The Harvey Weinstein scandal being the main topic of conversation these days, such behavior is actually not that revelational among the power brokers and others who have reached a level of superstardom in show business. The term ‘casting couch’ is one of the oldest cliches in Hollywood, and as Claudette Colbert once famously said, “The casting couch? There’s only one of us who ever made it to stardom without it, and that was Bette Davis.”
So what does any of this have to do with Lee Marvin? Well, in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank the subject of sexual harassment never became an issue in my research, despite Marvin’s tendency towards boorish behavior on the occasion of some drunken episodes as detailed in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank. He could be loutish and embarrassing at times but thanks to his breeding, he always managed to pull himself back from the abyss. As his lawyer David Kagon said to me: “Lee Marvin was a truly Victorian character, particularly when it came to women. He always treated women extremely courteously. I never heard him use a word that you’d want to use, at that time, to qualify for usage in polite society when a woman was present. He always treated them very, almost as if he were Victorian. He was the kind of guy that would open a door for a woman. He’d stand up.”
Due to the kind of films he made, Marvin had little interaction with many of the actresses of the day. When he did, the results were unsurprisingly similar.  Basically, Marvin’s treatment of his female costars as he ascended into superstardom fell into three categories: Younger costars were protected in a fatherly way while veteran costars were given the utmost respect. The third category? Well, that was a rare category that may have fallen to more women had he worked with more women.

CAT BALLOU costar Jane Fonda learning some valuable lessons from veteran Lee Marvin.

His Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou catapulted him to stardom but during production, his treatment of the opposite sex didn’t change. In fact, costar Jane Fonda didn’t always see eye-to-eye when they made the film but in retrospect she wrote in her autobiography: “The producers had us working overtime day after day, until one morning Lee Marvin took me aside. ‘Jane,’ he said, ‘we are the stars of this movie. If we let the producers walk all over us, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, you know who suffers most? The crew. The guys who don’t have the power we do to say, ‘shit, no, we’re working’ too hard.’ You have to get some backbone, girl. Learn to say no when they ask you to keep working.’ I will always remember Lee for that important lesson.”
Following Cat Ballou, Marvin worked with the mostly all-male cast in the now classic rugged western, The Professionals. An exception to the testosterone-driven cast was Europe’s Claudia Cardinale…..

Claudia Cardinale and Marvin in Richard Brooks’ THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

By all accounts, Marvin’s relationship with the Italian film star was, as the title suggested, strictly professional and for Marvin that meant respectful.
A good example of how he treated a younger actress is his relationship with Sissy Spacek during the making of Prime Cut. As she is quoted in her memoir about her film debut:

Sissy Spacek and Lee Marvin in PRIME CUT.

“I loved working with Lee Marvin, and he was actually very protective of me. But he was a prodigious drinker, and he warned me to avoid him when he was inebriated. When we first met on location, I blurted out, ‘Lee, you have the greenest eyes!’
‘Yeah,’ said Lee. ‘And whenever you see them turn blue stay away from me.’
“It was true. When he’d had a few too many, his eyes turned ocean blue and everybody gave him a wide berth. But mostly he was a good guy, and very professional….I was so caught up in the filming I hardly noticed the battles going on behind the scenes. [Director]  Michael Ritchie was constantly fighting with the powers that be over the tone of Prime Cut. Michael wanted it to be more of a camp satire; the studio wanted a straight gangster thriller. Lee Marvin shared the director’s vision for the film and it led to some tense moment  on location.”
Spacek is right when she said there were some fights during production, but incorrect when she said Ritchie and Marvin shared the film’s vision. In fairness, she readily admits to hardly noticing the battles going on. Lee Marvin told it plain to journalist Grover Lewis in Rolling Stone magazine shortly after the film came out: “I’ve made some mistakes I wish I hadn’t. One of them was working with Michael Ritchie on Prime Cut. Oh I hate that son-of-a-bitch. He likes to use amateurs because he can emotionally dominate them. That chick in Prime Cut, she would’ve sucked my cock on camera if Ritchie’d told her to. One night, I wanted to rehearse a scene and he didn’t want to, so he pretended to get sick. I said, ‘shit fire, Michael. ‘ll get you a fuckin’ doctor.’ Nothing worked with that guy, and the picture just fell apart before we even got started. ” The film’s other female star, Angel Tompkins, concurred with Sissy Spacek’s assessment of Marvin. Clearly, his respect for women was maintained, despite his opinion of the film’s director. As to the handful of other female costars he worked with…

(L-R) Elizabeth Ashley, Kay Lenz and Lee Marvin in GREAT SCOUT & CATHOUSE THURSDAY. Lenz told this author wonderful anecdotes about working with Marvin.

