LEE MARVIN’S BEST MOVIES? NOT EVEN CLOSE!

Lee Marvin’s best? That’s a pretty subjective concept. After all, one man’s meat is another man’s poison but still and all, some things along such lines are pretty obvious.  “The 5 Best Lee Marvin Movies” is the title of a recent blog entry I came across by chance on the web and the concept is the subject of this blog.
I’m not really big on chiding other writers but the author’s choices leave much to be desired. The title alone is somewhat irksome: “The 5 Best Lee Marvin Movies.” Why only five? Wouldn’t ten be more appropriate for such a lengthy career? And his choices! If you can’t see the link I included above, here’s what he chose:
5. The Wild One
4. The Big Heat
3. Cat Ballou
2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
1. The Dirty Dozen
Can you see the problem I had with the choices that were made? Three of the five are not even Lee Marvin movies in the strictest sense. Marvin had supporting roles in The Wild One, Big Heat and Liberty Valance. Granted, they were great scene-stealing roles, but supporting roles, nonetheless. They are all better known as Marlon Brando, Glenn Ford & John Wayne movies and Lee Marvin would be the first one to say it. All the films (and more) are of course recounted and detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank, by the way. It also includes Marvin’s input into these roles as well as what he thought of each of them.
While I applaud the effort made in the end to encourage others to seek out Marvin’s films, doing so by this list would make someone wonder what’s the fuss about Lee Marvin since he apparently was merely a villain in the 1950s & 1960s. The author barely recognized the fact that Marvin was a major star in the 1960s & 1970s.
I’m not and never have been a fan of “Best Lists,” which is why there isn’t any on this blog site. However, if one were to attempt a list of Lee Marvin’s best, here’s a good start, at least in terms of what might make someone a fan. Consider the following a sort of starter kit. If after viewing these films, you’re still not a fan, then you never will be.
– Dwayne Epstein

The Professionals, 1966.

Point Blank, 1967

Monte Walsh, 1970

Emperor of the North, 1973

The Big Red One, 1980

 

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MORE MARVIN MOVIE BLOOPERS, PT. 2

More Marvin bloopers for those who might be interested. Last blog entry I mentioned some interesting tidbits that stayed in the final version of both The Big Red One and The Professionals. Here to provide some more Marvin movie bloopers are things left in both Cat Ballou and The Dirty Dozen.
Like most Lee Marvin fans, I had seen both films a plethora of times but was not aware of some of the things left onscreen until I interviewed the participants on these projects for my book, Lee Marvin: Point Blank. For instance, director Elliott Silverstein enlightened me on a scene from Cat Ballou in which Marvin was clearly ‘in his cups.’

Lee Marvin as Kid Shelleen confronts his twin brother, Tim Strawn, after his “walk” thru the whorehouse corridor.

Silverstein was quick to point out that it wasn’t really Marvin’s fault as he was called in on a day he was not scheduled to work and was consequently pretty inebriated when he showed up on set. It was a short scene, the one in which Marvin’s character — in full gunfight regalia — walks comically thru the hallway of a whorehouse in search of his target, his evil twin brother, Tim Strawn.  According to Silverstein:

“Here I was with a guy that could stand up, that’s about it. We put on this heavy costume that we had designed for him, this mock suit of lights with more sliver that could break the back of horse. He stood up at the back of the room, weaving, his eyes blood red and I said, “Lee, you got to go to this door and walk through that door and then that door. I got a metronome here for you that will give the rhythm downstairs. Let’s try it.” Well, needless to say, it was all off. It would not work. While he didn’t stumble, he surely weaved. It was not right for a gunfighter who has gone though the previous scene (not yet shot), getting dressed to kill, mean- eyed focus on killing the bad guy. I couldn’t let that go by so I said, “Lee, let’s try this. I’m going to count for you: 1, 2, 3. Each count you take a step. On 4 open the door. On 5 close the door and I’ll start again as you come diagonally down the corridor towards the camera going from one side of the corridor to the other. [mimes Marvin mumble] “All right, yeah.” He was cooperative. Very benign but he was drunk. Then we tried that. We took about 5 takes, but eventually he pushed through and managed to do that. If you watch that scene closely, you’ll see he lumbers a bit.”

Yours truly, author Dwayne Epstein (left) getting Cat Ballou director Elliot Silverstein to sign my copy of LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK.

 

 

Then there’s that joke comedian Franklyn Ajaye used to tell about the original Star Trek: “I was watching a rerun the other night and noticed a run in Uhura’s stocking. I thought to myself, ‘Damn, I never noticed that the first 273 times I saw this episode.”
I’ve never even come close to watching that many reruns of Star Trek but, movies, that’s another story. Case in point, I’ve lost track of the amount of times that I’ve watched The Dirty Dozen and can quote from it verbatim. That said, my interview with the late, great, Clint Walker, enlightened me to a moment in the film not unlike comedian Ajaye’s observation about Lt. Uhura’s stocking. You know the scene where Lee Marvin makes Walker taunt him with the knife? Well, after talking to Walker, he told me an interesting anecdote about that scene that also got left IN the movie. I then went home, pulled out my nearly worn-out VHS copy and watched it in slow motion. Damn if he wasn’t right as I caught it the minute the scene started! Want to know what it is? Read Lee Marvin Point Blank.  Until then, all the best,
-Dwayne Epstein

“STOP PUSHING!”

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LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK: THAT FUNNY FACE YOU MAKE WHEN….

Writing Lee Marvin Point Blank one discovers amazing things, such as ‘That Funny Face You Make When…”  Sorry. I should explain. The man was of course an actor who took his work seriously but he also was someone with a genuinely funny sense of humor. After all, he won his only Oscar for his comedy performance in Cat Ballou, which is a rare achievement in its own right.

Lee Marvin showing his ability to do Shakespeare…or Kid Shelleen in Cat Ballou. Not sure which.

However, despite the majority of his films being action-driven dramas, his sense of humor was a major component of the man and his appeal. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are fully of aware of this aspect of the man both onscreen and off. There are several examples, such as the Robin Hood Party, The Vibrator Salute, Black Helen to the Rescue, and more. Not familiar with those escapades? Read Lee Marvin Point Blank and you will be. But I digress…
I mention this merely to point out what I quickly discovered in my research. I’m currently in the arduous process of archiving all of my research material (more on that later) when I came across some examples of Marvin’s ability to mug for the camera, even late in life, that most of his contemporaries would never even attempt to do. Case in point is the seen image below from the now defunct magazine US Weekly. He was asked about the palimony suit and the results speak for itself. Personally, I like tho think of it as, “That face you make when you learn Donald Trump won the election,” or “Geez, Lee, that’s the worst Robert Morley impression I’ve ever seen.” Feel free to add any interpretation you like. Any and all suggestions are welcome.
– Dwayne Epstein

“What do you mean Donald Trump is president?”

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