CHARLES BRONSON’S CENTENNIAL

Charles Bronson’s centennial took place earlier this month (November, 3rd, to be exact) and his legion of fans has grown considerably since his passing in 2003. I have always been among the legion and although many of his later films are rather cringe-inducing, he did leave behind an overall impressive body of work. So much so that my Lee Marvin Point Blank publisher, Tim Schaffner, agreed to publish my bio of a proposed Bronson book as a logical follow-up. Without going into too much detail, it obviously didn’t come to pass for a variety of reasons. Some other publishers actually showed interest but ultimately, it was not to be. It may still see the light of the day eventually, but in the meantime, allow me to pay tribute to the pride of Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania in my own way. Below the proposed cover image is the introduction I wrote for the proposal. Tim didn’t care for the title but I still think it works. So in honor of Charles Bronson’s centennial, I give you the reason and theme in the life and work of the late Charles Bronson.
CHARLES BRONSON: AMERICAN SAMURAI

Proposed cover title and image for the bio I had planned to do on Charles Bronson.


There’s an old joke concerning two bulls at the top of a ridge looking down into a canyon filled with young cows. The much younger bull says to his companion, “I have an idea. Let’s rush down to the canyon so we can each grab one of those pretty young cows and make passionate love to it!” The older bull thinks for a moment and responds, “I have a better idea. Let’s slowly walk down to the canyon and make love to them all.”
   In the transitional decade of the 1960s, the younger bull symbolized America’s popular culture. Pepsi sold its product to “those who think young” and later in the decade a popular warning was “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” In American films, Hollywood studio heads also took the point of view of the younger bull, trying everything in sight in an effort to please its patrons. Old Hollywood had given way to the New Hollywood as the feudal studio system crumbled and the antiquated production code gave way to a controversial rating system. Traditional genres were revamped with revisionist concepts that were tried on everything from westerns to musicals. Fans of action-oriented genres still enjoyed the stalwart horse operas of the older John Wayne but they also reveled in the militaristic Lee Marvin, the younger good ol’ boy antics of Burt Reynolds, as well as Clint Eastwood, who encompassed a little of each.
   Then Came Bronson. His popularity in the 1970s was unparalleled, even competing with the popularity of the decade’s Blaxploitation films. When the previously mentioned action film stars faded or died off (Eastwood simply went behind the camera) and a new crop of stars emerged, such as Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, there was still Bronson. Older and more wizened, his appeal remains one of the most unique in film history.
   That appeal proved to be both classic and ironic. Following the screening of one of Bronson’s most popular films, an anonymous 33-year-old California man told a NY Times essayist, “I go to a movie to see Bronson, and not so much for the story. His movies are pretty much the same, but what I like to watch is how he plays his character. He’s kind of tough and rugged, an individualist. He does things his way.” This apt summation applies to any number of classic film stars, from James Cagney to Russell Crowe. What makes Bronson’s appeal ironic was how he was nearly forgotten in his own country, like many a forgotten American Blues artist. When British Invasion artists The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin sang the praises of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon, that’s when a whole new and young audience of ironically, American listeners discovered their countrymen’s music. Like those Bluesmen, Charles Bronson had hit a glass ceiling of middling success in his own country until he begrudgingly went to Europe to make films. He then became an international superstar via several tailor-made vehicles, revamped his image and came back to the States bigger than ever — albeit in his fifties!
   He was also no longer the Charles Bronson American audiences had been used to seeing on their movie screens and television sets. The chiseled physique was a little more rugged, accompanied by a thinly drooping mustache. The slitted eyes were a little more snake-like, along with the rarely seen but now slowly revealed smile, usually at the point of imminent violence. It was a visage in keeping with what could only be called that of an American Samurai.
   Why Bronson proved to be so popular in such a youth orientated industry is an enigma to be explored in this definitive biography via his personal life and professional career. He may have appeared late in the game to major film stardom, but like the old bull, the filmgoing audience reaped the benefits of his slow amble down hill.

Hope you enjoyed, or the very least appreciated my tribute to the late Charles Buchinsky on this, Charles Bronson’s Centennial.

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KILLING GENERALS

Killing Generals: The Making of The Dirty Dozen, the Most Iconic WWII Movie of All Time (2023) will be my next book and will be available Father’s Day, 2023. It’s been too long since I tackled another worthy writing project but it’s not for lack of trying. Came VERY close several times on a variety of projects but I won’t bore the reader with those details. Suffice to say, I finally got  a new literary agent, Lee Sobel, who contacted me, which is always a good sign. After checking him out as thoroughly as possible, I signed with him and we proceeded to discuss possible subjects (I won’t bore you with those details, either). In a miraculously short time we came up with Killing Generals. He asked me to do a proposal in record time and he would make the pitch based on that. Amazingly, and much to my own surprise, I was able to do it in the time he requested and he tweaked it appropriately. I created a mock-up cover for added eye candy sizzle….

