in for the Best Actor statue but we all know what happened that night. Marvin’s wife had other plans, Marvin himself had a plan for Steiger and the cherry on the sundae happened after the show at a nearby traffic light, all recounted in LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK. So, watch The Pawnbroker and see for yourself who was more deserving of the award that year. 

Lee Marvin backstage after winning his Oscar.



In other TCM news the Star of the Month is the great John Garfield and that alone makes for wonderful viewing. Check listings for film titles and times. So there you have February 2021 on TCM. Until next month, stay safe and enjoy classic movies!

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ROBERT SHAW & THE ILL-FATED AVALANCHE EXPRESS

Robert Shaw would have been 91 years-old last Thursday, August 9th. Sadly, he never lived beyond the age 51, dying shortly after completing principal photography on Avalanche Express, his sole costarring credit with Lee Marvin.

Old style advertising artwork for AVALANCHE EXPRESS, which was infinitely better than the film.

The old-fashioned Cold War spy thriller left Robert Ludlum and John LeCarre nothing to worry about.  Shaw played a Russian master spy defecting to the west with KGB chief Maximillan Schell hot on his trail. Shaw’s defection is arranged through the auspices of American spy master Lee Marvin who plans to use Shaw as bait to ferret out some old KGB adversaries. Mike Connors, Linda Evans, Horst Bucholtz and even Joe Namath join in on the title train’s cliche’d yarn.

AVALANCHE EXPRESS production stills from the film’s pressbook.

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are well aware of the film’s bedeviled production. For example, veteran director Mark Robson died suddenly, June 20, 1978 as principal photography was near completion, followed two months later by Shaw’s untimely passing from a massive heart attack near his home in Ireland. Producers were left in a quandary about what to do about it as some footage was actually still needed, or in some cases, reshot. Enter maverick filmmaker Monte Hellman, who took over the production in ways only Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know about thanks to an exclusive interview he gave me.

The great Al Hirschfeld’s drawing of the AVALANCHE EXPRESS costars. Can you spot all 3 Ninas?

It proved to be the great Robert Shaw’s last screen appearance as the actor was coming more and more into his own following the success of Jaws (In the role Marvin turned down) and The Sting.
It isn’t widely known but he had actually wanted to be remembered more for his writing than his acting. His play, The Man in the Glass Booth earned him a Tony Award and an Oscar nomination for the performance of his Avalanche Express costar, Maximilian Schell. The loss of Shaw’s talent can never be fully measured.
As for Lee Marvin, he had not made a film in 3 years but came out of semi-retirment just to work with Shaw. He was not disappointed as the two men got along wonderfully, making Shaw’s passing even more tragic for Marvin. He was in Ireland shooting scenes for The Big Red One when he got the news. He said at the time: “In leaving Ireland I am leaving a piece of my heart with Robert Shaw and his family.”
-Dwayne Epstein

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SUPERSTARDOM: LEE MARVIN & THE LADIES

The Harvey Weinstein scandal being the main topic of conversation these days, such behavior is actually not that revelational among the power brokers and others who have reached a level of superstardom in show business. The term ‘casting couch’ is one of the oldest cliches in Hollywood, and as Claudette Colbert once famously said, “The casting couch? There’s only one of us who ever made it to stardom without it, and that was Bette Davis.”
So what does any of this have to do with Lee Marvin? Well, in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank the subject of sexual harassment never became an issue in my research, despite Marvin’s tendency towards boorish behavior on the occasion of some drunken episodes as detailed in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank. He could be loutish and embarrassing at times but thanks to his breeding, he always managed to pull himself back from the abyss. As his lawyer David Kagon said to me: “Lee Marvin was a truly Victorian character, particularly when it came to women. He always treated women extremely courteously. I never heard him use a word that you’d want to use, at that time, to qualify for usage in polite society when a woman was present. He always treated them very, almost as if he were Victorian. He was the kind of guy that would open a door for a woman. He’d stand up.”
Due to the kind of films he made, Marvin had little interaction with many of the actresses of the day. When he did, the results were unsurprisingly similar.  Basically, Marvin’s treatment of his female costars as he ascended into superstardom fell into three categories: Younger costars were protected in a fatherly way while veteran costars were given the utmost respect. The third category? Well, that was a rare category that may have fallen to more women had he worked with more women.