(L-R) Roger Moore, Barbara Parkins and Lee Marvin in SHOUT AT THE DEVIL. Playing Parkins’ father, Marvin was just naturally fatherly towards the actress.

Linda Evans and Lee Marvin in AVALANCHE EXPRESS.

Then there is that rarest of third categories, of which only one is actually known. Well, maybe two if you count an extra during a film. Okay, three if you want to be speculative. To put it another way, Lee Marvin was protective and respectful to his leading ladies. However, there’s absolutely no evidence that he was abusive in any way, but was he ever romantic? Stay tuned…..
– Dwayne Epstein

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In researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank, it was mandatory that I deal with the relationship between Lee Marvin and his pariah, Michele Triola, whether I like it or not. In doing so, one comes across a pretty strange array of, shall we say, artifacts? I would check Ebay regularly (among other sources) for any rare or hard to find info on Lee and came across the above entitled items for sale. Naturally intrigued, I bid on and won it, but when I questioned the buyer of its origins, he was very mysteriously evasive. In other words, I have no idea if any of the images ever saw the light of day or even who the photographer was, for that matter. The contact sheet was undated so any time frame is purely conjecture. I’m pretty sure it was before she met Lee Marvin on the set of Ship of Fools in 1964. I’d venture a guess that the pictures were taken in the very late 50s or early 60s.

“Oh hi, Lee. Yes, I was just going to call you and…Oh hold on. I have Glenn Ford on the other line….”

Please forgive the attempted humor in the first caption. I just couldn’t help myself. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank will of course get the reference but others probably won’t. In that case, read the book to find out.
Which reminds me of something else I’d like to point out. Several reviewers stated that I was unduly and unnecessarily cruel in my assessment of Ms. Triola and to that I say they should have done the research that I did as that is where the assessment comes from. I didn’t get a chance to interview her, although I made several attempts to do so. Readers know the comments and stories concerning Michele Triola came directly from interviews I conducted with individuals with firsthand knowledge of her and her relationship with Lee. People such as Lee’s palimony lawyer, David Kagon, stuntman Tony Epper, business manager Ed Silver, and many others, all went on the record about her and I found it interesting that even though they may not have known each other, they all told similar ribald tales about her. Want to know what they were? Read the book. In the mean time, feel free to check out the contact sheets below….
– Dwayne Epstein

Contact sheet for unknown Men’s Magazine featuring Michele Triola.

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Lee Marvin at 91

Lee Marvin would have been 91 on February 19, 2015. Schaffner Press’s author of the bestselling, award-winning biography LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK was recently asked how the actor might respond to the world and pop culture of 2015.

Schaffner Press: Much has changed in the years since Lee Marvin passed in 1987. For instance, do you think he would have voted for Barack Obama?
Dwayne Epstein: Interesting question. I’d have to say that a lot of his fans may be surprised by my answer but yes, I think he would have voted for President Obama. It surprises people to know that his personal politics leaned to the left, since he really didn’t comment on that much during interviews. After the assassination of JFK he kept such opinions to himself. He didn’t show up at rallies or demonstrations as some celebrities did but he commented on such things to friends and family. He was very pro Civil Rights. In fact, one of his closest friends was the African-American athlete turned actor, Woody Strode. Strode told me that it was Marvin, not politically liberal costar Burt Lancaster, who got Strode top billing in The Professionals (1966). Towards the end of Marvin’s life I’ve been told he became a little more conservative but by today’s standards, such as with the Tea Party, I think even John Wayne might have been considered a liberal!

Relaxing between scenes on the set of The Professionals are good friends Woody Strode and Lee Marvin.

Relaxing between scenes on the set of The Professionals are good friends Woody Strode and Lee Marvin.

