THE LION IN WINTER: LEE MARVIN IN A COLDER CLIMATE

With the recent winter blast that has hit most of the country, I thought it a good time to bring up the subject of Lee Marvin’s take on wintery times. Dating back to his great uncle, Ross Marvin, who lost his life during the Peary expedition of the North Pole, the Marvins have had a quite a history with inclimate weather. Lee’s father, Monte, would regale his two sons with tales of their uncle’s noble adventures in the frozen north, but never told them Ross’s true fate. That tale was uncovered in Lee Marvin: Point Blank (pp. 13-14).

Lee Marvin's great uncle, Ross Marvin, pictured above in Arctic gear during the Peary Expedition.

Lee Marvin’s great uncle, Ross Marvin, pictured above in Arctic gear during the Peary Expedition.

Spending his childhood up and down the eastern seaboard, Lee Marvin was no stranger to brutal winters. In fact, after returning from his first Arctic expedition, his uncle Ross told a reporter that New York winters felt colder than the North Pole!
After WWII, Lee Marvin’s uncertainty of his future had him thinking about colder climates for a time. In a letter to his brother after the war Lee wrote, “My feet are getting itching again and I want to be on the move. Where I don’t know but just some place that I haven’t been before, like the Yukon or some other desolate place. I just want to strike out and do something constructive with myself….The main thing that I regret is that there is no longer any frontier to work on which is just my speed. Therefore I must conform to convention which I have a very deep-set distaste for.” (Lee Marvin: Point Blank, pp. 49-50).
Once he dedicated himself to becoming an actor, he discovered one of the perks was being able to do on film what he was unable to do in life. The majority of his films however, rarely took place in the winter until much later in life. Beginning with the disaster-plagued 1979 flm Avalanche Express…..

Lee Marvin, Linda Evans & Mike Connors in 1979's all-star dud, Avalanche Express.

Lee Marvin, Linda Evans & Mike Connors in 1979’s all-star dud, Avalanche Express.

 

Express was filmed throughout Eastern Europe but the beautiful locations nor the impressive special effects did not help the Cold War thriller. Lee had better luck the following year with Sam Fuller’s epic, The Big Red One. Several winter scenes, also shot in Eastern Europe, were trimmed before release but later restored in 2006…..

On location for The Big Red One's winter scenes.

On location for The Big Red One’s winter scenes.

 

Ironically, he once advised his friend Ralph O’Hara, “Avoid the scripts that says ‘As he put on his snow shoes…'” His very next film saw the older actor doing just that in 1981’s Death Hunt. Reteaming with previous costars Charles Bronson and Angie Dickinson, Marvin hoped to work again with director Robert Aldrich but the film was ultimately helmed by Peter Hunt.
Dickinson noted the older Marvin’s unpleasant demeanor during the Alberta, Canada shoot when she pointed out to Marvin the beautiful mountains. He growled, “”Yeah, I saw’em. I’ve been looking at’em for two months!”

Lee Marvin in 1981's Death Hunt, costarring Charles Bronson & Angie Dickinson, filmed in Canada.

Lee Marvin in 1981’s Death Hunt, costarring Charles Bronson & Angie Dickinson, filmed in Canada.

His last foray into chilly environs was 1983’s Gorky Park. Helsinki doubled for Moscow but the cold was still so chilly, Marvin spent the first few days rehearsing from a hospital bed when his ephysema became too much to bear.

As nefarious sable dealer Jack Osborne in 1983's Gorky Park

As nefarious sable dealer Jack Osborne in 1983’s Gorky Park.

Having fulfilled his youthful desire to trek through the Yukon, albeit on scree, Lee Marvin lived out the last decades of his life in the much more warmer climate of Tucson, Arizona. One wonders what he would have had to say about the recent blizzards as his wit and tenacity are both sorely missed.

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PAPERBACK TIE-IN FINALE: THE 80s!

PAPERBACK TIE-IN

The paperback tie-in tells the story. In the last decade in which he worked, Lee Marvin continued to look for worthy projects in spite of his age and the dearth of material. Times had clearly changed from the experimental films of the 60s & 70s that had made him a star. As the paperback tie-in covers below indicate, he did try…..
huntredoneAlthough filmed in the late 70s, writer/director Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One wasn’t released until 1980 in a truncated version that disappointed all involved. Fuller’s novel (right) filled in the gaps of the story until the reconstructed version came out over 20 years later.
The largest manhunt in Canadian history was the source for Death Hunt (1981) for which there was no book version, but the paperback (left) retold the facts fictionalized in the film in which Charles Bronson played Albert Johnson as a victim of circumstance. Marvin played real life RCMP Edgar Millen, pictured below from the book’s inside cover, proving the film definitely changed the actual events….

millen

 

More literate material was available via the popular Martin Cruz Smith crime thriller Gorky Park (below right) with Marvin giving a pitch perfect performance as the mysterious Jack Osborne. On the left, Marvin’s final film appearance, the 1986 live-action Chuck Norris cartoon Delta Force, in which even the cover could not hide Marvin’s tired appearance…..
deltagorky

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PRIME CUT COSTAR GREGORY WALCOTT ON LEE MARVIN

'cut':RitchieThe 1972 film Prime Cut remains one of the strangest of Lee Marvin’s career and one that has developed quite a cult following over the years. Marvin and director Michael Ritchie (pictured above holding camera) did not get along at all, and the Calgary, Canada location was loaded with strange and interesting anecdotes (See Lee Marvin Point Blank, pp. 191-193). Veteran character actor Gregory Walcott costarred with Marvin as a deranged henchman called “Weenie,” shown above tangling with Marvin. Walcott had some interesting thoughts about his costar not included in the text.

Gregory Walcott: “He was a strange person. I wouldn’t know from one day to the next how he was going to be. Kind of like a Jaguar I used to own. Drives great when it drove but I never knew if it was going to start the next moment. He was a strange dichotomy. I remember I had lunch with my agent one day in a restaurant on Sunset Blvd. Lee came in with his agent, Meyer Mishkin. He saw me there, came over, and sat down. He talked for a while, shaking hands. Just delightful, you know? He was great, with his white teeth shining. Then, about a year later, I went down to Tucson on a film. By then, he had moved Tucson with his wife, Pam. He came into a restaurant on that day, saw me and just said, “Oh, yeah,” and just walked right passed me. He was a strange mixture of man.”

 

In this picture below from Walcott’s collection, during the film’s production in Canada (the sunflower field in the films’ finale were actually flown in from Kansas) the sequences shot in a local flophouse included actual transients as extras. When asked to pose with some of them, Lee Marvin had no problem with the request
prime Cut bums

 

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