LEE MARVIN AND ANNE BANCROFT: A FORGOTTEN OSCAR MOMENT

Lee Marvin and Anne Bancroft may not be on anyone’s list of great Oscar moments but with the Academy Awards on tonight, I thought it a good time to point out that maybe, just maybe, it WAS a great moment.
The two actors had worked together several times during the studio contract days (The Raid, Gorilla at Large, A Life in the Balance) but had very few if any scenes together. That aside, according to Lee’s first wife, Betty Marvin in her autobiography, Tales of a Hollywood Housewife, the two actors actually had a rather torrid affair at one point. It’s not a well-known fact, nor is it something I chose to mention in my book, Lee Marvin Point Blank. The main reason was my inability to interview Ms. Bancroft about the films she made with Marvin, although I did come close to interviewing her husband, Mel Brooks for Filmfax. However, that, as they say, is another story.
Luckily, I did get Betty Marvin to tell me an even more amazing story about the night Lee did win his Oscar that can only be found exclusively in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank and must be read to be believed.

This screen grab from the video begs the question, what exactly is Lee Marvin whispering in Anne Bancroft’s ear? The world may never know.

Back to the Oscars on that particular night many years ago. It is a tradition that the previous year’s winner for Best Actor present the Award for Best Actress the following year and vice-versa. Having won for Cat Ballou the year before, a very dapper Lee Marvin was called upon to present the Oscar for Best Actress, or as he said, “These girls.” When he announced the winner as Elizabeth Taylor for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, I doubt that he knew she had sent Anne Bancroft to accept in her place.

The way Anne Bancroft looks at Lee Marvin as she approaches the podium says volumes.

Perhaps he did know but either way, there appears to be a certain level of familiarity, almost intimacy between the two stars, or maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

The dapper couple leaving the stage to appreciative applause.

Okay, maybe it would be best to simply view the video moment so you can judge for yourself. Thoughts would be appreciated. Either way, enjoy the Oscars and all the best,
Dwayne Epstein

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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

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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

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