SP: What about Hillary Clinton?
DE: I’m scratching my head on that one. His first wife Betty was adamant in telling me that she believed Lee was a feminist. Of course, his public image certainly wasn’t of that ilk, especially in light of the infamous palimony suit. Maybe his lawyer from the trial, David Kagon, put it best when he told me, “Lee had the utmost respect for women….in all their various gradations.” If that’s the case, it still leaves me wondering what he would have thought of Hillary Clinton, at least in terms of what gradation he’d classify her.
SP: What do you think Marvin would’ve made of the war against terrorism and all the violence in the Middle East?
DE: At the time of Lee’s passing Middle East terrorism was only just beginning to make itself known to western civilization. In fact, his last film, Delta Force (1986), dealt with the subject, albeit as a live-action cartoon, thanks to the presence of Chuck Norris. However, in doing press for the film, Marvin was remarkably clear-eyed and cogent when he told the now defunct PREVUE Magazine, “”Before the problem of terrorism improves, it’s going to get worse. Americans don’t have a clue about what goes on in the Middle East. Terrorism is transferred into this climate, and people shut the problem out — they don’t want to deal with it.” He sure was on the money, on that one!

Lee Marvin & Chuck Norris in the 1986 live-action cartoon, Delta Force.

Lee Marvin & Chuck Norris in the 1986 live-action cartoon, Delta Force.

SP: Speaking of the problem of the Middle East, what do you think he would’ve thought of American Sniper as being called the “greatest war film of all time”?
DE: Honestly? He probably would’ve laughed at that, took a drag off his cigarette and then rolled his eyes. That’s no reflection on the film, which I myself haven’t seen…YET. It’s more about the statement. Everyone I interviewed told me that Marvin had a built-in bullshit detector and having been around Hollywood as long as he has, he knew pure ballyhoo when he heard it. Based on the subject matter, I can only assume he would’ve liked the film, if only in deference to its director, his buddy and costar, Clint Eastwood. Marvin had very strong opinions on such subjects, as you can gather and it’s a shame he’s no longer around for us to hear exactly what he would have thought of American Sniper.
SP: The cable TV series “Breaking Bad” proved to be quite a cultural phenomena. What do you think he would have thought of it and what part would he have played?

Schuyler White (Anna Gunn) apprehensively waits to see what husband Walter White (Bryan Cranston) will do next, as does son Walter, Jr. (R.J. Mitte) in Breaking Bad.

Schuyler White (Anna Gunn) apprehensively waits to see what husband Walter White (Bryan Cranston) will do next, as does son Walter, Jr. (R.J. Mitte) in Breaking Bad.

DE: On reflex, I’d have to say Walter White, the lead of course. Incidentally, I recently heard Bryan Cranston say in an interview that he grew up next to a movie theater and saw Cat Ballou so many times he memorized the dialogue. You never can tell who a Lee Marvin fan might be. But in answer to your question, there may be an analogy to Walter White and Walker in Point Blank. The show starts with White as a mild-mannered science teacher who becomes a meth dealer when he discovers he has cancer. Well, in Point Blank Walker is just an amiable fella doing a favor for a friend, as shown in flashback. It’s only after he’s been double-crossed and left for dead that he becomes this unstoppable avenging angel of death. He’s a professional thief in the novel, but that’s not stressed in the film. Walter White, Walker. Yeah, that works.

Walker's sister-in-law (Angie DIckinson) and syndicate boss (Carroll O'Connor) apprehensively wait to see what Walker (Lee Marvin) will do next.

Walker’s sister-in-law (Angie Dickinson) and syndicate boss (Carroll O’Connor) apprehensively wait to see what Walker (Lee Marvin) will do next.

SP: What do you think his opinion of say “Downton Abbey” would be and what role would he play?
DE: I think he may have liked it as it depicts the change from Victorian aristocracy to the modern era. Coming from the old South, his mother tried to raise him more like the Crawley’s than the servants, so even though his background was more akin to that, he actually despised the importance put on proper etiquette and such. Based on his film persona, he would’ve been a servant, probably, Barrows. His character is so sinister and has such a dark past, I think Marvin would’ve really relished playing him.

Not a lost scene from Downton Abbey but an early performance of Lee Marvin (center) on stage after the war at Woodstock's Maverick Theater.

Not a lost scene from Downton Abbey but an early performance of Lee Marvin (center) on stage after the war at Woodstock’s Maverick Theater.

SP: In the scope of current male actors, are there any Lee Marvins out there?
DE: There are actors who have similar qualities as Marvin, sure. I think Josh Brolin has some qualities, as well as Tommy Lee Jones, JK Simmons, Thomas Haden Church and Powers Boothe, but those are just qualities. I hate to sound cliché but there really was only one Lee Marvin…..and thank god for it!

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