CAT BALLOU costar Jane Fonda learning some valuable lessons from veteran Lee Marvin.

His Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou catapulted him to stardom but during production, his treatment of the opposite sex didn’t change. In fact, costar Jane Fonda didn’t always see eye-to-eye when they made the film but in retrospect she wrote in her autobiography: “The producers had us working overtime day after day, until one morning Lee Marvin took me aside. ‘Jane,’ he said, ‘we are the stars of this movie. If we let the producers walk all over us, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, you know who suffers most? The crew. The guys who don’t have the power we do to say, ‘shit, no, we’re working’ too hard.’ You have to get some backbone, girl. Learn to say no when they ask you to keep working.’ I will always remember Lee for that important lesson.”
Following Cat Ballou, Marvin worked with the mostly all-male cast in the now classic rugged western, The Professionals. An exception to the testosterone-driven cast was Europe’s Claudia Cardinale…..

Claudia Cardinale and Marvin in Richard Brooks’ THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

By all accounts, Marvin’s relationship with the Italian film star was, as the title suggested, strictly professional and for Marvin that meant respectful.
A good example of how he treated a younger actress is his relationship with Sissy Spacek during the making of Prime Cut. As she is quoted in her memoir about her film debut:

Sissy Spacek and Lee Marvin in PRIME CUT.

“I loved working with Lee Marvin, and he was actually very protective of me. But he was a prodigious drinker, and he warned me to avoid him when he was inebriated. When we first met on location, I blurted out, ‘Lee, you have the greenest eyes!’
‘Yeah,’ said Lee. ‘And whenever you see them turn blue stay away from me.’
“It was true. When he’d had a few too many, his eyes turned ocean blue and everybody gave him a wide berth. But mostly he was a good guy, and very professional….I was so caught up in the filming I hardly noticed the battles going on behind the scenes. [Director]  Michael Ritchie was constantly fighting with the powers that be over the tone of Prime Cut. Michael wanted it to be more of a camp satire; the studio wanted a straight gangster thriller. Lee Marvin shared the director’s vision for the film and it led to some tense moment  on location.”
Spacek is right when she said there were some fights during production, but incorrect when she said Ritchie and Marvin shared the film’s vision. In fairness, she readily admits to hardly noticing the battles going on. Lee Marvin told it plain to journalist Grover Lewis in Rolling Stone magazine shortly after the film came out: “I’ve made some mistakes I wish I hadn’t. One of them was working with Michael Ritchie on Prime Cut. Oh I hate that son-of-a-bitch. He likes to use amateurs because he can emotionally dominate them. That chick in Prime Cut, she would’ve sucked my cock on camera if Ritchie’d told her to. One night, I wanted to rehearse a scene and he didn’t want to, so he pretended to get sick. I said, ‘shit fire, Michael. ‘ll get you a fuckin’ doctor.’ Nothing worked with that guy, and the picture just fell apart before we even got started. ” The film’s other female star, Angel Tompkins, concurred with Sissy Spacek’s assessment of Marvin. Clearly, his respect for women was maintained, despite his opinion of the film’s director. As to the handful of other female costars he worked with…

(L-R) Elizabeth Ashley, Kay Lenz and Lee Marvin in GREAT SCOUT & CATHOUSE THURSDAY. Lenz told this author wonderful anecdotes about working with Marvin.

(L-R) Roger Moore, Barbara Parkins and Lee Marvin in SHOUT AT THE DEVIL. Playing Parkins’ father, Marvin was just naturally fatherly towards the actress.

Linda Evans and Lee Marvin in AVALANCHE EXPRESS.

Then there is that rarest of third categories, of which only one is actually known. Well, maybe two if you count an extra during a film. Okay, three if you want to be speculative. To put it another way, Lee Marvin was protective and respectful to his leading ladies. However, there’s absolutely no evidence that he was abusive in any way, but was he ever romantic? Stay tuned…..
– Dwayne Epstein

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