ANNIVERSARY OF DEATH: MY MEMORY OF LEE MARVIN’S PASSING

The anniversary of someone’s death is never a fun subject to deal with no matter who it is. However, since this blog is dedicated to the life, work, and legacy of Lee Marvin, deal with it I must. To put it bluntly, on August 29th, 1987, Lee Marvin passed into eternity at the premature of sixty-three.
I have of course blogged about it previously, in fact pretty much every year this blog has been in existence (here, here, and here for example) I’m not a fan of such as things as I’d much rather celebrate the man’s life, not his passing, as I said. Be that as it may, it must be done and that’s when I realized, I actually hadn’t written about my own memory of his passing. Well, this being the anniversary of his death, here it is.
I was working in New Jersey as a waiter at the Sandalwood Inn Restuarant which was connected to the Holiday Inn — Exit 8A off the Jersey Turnpike, if you’re in the neighborhood. Anyway, I was just about to start my shift when the bartender gave me a copy of the Trenton Times to peruse. She then asked, “Aren’t you a Lee Marvin fan?” The paper was open this particular page…

Page of the Trenton Times heralding the passing of Lee Marvin.

I find it interesting that for reasons I still don’t recall that after all these years, I’ve still kept that particular clipping that informed me of this death. Keep in mind, this is almost a decade before I started work on the book.
My thoughts of his passing? I was saddened by it but not as much as I was by the passing of say, Steve McQueen or John Lennon several years prior and a mere month apart.
It did stay with me and certainly resonated. Once I later took on the project, I quickly discovered the effect his passing had on some folks, especially those closet to him, such as Mitch Ryan, Ralph O’Hara, first wife Betty Marvin and son Christopher. The stories they told had me empathizing with their loss in a way I never had before, especially Ralph O’Hara. I won’t repeat the poignancy of their loss, except to say you can read their accounts in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
I still wonder why I kept that clipping. Foreshadowing? Perhaps. I do know one thing for sure. he left us way too soon. It’s cliche’ but true: So long Lee. We hardly knew ya.
– Dwayne Epstein

Share

MARY HOSFORD, LEE MARVIN’S MISSOURI TRAVELER COSTAR DIES

Mary Hosford, who’s only film was playing Lee Marvin’s love interest (!) in the largely forgotten film Missouri Traveler, passed away July 19th at the age of 93. If this info slipped under your radar amongst the passing of other more famous celebrity deaths, your not alone. It slipped under mine as well, until I did a google search for something else. There’s a reason she wasn’t heralded as an actress starring with Lee Marvin as his first romantic lead. The biggest reason being she was not known as Mary Hosford for very long, at least not according to this fascinating obituary in The Washington Post.

Poster for The Missouri Traveler (1958).

I knew she had become a Whitney shortly after the film was made, but I had know idea she was such a well known entity among the wealthiest of America’s elite! No wonder they put her one film appearance at the end of the obit.
As to the film itself, it’s one of Lee Marvin’s least remembered and has been in the public domain for decades. Kind of a shame as it’s not a bad little film, actually.
The title character is adolescent Brandon De Wilde, a young runaway at the turn-of-the-century who is sort of adopted by the citizens  of a small town. That is except for Lee Marvin’s character of Tobias Brown, the richest and meanest man in town.
The film plays out like a live-action Disney film, which includes an annoying harmonca on the soundtrack and a few of the vaudevillian type slapstick bits by the supporting cast.

The wonderful veteran ensemble of The Missouri Traveler included (L-R) Frank Cady, Brandon De Wilde, Lee Marvin, Gary Merrill and Paul Ford, as well as the likes of Kathleen Freeman, Ken Curtis, Will Wright and Eddie Little Sky (not pictured).

That aside, Marvin is great as usual and the fight scene and twist ending are very well done. That ending will NOT be given away here, even with a spoiler alert. Just watch it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

Lobby card depicting (L-R) Lee Marvin, Brandon De Wilde, Mary Hosford (later Whitney) and Gary Merrill.

As to Marvin’s attitude about the film’s extremely wealthy producer and future husband of Hosford, one Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney? Well, you have to read Lee Marvin Point Blank, as Lee’s first wife, Betty Marvin, recounted an anecdote that must be read to be believed and it’s one of my all-time favorites.
– Dwayne Epstein

Share

RUDI GERNREICH & LEE MARVIN

Rudi Gernreich, the influential fashion designer of the 1960s, had an interesting connection to Lee Marvin. I bring this up as the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles begins its exhibition of Gernreich’s work  tomorrow, May 9th, thru September 1st.

It may seem strange of course for Rudi Gernreich and Lee Marvin to even be mentioned in the same breath but there is indeed a connection. The designer, famous for many things (most notably the daring topless swimsuit of the 1960s), was also friends with Lee Marvin’s first wife, Betty. According to her wonderful memoir, Tales of a Hollywood Wife,  she almost became the model for that topless swimsuit but instead opted for something else. As she explained in her book….

The cover of Betty’s Book, TALES OF A HOLLYWOOD HOUSEWIFE.

“I was at a cocktail party given by my good friend, fashion designer, Rudi Gernreich. He was introducing his line of rather shocking black knit bathing suits, and early in the evening he asked me to model one for the guests. I ducked into his bedroom and put the the thing on, but I couldn’t imagine what he was thinking.
“Come on, Rudi, I look like my grandfather in this,” I said, posing in the skimpy, tight suit with holes the size of silver dollars. The reflection in the mirror of my small breasts, narrow hips, and long, thin legs was confirmation.
“Wrong,” said Rudi definitively. “You have the body this suit was made for.”
[I said] “You’ve got to be joking.” But he wasn’t.
“Maybe I should give you the topless one to wear!”
“Not on your life,”  I told him, “But, okay, just for this evening I’ll model.”
[…..] Lee also liked  the way I looked in Rudi’s clothes. He thought I had great style. One evening he told me he’d seen me on Wilshire Boulevard. “You looked so damned good. I thought, What a beautiful woman. I’ve got to check her out. I drove up along side the car and there you were — my own wife!”

Betty also recounted how Gernreich helped her enter the world of high fashion, resulting in her pioneering effort to bring haute couture to Rodeo Drive. She dubbed the boutique Paris V for the five French designers she brought to Beverly Hills: Christian Dior, Lanvin, Guy Larouche, Jacques Heim, Jean Desses. The boutique would also become an important factor in her husband’s TV & film career, but not the way she had envisioned it. For the details on that bittersweet story, you have to read Lee Marvin Point Blank….
– Dwayne Epstein

The facade of Betty Marvin’s boutique, PARIS V.

Lee Marvin (far left) and Betty Marvin (far right) entertain guests following the opening of her Paris V Boutique.

Share