FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS OF LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK

Frequently Asked Questions (or FAQs), has become a popular aspect to most websites, and this one dedicated to underscore my book Lee Marvin Point Blank, is now no exception. Don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it until now but a recent transaction with a friend on social media gave me the idea. I’ve since amassed enough frequently asked questions I thought this a good time to address them. So, with that in mind…

Cover of the trade paperback that includes a quote from Leonard Maltin and a starburst heralding some exclusive additions.


1. How did you come to write about Lee Marvin?
I get this one a lot. Short answer is that of course, I’m a fan. Long answer is slightly more involved. Marvin is just one of my personal favorite actors that include the likes of James Cagney, Burt Lancaster and most of all, Steve McQueen. I’ve read a lot about all three actors so when the biography entitled STEVE McQUEEN: PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN REBEL came out in 1994, I had to read it. Having done so, I decided to try to contact the author, Marshall Terrill, to discuss a few aspects of his book. Much to my surprise, he responded and when he was next in L.A., we met up. A casual conversation turned into a friendship that exists to this day. Because I had a journalism background, early on he asked me if I ever considered writing a biography? I responded, “Yeah, you wrote it!” Since Marshall had a marketing background, he then proceeded to discuss possibilities based on what would sell and who has not had a definitive bio done about them. Enter Lee Marvin. I told him I’d think about it and he persisted so that over time I became fascinated with the research I was uncovering. Eventually (almost 19 years later!) it came into existence.

My copy of Marshall Terrill’s book that he inscribed: “It’s been a real pleasure to meet someone with the same zeal that I do for Steve McQueen. You really know your stuff. I’d really like to see you pursue a book on Lee Marvin. The timing is right and there’s no one better qualified to write it. Please keep in touch as I think you are incredibly well-versed in movies, which makes for great conversation. Take care, Best wishes, Marshall Terrill  2/15/94.



2. Did Lee Marvin ever attend any USMC reunions, why or why not? 
According to Lee’s first wife, Betty, he did maintain contact with his war buddies but didn’t particularly care to go to any reunions. Despite his sincere efforts towards promoting and helping the Marines throughout his life, the idea of reunions was something he was not fond of being involved in. As he told Johnny Carson one night, “I went to a few reunions but after awhile, you get bored hearing the same old war stories.”

Lee Marvin happily hands over a check for a USMC charity in support of his favorite branch of the service.



3. Why is there no mention of what Lee’s daughters are doing and why didn’t you interview them?
There is mention of what his daughters, Courtenay, Cynthia and Claudia have been doing in the bibliography entitled Posthumous Events Related to Lee Marvin. As to interviewing any of them, I did speak with each of them but none of them wanted to go on the record about their father which of course, is their choice and I respect it. Luckily, their brother Christopher did agree to be interviewed as well as write the poignant Afterword to the book.

Pictured here at Cynthia’s 1982 wedding are (L-R) Christopher Lamont Marvin, his sister Courtenay Lee Marvin, Lee Marvin, Cynthia Louise Marvin Michaels, Betty Marvin, and youngest of the four siblings, Claudia Leslie Marvin.


4. Is the story of Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo) saving Lee’s life during WWII true? My agent, the late Mike Hamilburg, once called me up and asked me this as a friend of his said it was true. I told him exactly what I had written in a blog later on about the same subject involving such urban legends as found here. In other words, despite it’s nagging persistence, it is not now nor has it EVER been true. 

5. Who were Lee Marvin’s favorite and least favorite actor to work with in his career? 
Marvin was a professional and veteran of countless performances so he basically learned to get along with pretty much everybody he worked with. If he had a favorite actor my guess would be Toshiro Mifune, his costar in Hell in the Pacific (1968), of whom his admiration was immeasurable. 

At the press conference for the Japanese premiere of HELL IN THE PACIFIC, Marvin admires Toshiro Mifune as he fields a reporter’s question.

As to who was his least favorite actor to work with, well, that question got answered a while back but still worthy of this FAQ blog in terms of symmetry. The answer can be found here.

6. How come your book doesn’t have a filmography?
Ahh, but it does. It’s just not done in the obvious way of previous film biographies. There’s one of several bibliographies in the back of the book, and in the one entitled Important Dates in the Life of Lee Marvin ALL of his film (and most TV) appearances are listed. 

7. When does your next book come out and what’s it about?
Been avoiding this one for a quite a while now. The answer is….well, that will be in the next installment of Frequently Asked Questions *wink, wink*

There you have some of the most frequently asked questions that I’ve come across over time. Naturally, if any of your questions were not addressed, by all means feel free to ask them here and I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks!
– Dwayne Epstein

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REMEMBERING KIRK DOUGLAS, MAY HE REST IN PEACE

Remembering Kirk Douglas is something many will be doing over the next couple of days and weeks. I also have my own such memory of the legendary star.
Back in 1981, long before I had even though about  writing Lee Marvin Point Blank, I had read that both Kirk Douglas AND Burt Lancaster were going to appear on stage together as Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer as older men in the 1920s. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to talk my childhood friend, Ty Elliott, into going with me up to San Francisco to see the two legends in the brief run of “The Boys In Autumn.” Why? Because ever since he and I were kids The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was our favorite book and Burt Lancaster was our favorite actor. Who could ask for more?!

