BOB WILLOUGHBY ON LEE MARVIN & RAINTREE COUNTY

Bob Willoughby (1927-2009), famed unit photographer of many classic Hollywood production and magazine covers, also worked on Raintree County, MGM’s failed attempt to recapture the magic of Gone With the Wind, which premiered on this day in 1957.

Lee Marvin (left) and RAINTREE COUNTY costar Montgomery Clift (right) as photographed onset by Bob WIlloughby.

I was fortunate enough to interview several of the important contributors to the film for Lee Marvin Point Blank, including director Edward Dmytryk, screenwriter Millard Kaufman, and costar Rod Taylor, all of whom told me wonderful anecdotes about the film and Lee Marvin. I have also written about it here on this blog utilizing several unused quotes and images.
However, this being the anniversary of its release, I recently came across an interesting little quote from Bob Willoughby about his opinion of Lee Marvin while working on the film. The quote is from his 2001 photographic autobiography Hollywood: A Journey Through the Stars, in which tells fascinating tales about his life, work and influence. His coffee table book The Platinum Years is also highly recommended.

RAINTREE COUNTY COSTARS Elizabeth Taylor (left) and Eva Marie Saint (right) turn the tables on photographer bob Willoughby (center).

In the text of Hollywood, he wrote the following concerning Lee Marvin: “Lee Marvin was one of the most unforgettable actors I’ve ever encountered. He seemed to have the energy of two or even three people, an inexhaustible life force. It’s hard to believe that he’s now gone. To give you an example, many years later, Lee got into an elevator at Saks with my wife Dorothy and me. He went two floors, patted me on the back, waved goodbye and the doors closed, leaving us alone. Dorothy said she was so glad he was gone, which I didn’t understand, until she told me that she felt he had up all the of the air in the elevator. That was Lee. He was a fine actor, told outrageous jokes and I liked him very much!”
– Dwayne Epstein

Share Button

THE UK TELEGRAPH ON LEE MARVIN RECENTLY

The UK Telegraph, the major newspaper of the United Kingdom, recently published a fairly lengthy article by Martin Chilton focusing mainly on the actor’s singing of “Wandering’ Star” in Paint Your Wagon (1969). The article can be found here and it’s fairly entertaining.
To his credit, writer Martin Chilton uncovered some interesting factoids I was not aware of, such as the quotes from Nelson Riddle’s son, Christopher Riddle, and a few other tidbits.

Famed photographer Bob Willoughby captured Lee Marvin with his infrared lens on location for Paint Your Wagon.

To his discredit, he also got some things obviously wrong. Normally I wouldn’t mind but since the author chose to mention me and my book, Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I think it best to set the record straight, as is my way:

Lee Marvin & Clint Eastwood early in the film also captured by Bob Willoughby.

– Marvin was never, repeat, never in the army. That is the last thing you would ever want to mix-up in the presence of a Marine. Nor are the Marines affiliated with the Navy, as one person commented. The USMC is and always has been an autonomous branch of the U.S. military.
– He also did not have his sciatic nerve severed on Saipan but NEARLY had it severed. The 13 months of convalescence was bad enough but had it been severed, he’d never be able to walk again.
– His entry into theatre wasn’t quite a lark but a calculated stumble into a series of events.
– Betty Marvin, Lee’s first wife, was not trained as an opera singer but trained in musical comedy at UCLA by MGM musical director Roger Edens. The requirements are quite different.
– The photo of Marvin and his costar from The Dirty Dozen misspells Charles Bronson as BROSNAN. Wonder how Pierce feels about that?
I’m rather surprised that the UK Telegraph didn’t bring up the urban legend about Marvin and Captain Kangaroo and revive that old chestnut like a Walking Dead zombie.
Bottom line, as always, if you want the straight, hard, and fascinating facts behind Lee Marvin’s life, career and legacy, read Lee Marvin Point Blank. Then we’ll talk.
– Dwayne Epstein

Share Button

IN HONOR OF Pi DAY: THE GREATEST Pi FIGHT EVER!

This being Pi Day I wracked my brain to find a connection to Lee Marvin but the closest I could come up with were the deep-dish apple pies served up in Liberty Valance. Close enough, right?…..I didn’t think so. Instead, I give you images from one of my all-time favorite films which contained probably the all-time greatest pie fight.
The Great Race was a film I didn’t see in theatres, at least not the first time. It aired on TV, in two parts and then years later 5 nghts a week on a local network. I watched it every time, and on the rare occssion it showed up at a revival theatre, I was there, front & center. It wasn’t a great film, but to me and my friends growing up, it was a whole lot of over-the-top, old-fashioned fun with Tony Curtis’s swashbuckling, Peter Falk’s buffoonry, Natalie Wood’s lusciousness and above all, Jack Lemmon’s comedic genius in dual roles. Still a favorite all these years later!
Below, are some wonderful and rare images from the book The Platinum Years by photographer Bob Willoughby. Of all the great coffee table books about movies, I reccomend it above all others. It came out in the 1970s and Willougby’s images from his life as an on set photographer are downright stunning! The images below are just a small example….

Jack Lemmon as Prince Hapnick (giddily shown far left) with Natalie Wood as Maggie Dubois and Tony Curtis as the Great Leslie (both center) assess the damage as the pi fight winds down.

Jack Lemmon as Prince Hapnick (giddily shown far left) with Natalie Wood as Maggie Dubois and Tony Curtis as the Great Leslie (both center) assess the damage as the pi fight winds down.

The havoc of the pie fight near the end of the film is shown above but better than that, this image of director Blake Edwards working on set…..

This rare pic answers that oft-asked question, WHO THREW THAT PIE? Director Blake Edwards is caught in mid-form slamming his star Natalie Wood right in the kisser. At far left,  co-star Jack Lemmon, already nailed, steps out of the scene to admire his director's form.

This rare pic answers that oft-asked question, WHO THREW THAT PIE? Director Blake Edwards is caught in mid-form slamming his star Natalie Wood right in the kisser. At far left, co-star Jack Lemmon, already nailed, steps out of the scene to admire his director’s form.

 

Soupy Sales, The Three Stooges or anybody else you can think of must have cringed with envy at the enormity and huge budget afforded the filmmakers in this pie fight to end all pie fights. Of course, Natalie Wood may have had a different opinion…..

Shown at the end of the scene, Natalie Wood smiles and shows off Blake Edwards' handy work.

Shown at the end of the scene, Natalie Wood smiles and shows off Blake Edwards’ handy work.

Even Jack Lemmon was not immune but then again, playing the villianous Professor Fate, why should he be?

A pie caught in mid-flight lands on its intended target, actor Jack Lemmon, just as he was about to propel two of his own projectiles.

A pie caught in mid-flight lands on its intended target, actor Jack Lemmon, just as he was about to propel two of his own projectiles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These terrific images are but a small sample of what fun can be had on this once-in-a-lifetime National Pi Day. It must be said that in order to stay within the spirit of this blog, one must simply ask the question, who would you least want to get a pie in the kisser from and how would he throw it? The answer is of course, Lee Marvin: Point Blank.

Share Button