Proposal Cover for Killing Generals

Mock-up of the proposal cover I created for Killing Generals with my Mac and very little knowledge of how to do it (!).

 




























After the mock-up cover is the pitch Lee Sobel submitted to editor Gary Goldstein, at Kensington Books. It must have worked because it was not long after, we got an offer. Read below and tell me if you think it worthy. I have since amassed an amazing amount of exclusives and continue to do so!

Until the next time, all the best dear reader, and in the immortal words of Joseph Wladislaw: “Boy oh, boy. Killing Generals could get to be a habit with me.”   😉

The Dirty Dozen, released in the tumultuous year of 1967, is a recognized classic in the genre of ‘Men-on-a-mission’ that still exerts a powerful influence on films more than 50 years later. Author Dwayne Epstein is uniquely qualified to tell this story. Having researched and written the award-winning NY Times bestseller, Lee Marvin Point Blank, Epstein interviewed many of those involved in the production. Much of what was exclusively gathered on the film did not go into the final version but remains in the author’s possession. This includes unpublished interviews with cast and crew members resulting in this remarkable story.

The creation of the film includes such unlikely participants as sexploitation pioneer Russ Meyer, who gave the idea of the premise to author E.M. Nathanson for his bestselling novel, not knowing at the time that it was based on fact.

The production includes behind-the-scenes conflicts that rival any of the controversial violence seen in the film, such as director Robert Aldrich’s conflict with studio brass over content, leading man Lee Marvin’s grapple with the bottle on and off set, Jim Brown’s battle with the NFL and the entire ensemble cast fighting for screen time. The result subtly referenced the then current controversy of the Vietnam War as well as the Civil Rights Movement. The end result proved to be a subtle balancing act of pyrotechnics that proved to be equally adept at being anti-authoritative towards the military brass. In short, the dirty little secret was out.

It went on to become the year’s highest grossing film when released and remains one of the biggest hits in the history of MGM, establishing the major film careers of Marvin and costars Jim Brown, Charles Bronson and Donald Sutherland. Since its release its lasting impact has influenced several TV series, such as “The A-Team” (1980-1987), and such other diverse film productions from Kelly’s Heroes (1970) to Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Suicide Squad (2021). This fascinating tale of The Dirty Dozens’s creation, production and legacy has never been fully told, until now.” 

– Dwayne Epstein

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COREY LUECK

Corey Lueck, Canadian blues veteran and frontman for The Smoke Wagon Blues Band is also a rather muscular Lee Marvin fan. I can also add that thanks to the miracle of social media, specifically Facebook, he is also a friend. It came about thru the good graces of Google allowing me to discover his band’s song, “The Ballad of Albert Johnson.”

Bronson & Marvin on the set of their last film together, DEATH HUNT.

The song is based on a the true story of the largest manhunt in Canadian history, which later proved to be the inspiration for the Lee Marvin/Charles Bronson film, Death Hunt (1981). Upon its release, Roger Ebert & Gene Siskel reviewed the film in an opinion I pretty much agree with to this day. What they liked about the film I agree with as well, making it still worthy of multiple viewings. Their review runs from the 7:30 to 11:45 mark and you can view it here.
As for Corey Lueck, he read my book and went on to tell me, “I was reading it at work and not getting much work done!” With that said, I asked him if he’d be willing to write a review of it on Amazon’s Canadian website. He wrote the following:

I can’t tell you how much I loved this book, my only gripe was that it was over too fast even though it’s not a short book! I feel like Lee Marvin was one of the pivotal “greatest generation” actors that just doesn’t get enough credit in the realm of movie stardom and cultural icons. From growing up to his time in World War 2 to his drunken on set episodes “Point Blank” has it all and doesn’t pull any punches. Dwayne elegantly and brilliantly lets the stories almost tell themselves in Lee Marvin’s own words in a truly timeless biography. By the time you’re done you’ll want to revisit Lees entire movie catalog.

The result of his review boosted sales in Canada as shown here:

Canadian sales numbers for paperback of Lee Marvin Point Blank thanks to Corey Lueck.

Can’t thank you enough, Corey for those encouraging words! By the way, Corey informed me that he and his bandmates won several awards for the song and title album of The Ballad of Albert Johnson at the Canadian Blues Society Awards.  It’s also up for several more awards at the Independent Blues Awards to be held in Atlanta, Georgia in the Fall. Voting is open until August 31st, so feel free to give the boys some love by doing so on their website.
In the mean time, feel free to check out the nominated video that is truly kick ass!
Also, anyone still not familiar with my book can always find Lee Marvin Point Blank on Amazon.
Until then, Keep kicking ass in the free world!
– Dwayne Epstein

Clockwise from the botom: Bandmate Ron Roll, with Summer Reid, Corey Lueck and unidentified. Ahh, the tough life of Bluesmen (!).

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