The theatre marquee in San Francisco for the short-run of “The Boys in Autumn.”

So, off we went and it was quite an adventure. Truth be told, the play itself was not all that good, making Tom Sawyer (Douglas) a child molester pining over Becky Thatcher and turning Huck Finn (Lancaster) into a mercy killer of his dying wife…yech! The saving grace was seeing these two titans of film in person, with an ending in which they joked playfully while doing a soft shoe routine. Movie fan heaven. (Side note: the play was retooled and went to Broadway with George C. Scott & John Cullum in the leads and not surprisingly, it still flopped!)

Burt Lancaster & Kirk Douglas as he looked around the time I met him.

After the play, we went over to a Bar & Grille to get drunk and bemoan both the play and the fact that we didn’t get to meet either of the two legends in-person to actually talk to. We were on our umpteenth gin & tonic when who should walk into the crowded establishment to pick up a to-go order? That’s right, the dimpled chin one himself, looking every inch a movie star. He came in like a whirlwind, wearing slacks, a dapper tan trench coat over a ribbed red turtleneck, hair flipping as he walked looking 20 years young than his mid-60s. He sat down in the shadowy corner waiting for his food, while I screwed up my courage. I downed the rest of my drink, gathered my screwed up courage, and took the long jaunt over to where he impatiently sat, hoping not to be bothered by fools such as I. Good thing I was drunk.
I stood in front of him, cleared my throat and was about to speak when he put his finger to his lips, making that ‘shushing’ sign and said, “Son, I’m just leaving now and would rather not be bothered…”
I cut him off and said, “Mr. Douglas. I just came over to thank you. Thank you, for Spartacus, Lust for Life, Lonely are the Brave, Paths of Glory….”
He looked at me while I babbled as he tried to read my face. An eternity later, he jutted out his hand and said, “You know what? Thank you, young man. We in the industry don’t hear that enough from our fans. I want you to know that I appreciate it.”
It was a moment that for obvious reasons I’ll never forget. Incidentally, a few seconds later, I watched Ty down his drink and do the same thing before Kirk Douglas beat his hasty retreat. What a memorable night.
And now, now that he’s no longer with us at the age of 103, I will personally be remembering Kirk Douglas for many years to come, thanks to his ending of the Blacklist with Spartacus, AND for Lust for Life, Lonely Are the Brave and so many more. Your legacy is secure as his your place in history.
– Dwayne Epstein

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WRITER/DIRECTOR RICHARD BROOKS: THE NIGHT WE MET

Writer/director Richard Brooks has not been as historically lauded as many other directors but he’s always been a personal favorite of mine. I’ve been an admirer of many of his films long before I began researching Lee Marvin Point Blank and unfortunately, he passed away before I really started that research. A shame really as I would have liked to have gotten his take on working with Marvin on one of the best films either of them ever made: The Professionals (1966).

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Richard Brooks and Woody Strode discuss a scene for THE PROFESSIONALS.

As an aside, I recently found out that one of Brooks last and highly underrated films, Bite The Bullet (1975), was originally going to be a prequel of sorts to The Professionals, with Gene Hackman and James Coburn playing the characters Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster played in The Professionals. By the way, if you haven’t seen Bite The Bullet, I highly recommend it.

Writer/director Richard Brooks pictured in Maureen Lambray’s photo book, AMERICAN FILM DIRECTORS and as he looked at the time I met him.

One night, back in the early 1980s, a friend and I went to the Nuart in Santa Monica to see a Brooks double feature of Elmer Gantry (1960) and The Professionals, in which Brooks did a Q&A following both films. Knowing that the Oscar-winning writer/director had a penchant for adapting successful books and plays, I asked him about that, which allowed for the following exchange in the crowded theater:

Me: Knowing that in the stage version of Sweet Bird of Youth Paul Newman’s character is castrated, what did you think of the criticism the film got when you changed it to Newman getting beat up?
Brooks: What do I think of the castration of Paul Newman? Oh, I’m all for it!

The crowded theater roared with laughter followed by applause. It didn’t bother me that he avoided answering my query. I was glad to be able to feed him such a well used straight line. A group of us followed him out to the parking lot to continue the discussion when a little red sports car convertible came screeching in front of him. The female driver emphatically asked Brooks, “How can I get in touch with Burt Lancaster? HE IS SO HOT!” Everyone laughed and Brooks chuckled, “Sorry, dear. I haven’t seen or heard from Burt in years.”

The program from the double feature retrospective honoring writer/director Richard Brooks that he graciously signed for me.

….And then there was the time I got Robert Altman mad at me….oy!
– Dwayne Epstein

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