HELPING OUT THE SHIP OF FOOLS BLU-RAY RELEASE

So, last December, I get this private message request concerning my Lee Marvin research, specifically, what I may have on the making of Ship of Fools.The conversation went,
“Hi, Dwayne Epstein: A colleague of mine is looking for material for the booklet for the upcoming Blu-ray of Ship of Fools, and he wondered if you’d turned up anything during your research into Lee Marvin’s career?”  Having interviewed the likes of Producer/Director Stanley Kramer and co-stars Barbara Luna and Christiana Schmidtmer for that section of Lee Marvin Point Blank, the answer of course was a resounding YES! The company and people involved were in the UK which, if this was proposed years ago, would have taken a lot longer to accomplish.
Anyway, contact was made, my files were rifled through, and the fruits of my unseen research will be available starting February 26th, both here and across the pond.

Cover of the new Blu-ray release of Stanley Kramer’s, SHIP OF FOOLS.

I went through my research archives, found the gems I mentioned above, and then tweaked it for publication. I turned everything over via e-mail and left it for the good folks working on the project to decide what to use. The result is seen below….

My credit seen in the booklet accompanying the Blu-ray release of SHIP OF FOOLS.

A sample of what my research unearthed for the Blu-ray special edition.

…and in closing. If you want more, you’ll have to get the DVD.

I have to add, one of the things that doesn’t get mentioned enough about this film has to do with where it fits in the canon of Marvin’s career. To put it another way, his legacy is one of being American cinema’s premier badass, who’s contemporaries include the likes of Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, the older John Wayne and the like. Could it be imagined that any of them would have co-starred in a film like this and play such a character as the washed-up, bigoted, anti-intellectual ballplayer, Bill Tenney? Personally, I don’t think so. To put it plain, Lee Marvin was one of cinema’s great action stars but he was also an actor’s actor: professionally trained at the American Theater Wing and a veteran of many a stage play and countless live performances during TV’s golden age. He put his time in, that’s for sure. Pretty sure those who followed in his wake (Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Statham come to mind) couldn’t make the same claim. In the mean time, anybody have a Blu-ray player I can borrow?
-Dwayne Epstein

Lee Marvin, as washed-up ballplayer Bill Tenney, struggles to absorb the advice being given to hm by Michael Dunn.

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LEE MARVIN & THE LADIES: ROMANCE?

The allegations against Harvey Weinstein are far from being considered a ‘romance’ but what is it called if flirtations or mutual feelings develop between costars? For Lee Marvin, who only had true romantic leads opposite female costars in only a handful films, the known results of a possible romance are three, based on my research. Of course, there may even be more as Marvin knew the meaning of discretion. As Betty Marvin told me, he was known to have fallen off the fidelity during their marriage but it was never anything one would consider a romance.
Who were the known three? Well, Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know with as much details as I was able to get.

Co-star Barbara Luna at the time she appeared in SHIP OF FOOLS.

Prior to my research, most Lee Marvin fans only knew the version of how he an Michele Triola met on the set of Ship of Fools based on what she told the media leading up to the palimony suit. The truth, however, as witnessed by such participants as Barbara Luna and friend Ralph O’Hara, is VERY different and exclusively documented in my research.

Lee and Michelle shortly after they began dating during SHIP OF FOOLS.

Then of course there’s the amazing Angie Dickinson. I was extremely fortunate enough to spend the day with her during my research and the results were fascinating. She worked with Lee more than any other actress, and to my mind, that was no accident (M Squad, The Killers, Point Blank, Death Hunt, and several Bob Hope TV specials).

Lee and Angie in THE KILLERS, their first film together.

I can’t really add anything here to what I already wrote in the book, other than the surprising results of an interview I considered a holy grail and was forewarned about by the A&E Biography producers. It was how I finally met her in-person and was told she wasn’t very forthcoming for their purposes. Naturally, that made me a little reticent when I finally sat down with here, especially since I wasn’t sure if there were aspects about her life & career that may put her off, such as the JFK assassination that happened just prior to The Killers. Believe it or not, she did indeed open up about that period, at least to the extent that it had to do with the project and Lee. Everything that she told me went in the book, or later, posted here in a previous blog entry. The only thing I can add is what Christopher Marvin told me off-the-record that I can now post here. He volunteered the following encapsulation: “Angie and my dad…WOW!” He didn’t elaborate of course, but truth be told, I  didn’t think he had to.
Lastly, there was a costar who proved to be not only Lee Marvin’s one true moment of onscreen romance, but even more so offscreen. Marvin went out of his way to get the actress to agree to costar with him and when she relented after he came to Paris, the results were true sparks in front of and behind the camera…

Contact sheet images of Jeanne Moreau and Lee Marvin while making MONTE WALSH.

