ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD….THERE WAS ALSO LEE MARVIN

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the latest opus from favorite contemporary filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino, was anxiously awaited by yours truly like a kid awaits the end of the school year and the start of summer vacation. Seriously. Everything I had read and seen about it had me practically drooling in anticipation. Then I watched it.

(L-R) Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth and Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton leaning against the facade of Hollywood’s famed Egyptian Theater.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad picture, at all. It’s just that I guess my anticipation of it, had me expecting  more.
There’s also much to recommend. My family and I moved to California from New York in 1968 so I’m familiar with what the southern California scene of 1969 was like in those days. Tarantino’s re-creation of that time and place is something to marvel at throughout the film. Whether it’s the bus benches advertising Hobo Kelly, or the brief TV moment showing late night L.A. horror host Seymour, it brought back nostalgic childhood memories for yours truly.
Most of the performances in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood are also uniformly excellent. A true standout is Brad Pitt as the laconic stunt double and gopher to Leonardo DiCaprio’s fading TV star.
I say ‘most’ performances as some of them are downright strange. The film is peppered with cameos of real-life individuals and some are just strange. An actor playing Bruce Lee challenges Pitt to a fight in one of my favorite scenes and one of the most controversial in its portrayal of the legendary martial artist.
In another sequence, British Actor Damian Lewis makes a brief appearance as Steve McQueen at a party at the Playboy Mansion in a performance that can best be described as bizarre. While there is a resemblance, in speaking with McQueen biographer Marshall Terrill, we both agreed that the speech pattern Lewis invokes is just plain weird. He may have been trying to mask his British accent but the result is nothing like McQueen. Bizarre.
So, what is it about the film that received a six minute standing ovation when it premiered at the Cannes Film festival that I have a problem saying that it’s truly great? Simply put, the main character played by DiCaprio is just not worthy of much sympathy and being the central focus of the film, it’s the key factor keeping me from loving the film. Hate to say it but it’s true.
I won’t give away any more as I hate when writers do that sort of thing. Suffice to say, I’ll probably see it on DVD, if only to see again my Lee Marvin Point Blank interview subject, Clu Gulager as an aging Westwood bookstore owner. Until then, I wonder why such a big Lee Marvin fan as Tarantino left Lee Marvin out of the film when he was big box office in 1969. How big?  Check out Lee Marvin Point Blank to find that out. In the mean time….
-Dwayne Epstein

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RARE PALIMONY PIX

It had to start somewhere and for better or for worse, it started with Lee Marvin. Decades before the high profile media circuses surrounding the divorces of Paul McCartney, Tom Cruise, Woody Allen & Mia Farrow, Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston, even before the unsavory murder trials of O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake, there was the media frenzy of the Marvin vs. Marvin palimony suit.

The media of 1979 didn’t have the internet or 24 hour cable news to report their findings. Instead, they laid in wait outside the L.A. Courthouse (Judge Arthur K. Marshall wisely banned cameras from the courtroom) to pounce on every possible sound bite elicited by the participants. While the media at the time constantly sought and received daily interviews from Michele Triola, her lawyer Marvin Mitchelson and countless court observers ( including Gloria Allred),  Lee Marvin: Point Blank devoted an entire chapter to the trial, covering it in a way that was not done at the time of the actual proceedings (pp. 215-229).  Lee Marvin, his lawyer A. David Kagon and others refused to kowtow to the press but Kagon and others did give lengthy interviews to this author to tell the story as it had never been done before. Some of the images from that time period were all the media got from Lee Marvin and they tell an interesting story, not having been seen since 1979…..

palimony1With his ever present cigarette in the days before smoking was banned in public buildings, Lee Marvin (above) is snapped by wire service photographers on the first day of the trial in January, 1979.

 

palimony2Refusing to comment to reporters, Lee and second wife, Pam Marvin (above on the right) patiently wait outside the courtroom for the day’s proceedings to begin.

 

free leeAn enterprising court watcher handed Marvin a homemade memento of the trial and a perfect chance for a photo op.

palimony3

As the lengthy trial finally began to draw to a close, Marvin surprised the ever present media outside the courtroom with some statements for the press. Part of his statement made the perfect title for the chapter in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

 

palimony4The trial over and the verdict rendered, Marvin was caught by reporters in NY’s JFK Airport as they jockeyed for a quote. Based on the smile on the actor’s face, the often misunderstood verdict was self-explanatory.

 

 

 

 

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