BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & POINT BLANK

Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey’s legendary rocker, recently celebrated his 71st birthday –Sept. 23rd, to be exact — and as such, I thought it a good time to explore the possible connection between the man’s music (one song in particular), and a possible Lee Marvin connection.

Terrific cover art for the VHS release of POINT BLANK.


Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know why I titled the book what I did as it’s explained in the introduction. Yes, it’s partly due to the title of one of his signature films, but there’s actually more to it than that. 


What does any of this have to do with Bruce Springsteen, you may ask? Well, to start with,  Springsteen has often utilized imagery from films in his work, which is why I thought there may indeed be a Lee Marvin connection. For example, having been a long time fan, I was amazed the way in which he opened the first concert I ever saw. The arena went dark and over the sound system came the following dialog: “Me and the boys got us some work to do. Wanna come along? Won’t be like the old days….but it’ll do.” That end dialog from The Wild Bunch (a film Lee Marvin almost made, by the way), lead to the stage lights coming up and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band launching into Buddy Holly’s rocking “Oh Boy!” For the next four hours, I was enthralled and then exhausted by evening’s end. “The Boss’ put on one hell of a show! 

Article in the L.A. newspaper for the first Springsteen show I saw back in 1980


 That aside, Springsteen’s film references include everything from titling one of his signature songs “Thunder Road,” after the 1958 cult Robert Mitchum film, to to the title of his album The Ghost of Tom Joad, as in the character Henry Fonda played in the John Steinbeck adapted film, The Grapes of Wrath
Even more pervasive are the lyrics chosen for some of his songs. Take for example, “Cadillac Ranch” in which he borrows imagery from the likes Rebel Without a Cause, The Last American Hero and Smokey & The Bandit:
“James Dean in that Mercury ’49
Junior Johnson runnin’ thru the woods of Caroline
Even Burt Reynolds in that black Trans Am
all gonna meet down at the Cadillac Ranch.” 

1980 line-up of the E Street Band :(L-R) Bassist Gary Tallent,guitarist Steve Van Zandt, organist Danny Federici, Springsteen, drummer Max Weinberg, pianist Roy Bittan, and saxophonist Clarence Clemmons.


Which brings us to the haunting lyrics of “Point Blank” from his 1980 double album, “The River.” The song concerns the end of a romance in which the narrator describes how his ex-lover has been destroyed by her experiences. At one point in the song, he dreams they are dancing together again, only to wake up and discover she’s standing in the doorway trying to stay out of the rain “looking like just another stranger waitin’ to get blown away.” Hence the title and chorus, “Point Blank”. 

Libretto from THE RIVER for “Point Blank.”


Granted, it’s hardly the same premise or theme as the Marvin film. However, creative entities, such as Springsteen can be motivated in the most interesting of ways. Since he clearly is quite literate when it comes to film iconography, one can easily picture him watching the film one night and grabbing a pad and pencil with an idea once the premise of the film is established. Is Walker alive or dead? As Walker himself asks, was is all a dream that he was double-crossed by his wife and best friend then left for dead? 
It certainly is not a new premise for a writer to create a theme of blurred lines between life and death, or dreams and reality. I believe Ambrose Bierce’s classic 1890 short story “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” set the standard for such a theme. A personal favorite is Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun,” which realistically established a character grappling with the ability to know whether he is asleep or awake. In other words, Walker of Point Blank may have very well inspired Springsteen to use the premise as a springboard for what he would utilize as a dark concept of a tortured romance. Pure supposition, for sure, but certainly not unlikely. Judge for yourself in the video below and in closing, happy birthday, Bruce Springsteen!
– Dwayne Epstein

Share Button

BURT REYNOLDS (R.I.P.) REMEMEBERED LEE MARVIN

Burt Reynolds, who passed away this week at the age of 82, will of course be sadly missed for the movie icon that he was, especially in the 1970s. His charm and wit were also on full display as a frequent talk show guest, making a career out of self-effacingly making fun of his career.
In researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Burt Reynolds knew and liked Lee Marvin. He tells a great anecdote in his 1994 autobiography concerning one of his very first professional acting jobs. In a 1959 episode of M Squad he played a young, troubled student battling some bullies at a trade school.

Lee Marvin (back to camera) as Lt. Frank Ballinger tried to get troubled trade school student Burt Reynolds to testify against school bully, Tom Laughlin.

His nemesis in the episode was none other than Tom “Billy Jack” Laughlin, playing his role like an ersatz James Dean. The casting made sense as Reynolds was often compared facially to a young Marlon Brando, so the two most famous juvenile delinquents of the 1950s appeared to square off against each other.

The cover of Burt Reynolds’ 1994 autobiography.

Reynolds wrote that he was late to the set the first day as he misunderstood the call sheet time he was supposed to show up. Despite his remorse, the assistant director chewed out the young actor in front of the cast and crew.

Lee Marvin puts the heat on the ‘late’ Burt Reynolds in M SQUAD.

A hung-over Lee Marvin came out of his trailer angrily asking what all the noise was about. When the A.D. told Marvin that Reynolds was late, Marvin angrily shouted, “So was I! What’s the big deal? Now shut up and let’s get to work!” Reynolds praised Marvin no end for helping to salvage his fledgling career.

A decade later Burt Reynolds wrote a second memoir, focusing mostly on the fascinating people he met and knew throughout his career aptly entitled But Enough About Me. He and co-author Jon Winokur dedicate an entire chapter to Marvin, apparently cribbing much information from another source that blog readers may be aware of…ahem….How do I know? Because a large portion of his Marvin biographical material was rather exclusively based on MY research. One need only see the way he incorporates Marvin’s war record and more to see the source. Don’t take my word for it, though. If you’ve read Reynolds’ book, read Lee Marvin Point Blank and then see for yourself.

Burt Reynolds’ 2015 memoir, published 2 years after Lee Marvin Point Blank.

In any event, he ends that chapter on Marvin with a rather poignant personal anecdote all his own that says much about both men. (pp. 89-90)

“Just before Deliverance was released, I went to a screening at Warner Brothers with Lee Marvin, who took me aside and gave me some unsolicited advice: ‘Don’t let’em fuck you up, pardner! You’re gonna be a under a microscope and it’s gonna change your life forever.’
‘I sure hope so,’ I said.
Lee grabbed me by the lapels. ‘No, listen to me! It’s gonna change everything and you’ve got to be careful. Don’t let’em fuck you up!’
‘I won’t,’ I said.
‘Goddamn it! You’re not listening!’
And I wasn’t.
I had no idea.”

Rest in Peace, Mr. Reynolds. Like all greats, we shall not see your like again.
-Dwayne Epstein.

Share Button