5 WAYS TO CELEBRATE LEE MARVIN’S HEAVENLY BIRTHDAY

February 19th, marks the another birthday for Lee Marvin. Granted, it is what’s often described as a heavenly birthday as he passed in 1987. However, even though it’s only in spirit, there are some ways to pay tribute to his heavenly birthday. By the way, all photos shown herein is a just a small sample of the images in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

John Wayne: You shoot pretty good drunk.
Lee Marvin: Better drunk than sober.
-The Comancheros

 

 

  1. Get Drunk And Bring Out The Heavy Firearms: According to several sources, such as his first wife, Betty, as well as Keenan Wynn’s son, Ned, Lee did that on more than one occasion.The amazing thing is no one ever got hurt in the process. Sort of like the lines of dialogue between Marvin’s Tully Crowe and John Wayne’s Jake Cutter in The Comancheros. Matter of fact, if guns weren’t available, he’d resort to pantomime. Safer than heavy firepower but not nearly as much fun for him. Sure, the guns in the hands of a drunken ex-Marine might be scary but hey, would you expect anything less from Lee Marvin?

On the left, Marvin in costume as British Marine ‘Hallam’ in the Broadway production of Billy Budd. On the right, in Shakespearean garb while studying at the American Theater Wing.

2. Get Drunk & Wear Period Clothing: Marvin did it for pay in his sole Broadway appearance in Billy Budd. However, bet you didn’t know he was also well-versed in the Bard, did you? The training he received after the war at the American Theatre Wing included fencing, movement, and yes, Shakespeare, which he could quote verbatim. He did so even later in his career, impressing everyone during an improvised dramatic moment on location for The Big Red One. I don’t know if he was sober when the picture in Elizabethean togs was taken but he certainly looks like he’s enjoying himself. By the way, the story concerning his fencing class is a personal favorite.

Lee Marvin ‘s Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou included this hard-to-get famous sight gag,.

3. Get Drunk & Go to Work: Marvin’s professionalism was as legendary as his drinking exploits. However, tales of his drinking on the job were mostly exaggerated. There were occasions when work and drink did converge (The Killers, Sgt. Ryker, The Professionals). The specific scenes are covered in the book so you can see exactly where in the given performance it occurred. His Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou had one such instance, according to director Elliot Silverstein, but the famous sight gag seen here was not one of them. Got to read the book to find out, which also details how they got the horse to look ‘inebriated,’ as well.

A Jeep full of drunk Marines just before shipping out overseas, with Lee top center.

4. Get Drunk & Re-enlist:
According to director, John Boorman, Lee had done exactly that on at least one occasion while they were making Point Blank. It certainly wasn’t a new phenomenon as he admitted to doing it even shortly after the war ended. Not something to be advised for everyone, as Lee was politely turned down each time due to his disability status. Doubtful other drunk ex-Marines may be as lucky.

Lee battles SEINFELD’S Uncle Leo in Shack Out on !01.

5. Get Drunk & Start a Fight: Lee Marvin’s barroom exploits became so famous they actually earned titles like, “The Robin Hood Party,” 6-foot tall Black Helen, “The Vibrator Salute,” and “The Battered Banjo player Lawsuit.” Several of these debauches were more  legend than fact in terms of Marvin’s involvement, such as my personal favorite: The English pub that had the bad luck of being Marvin’s choice of celebratory indulgence for his birthday while filming The Dirty Dozen. Why is it a favorite? As retold by Bob Phillips, if it wasn’t for the 6-foot barmaid dubbed “Black Helen,” it’s doubtful Marvin would have gotten out alive!

Maybe it’s best to just get sober, take the pledge and buy the hardcover of Lee Marvin Point Blank. It’s also available as a Kindle and paperback with extra material. It may not be as adventurous but it’s certainly a lot safer. Besides, you can do the other five vicariously through Lee Marvin when reading his exploits. So happy heavenly birthday, Mr. Marvin!
– Dwayne Epstein

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DIRTY DOZEN OFFSCREEN: IMAGES FROM THE FILM

THE DIRTY DOZEN OFFSCREEN

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The Dirty Dozen Offscreen: Director Robert Aldrich shows Lee Marvin how to kick John Cassavetes when he’s down.

Making The Dirty Dozen (1967) in England took intense concentration on the part of all concerned but The Dirty Dozen offscreen was something else. Of course, after a day’s work several of the pubs in London took their usual dents from Marvin & company, as detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank. On the job, however, was another story entirely.

The above image is a case in point. Director Robert Aldrich (right) is not giving his opinion of the films of John Cassavetes (center). He’s showing Lee Marvin how he wants to see Cassavetes kicked when he’s down during the opening scene of the film. Note the padded mattress used for rehearsal but NOT seen in the onscreen version .

With apologies to Monty Python, Marvin took such important knowledge to heart as he demonstrates his prowess with a “pointed stick” ….

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The Dirty Dozen offscreen: The bemused victim is producer Ken Hyman (right) while fellow Lee Marvin crony Bob Phillips (center) vocalizes instructions.

By the way, the photo above was graciously contributed by Phillips who was a former college football star, US Marine and Chicago police detective. He was exactly the kind of guy Lee Marvin would want to pal around with, which is exactly what he did. The interview I conducted with Phillips remains one of my favorites as he contributed some of my favorite stories to the text of my book. He and Marvin spent a good part of their time wreaking havoc and having fun on one movie set or another. Amazingly, despite such bizarre shennigans as the hysterical pub brawl in London and the infamous female reporter incident (gotta read the book!), both men were always ready and able to work the next day. The old saying is true: They just don’t make’em like that any more!

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UNSEEN LEE MARVIN PHOTOS FOR LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK

Unseen Lee Marvin photos?
In researching and writing LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK, choosing the final images that would accompany the text proved to be an embarrassment of riches. However, due to both space and rights restrictions, not all the images were able to make the final cut. Periodically, those images will be seen here and for whatever reason, often make their own themes. Below are three such examples of rare unseen Lee Marvin photos.

First, a still from the climatic opening fight scene from John Ford’s  Donovan’s Reef (1962) with John Wayne in the scenic Hawaiian Islands. The film started out to be the fun-loving romp Ford had intended for all concerned, but Marvin’s excessive partying took a much darker turn as told in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

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Lee Marvin and Duke Wayne heed Jack Warden’s advice to stand at attention in the midst of their annual brawl.

Next, there’s an image from writer-director Richard Brooks’ The Professionals (1966) showing the four leads, Woody Strode, Lee, Burt Lancaster, and Robert Ryan with their backs to the camera preparing to shoot the next scene. During the film’s down time in the Nevada desert, Marvin and Strode, along with stuntman Tony Epper, wreaked such havoc in the Vegas casinos that it rivaled the fabled Rat Pack. Marvin is shown here easily talking Strode into doing just that as an uninvited Lancaster curiously looks on.

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Finally, while making Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen in England in 1967, Marvin cavorted in the London pubs with former Chicago cop and ex-Marine Bob Phillips (shown left),  who played Cpl. Morgan in the film. An unknown old friend from Phillips’ Chicago days (center) visited the set after a day’s shooting. Phillips’ own caption for this photo: “You can tell’em it ain’t coffee in those cups.”

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