The images from onset candid photographs included here tell the story better than any words can possibly convey. The look on Lee’s face as he talks to her, the way she brushes  his hair back, even the fact that they are completely oblivious to director William Fraker walking behind them, says volumes.

Jeanne Moreau brushes Marvin’s hair back while they speak.

MONTE WALSH director William Fraker walks behind Marvin & Moreau completely unobserved.

Costars such as Mitch Ryan and others were aware of the chemistry between the two stars, as were some of Marvin’s closest confidantes. In fact, when Marvin surprised his associates by announcing his marriage to Woodstock’s Pam Feeley after the film wrapped, the biggest surprised was that it wasn’t Moreau. According to Mitch Ryan, they actually discussed it but as Ryan said, Marvin didn’t want to move to Paris: “Can you see me living in Paris?” he told him.
Since Moreau proved to be his most romantic leading lady onscreen, and their scenes together are some of the best in the film, it does make you wonder: What would have happened if he had more romance onscreen than gunplay? Sadly, we’ll never ever know.
– Dwayne Epstein

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UNTOLD TALES ABOARD THE SHIP OF FOOLS

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are well aware of the very strange events that took place during the making of 1965’s Ship of Fools. If you haven’t read it, then by all means, please do so as you’re in for quite a surprise! I was fortunate to interview such participants as Producer/Director Stanley Kramer and others who told unimagined tales of the film’s strange production.

Original ad for Ship of Fools with critics praising the individual performances, even if Christianne Schmidtmer's is a little less lofty.

Original ad for Ship of Fools with critics praising the individual performances, even if Christianne Schmidtmer’s is a little less lofty.

With such a huge and eclectic cast, strange events are bound to happen and I couldn’t get them all in the book. Such as this little anecdote from Lee’s then wife, Betty:

A p.r. still of Lee Marvin for Ship of Fools looking strangely like Boris Karloff.

A p.r. still of Lee Marvin for Ship of Fools looking strangely like Boris Karloff.

“Here’s a very good example. Who was that wonderful dwarf? Michael Dunn? Yes! Michael came over. They had done Ship Of Fools together. The only one to dance with me….He’d put his head in my belly. Lee didn’t mind but he thought it looked funny. Michael always wanted to hold hands with me. Michael was also a wonderful sculptor. Michael came through my studio one time. I think he took the wrong door. He came through my studio. He was like this little wild rooster. He saw this one piece and he fell in love with it. He brought it in. ‘I love this. Who did this?’ Lee said, ‘I don’t know. Where did you get it?’ I’m very modest. I know I may not seem that way but it when it comes to my work,..so, I said, ‘Michael, it’s mine.’ I also had a sculpting studio. So the two of us went out. He’s molding this wonderful head and..we had the best time. It lasted about two hours. It was very funny.”

Lee Marvin on the railing with costar Vivien Leigh in what would be her last film.

Lee Marvin on the railing with costar Vivien Leigh in what would be her last film.

This anecdote, told to me by costar Barbara Luna is a hoot. Sorry it didn’t make it in the book but that which did make the cut, is even better!

“One afternoon, Lee called me into his dressing room and he proceeded to give me a pep talk. I mean, a pep talk! He was a bit inebriated. He was angry with me. He was angry with me because..well, I realized later that he was projecting because, often times, if you’re not where you want to be as a human being, you recognize it easily in others. He started to tell me that I was not doing with my talent what I ought to be doing. I wanted to hear it but I didn’t want a lecture at that moment. Yet, I admired him dearly for doing it and wanting to do it because he cared enough. After about maybe 45 minutes to an hour, I thought ‘Geez!’ I could see that he was really tipsy. I tried to get up to leave and…

Actress Barbara Luna as she looked in Ship of Fools.

Actress Barbara Luna as she looked in Ship of Fools.

He wasn’t flirting with me. Not by any means. He was seriously giving me a pep talk about why I am not utilizing my talent….I think maybe the biggest culprit was because it took him so long to get his career off the ground. I think he just identified so strongly with my talent or what ever it was. He was identifying strongly. I finally couldn’t sit there any longer and plus, I probably had to get out on stage. He wouldn’t let me out! I was starting to get peeved. So, I finally got out the door. He probably turned his back for a second. He chased me! Now he was really drunk. Oh, he chased me around the stage! What stopped him, finally, he was barreling after people. He got his foot caught in you know, those butt buckets? They’re bucket they keep around for cigarettes. He tripped and he got his foot caught in one. Then he really got mad. He started to run with the bucket, I must have..Maybe I ran out the door. I don’t know where I ran. Everybody was sitting around because we had to be there everyday. Simone Signoret and Vivian Leigh and..So, that’s my biggest memory of Lee. It was so funny. You know how he was.”

Lee as Bill Tenney in Ship Of Fools, as he also looked when he cornered Barbara Luna.

Lee as Bill Tenney in Ship Of Fools, as he also looked when he cornered Barbara Luna.

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