JIM JARMUSCH AND THE SONS OF LEE MARVIN

Picture this: I’m in the earliest stages of researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, standing in the middle of the public library, when I read the Film Comment article written by director Jim Jarmusch that reveals the first mention I’ve ever heard concerning the Sons of Lee Marvin. I was still slightly on the fence at the time about whether I should undertake the project at all, that is unti I read Jarmusch’s article.
Being a lifelong film buff I had read much about the legacy of film stars following their passing. The cult surrounding stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and others are well know to myself and the general public. Such reverence is often shown via film revivals, books and other venues. However, in all the years I have encountered such things I have never encountered anything as what Jarmusch talks about in his unveiling of the Sons Of Lee Marvin. It literally made me laugh out loud when he retold the anecdote concerning fellow member Tom Waits and the real son of Lee Marvin. I was shushed by the librarian and warned if I repeat the guffaw I’d be asked to leave. I acquiesced to the glares and stares of the other patrons but figured in my head, what the hell, it was worth it. My appreciation of Marvin expanded and my curiosity deepened. Quite simply, the more I found out about him, the more I liked him.
This article, by the way, was part of series in Film Comment in which film makers were asked to list their “Guilty Pleasures,” films they know are bad but they like anyway and with a given reason. Jarmusch dedicates one 10th of his entire list to his favorite Marvin films! So, without further ado, below is the original article that helped pushed me over the edge into dedicating myself to researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank.
Oh, and by the way, the story about Waits and Christopher Marvin is pure b.s. but sounds great, doesn’t it? If you want to know the truth, from Christopher Marvin himself. you gotta read Lee Marvin Point Blank.

The original article by Jim Jarmusch in Film Comment.

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POCKET MONEY: MARVIN & NEWMAN’S MISMATCHED BUDDY MOVIE

Lee Marvin’s 1972 film, Pocket Money, has been largely dismissed almost since the day it was released. Rather unfortunate, I think, as the film really isn’t all that bad and actually has some things to recommend it.

Lee Marvin as Leonard in 1972’s POCKET MONEY.

The botched production is covered exclusively in Lee Marvin Point Blank via a rare interview with the novel’s original author, JPS Brown. Not mentioned, however, is how Marvin and his famous costar, Paul Newman, got along during and after production. According to Marvin’s son, Christopher, who was on set for the film’s production, there was simply no chemistry between the two men. As he related to me in 1995: “When I was living with my dad later on Pocket Money, Paul Newman came over one day. He had a coffee can full of red wine that he was holding. He was like [drunk voice] ‘You’re old man here?’ I said, ‘Yeah, man.’ He came in and they were just talking AT each other drunk for like two hours [bangs fists together]. Oh god, no repore whatsoever. It was funny.”

After it was completed and Marvin was asked what the film was about, He’d snarkily, respond, “Paul Newman.” If pressed, he would add, “It never worked out. It was Paul Newman’s production company. By the time they cut the footage, Newman was the star. I dunno. I guess the old ego got the best of him. What can you do?”

Terry O’Neill’s iconci photo used for the poster of POCKET MONEY.

Later, when Paul Newman was told that Marvin claimed he was ‘finessed’ out of the picture, he told Rolling Stone: “I finessed him? I never even looked at the picture. Well, no, now I made some recommendations about the ending — two voice-overs that the two of us — but that was the only comment I made. Did he really say that? Well, it’s absolutely not true. I mean, Redford and I have got operational egos, but you never see that in terms of performance. Pocket Money didn’t make it, for sure, but I was delighted to play the character, the adolescent. I think the picture was too repetitious in terms of the humor, and it didn’t really know where it was going. It was fey and artificial.”
To his credit, Marvin made every effort to keep the sad production watchable. He used every trick in the book, while Newman spent the film looking bewildered and dumbfounded. Playing two not-too-bright cattlemen, in a script by novice filmmaker Terence Malick, just never seemed to jell, other than watching Marvin’s hijinks. Carole King contributed a catchy tune and the first half the film is interesting but it just rambles into incoherence. Well, the saving grace may just be something entirely incidental. Terry O’Neill photographed Marvin in what consider the best picture of the actor I’ve ever seen. I’d have made it the cover of my book if the rights were not so cost prohibitive. What do you think?

Terry O’Neill’s iconic photo of Lee Marvin onset during POCKET MONEY.

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HAPPY 64TH BIRTHDAY TO SONS OF LEE MARVIN FOUNDER JIM JARMUSCH

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are quite familiar with the connection indie film director Jim Jarmusch has to the legacy of Lee Marvin. Jarmusch turns 64 today and in honor of his birthday, allow me to recount the tale.

Cult director and Sons of Lee Marvin founder, Jim Jarmusch

Jarmusch has been avoiding mainstream success for decades by making and occasionally appearing in his own indie films (Mystery Train, Down by Law, Stranger Than Paradise, Dead Man, Ghost Dog, etc). He’s also an avowed Lee Marvin fan, dying his hair white in tribute. Consequently, when I was still in the earliest stages of research of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I came across his tale, or at least his version of it, of how his ‘secret’ organization, The Sons of Lee Marvin, came into existence. I was standing in the middle of the Buena Park Public Library perusing back issues of Film Comment magazine. They used to have a semi-regular column called “Guilty Pleasures,” in which renowned filmmakers detail their love of movies they know are not very good but they love them anyway. I was not yet fully sold on committing myself to a Lee Marvin bio, but when I read Jim Jarmusch’s account of how The Sons of Lee Marvin came to be as part of his column, I was shushed for laughing out loud. It helped sell me on the idea of the book as in all my years of reading and researching films and stars I have never come across such an amazing tale! I was hooked.
In the interim, I was to discover (and later join), a shadow organization known as the BSOL. How they came to be introduced to the real son of Lee Marvin is also an intriguing exclusive of Lee Marvin Point Blank.

The main logo for The Bastard Sons of Lee.

A logo for the more accessible organization known as the BSOL, sometimes seen in Pasadena’s Doo-Dah Parade.

But I digress. The point here is that like all talented filmmakers, even fiercely independent ones, like birthday boy Jarmusch, has a knack for creating mythology. I was to discover how much of a mythology it is when I ultimately met and made friends with Christopher Marvin, Lee’s actual son. As Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know, Jarmusch’s tale of Chris Marvin and Tom Waits is, how shall I say it? As our current POTUS has coined it, an “alternative fact.” To know the truth, read Lee Marvin Point Blank. Until then, enjoy this page from my research binder in which Jarmusch himself recounts the tale in his Film Comment article. Happy birthday Mr. J. and keep the mythology growing! Enjoy……

The original FILM COMMENT article in which Jim Jarmusch explains the formation of the Sons of Lee Marvin.

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