RAINTREE COUNTY: RARE PIX AND QUOTES

Since TCM  will be airing Raintree County this weekend, it proved to be a perfect opportunity to post some rare images and quotes concerning the mammoth 1957 Civil War era production, but with a distinct emphasis on Lee Marvin’s contribution to it.

Based on the popular novel by Ross Lockridge, Jr., Raintree County was another one of the films Marvin thought would bring him wider recognition, espcially since he knew his performance was a standout. Unfortunately, the film’s failure made Marvin’s breakout status an impossiblity. Cast as Orville ‘Flash’ Perkins — The Fastest Man in Raintree County — Marvin practically stole the film as the brash, small-town braggart who matures into a war-hardened veteran.

Whenever Marvin would begin a role, he spent an inordinate amount of time just sitting and thinking about his character. Below, with his hair dyed red for the film, Marvin is shown doing just that on the porch of his California beach house….

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Still photographer Bob Willioughby was onset to capture the film’s production, such as this image of Marvin & co-star Montgomery Clift (pre-car accident) waiting on a soundstage to shoot the saloon scene….

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The film also had many locations throughout the southern United States and location shooting meant curious onlookers. When one such young lady brought her dog to watch the shooting, Marvin reacted approrpriately…

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Bob Willoughby also was there when the filming included this action-packed scene of Marvin (far right) capturing a Confederate officer played by future Star Trek stalwart DeForest Kelley (left, in uniform). The Willoughby images were part of his 1974 coffee table book, The Platinum Years, and is highly reccommended….

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As previously stated, Marvin’s portrayal of ‘Flash’ Perkins goes through a remarkable transformation during the course of the film as he weaves in and out of story. When first seen, he is brash and bold as a 19th century dandy…..

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Later in the film, he is a renegade Union soldier, a ‘Bummer’ whose expression goes a long to explain the character’s growth…..

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During the lengthy research of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was extremely fortunate to  interview many of the important people involved in making Raintree County, including director Edward Dmytryk, screenwriter Millard Kaufman, costar Rod Taylor, and Terry Swindol, a Danville Kenutcky resident who witnessed the filming. All of what they related to me went into the book, but a few choice tidbits remained unsued for various reasons. What follows are several such anecdotes all concerning Lee Marvin:
Rod Taylor
The thing you had to appreciate about him was his sense of humor. He had a great sense of humor but it could be very caustic because it was based on total honesty. I used to work over at Revue and I would see him there because he did the show, what was it “M-Squad”? Revue became Four Star when David Niven built it. That’s where I made The Time Machine. There was a story you may have heard because it’s been around so long. Somebody, I think it was a casting director asked Lee Marvin, “What have you done lately?,” and Marvin responded immediately, “About what?” (laughs) That’s the  kind of sense of humor he had.

Millard Kaufman
He was extremely helpful. Let me tell you about one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen on screen that was all Lee. There’s a scene in the picture…First of all, I think it was not a very good picture. The casting was great. The direction was terrible and my script wasn’t very good. My script wasn’t very good because I fell in love with the book. It went over a 1,000 pages. I had too much of it in there. I did not follow what Somerset Maughm said: “Find your theme and stick to it it like grim death.” I went off in all directions. I had found grim death. Anyway…Well, one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen on screen is in that picture. There’s a scene of a foot race. Monty could not run ten feet without stumbling over his feet. He was so awkward and so uncoordinated most of the time. He used this sort of things on screen, the way he would weave and fool around. He looked like he was almost autistic at times. But, it worked for him. He was sympathetic and charming, in his own way. This time, which called for sheer athleticism…nothing! Lee faked running in such a way that made Monty not only win the race, but look good doing it. That was all Lee. You say in any sport you can’t teach speed. Well, it’s even harder tot teach someone slowing up, which is somehow what Lee did. There was no slow motion or anything. It was brilliant. It looked like a hell of a race….[Lee] had this tremendous lust for life which made him kind of larger than life, and I think that spilled over into everything he did. You got a feeling that this was a very big and powerful and important person, as an actor and a man.

Terry Swindol
All the people who met Lee Marvin said he was really “down to earth.” Apparently, he was one of those people who never met a stranger. A story I especially like tells that somewhere in Danville, Kentucky today is a coffee table with a chip off the corner. It has stayed in this home with the same family since Lee Marvin visited the home during the making of Raintree County. After dinner, he was acting out a story about a play he had done and his boot caught the coffee table and broke off the corner. He was so apologetic and told the family to buy a new coffee table and send him the bill. They never did, and they refuse to get rid of the broken one because of the pleasant memory of Marvin in their home.

Betty Marvin [Lee’s first wife, whose former employer had been Joan Crawford]
At the the premiere, Lee and I were lined up. Big joke in those days. So there we were, and who’s behind us? Joan Crawford. She, in her wonderful style, looks right through me. Because Lee was like the next big star on the horizon and on, and on…She wants him to co-star in her next film and would he please read the script and set up an appointment at MCA. She calls the next day. Talks right through me. “Is Lee there? Why don’t you come in. We’ll go over the script in my office and read it together.” He said, “Okay.” He left about one o’clock. You know, I was a young wife. It made me very uncomfortable. What’s going on here? The whole afternoon, it was difficult for me. When he came back, he was laughing. I said, “How did he go? Are you going to co-star with Joan Crawford?” He said, “Oh, hardly.” I asked if he read the script. He was a very slow reader, as I told you. He had went into a room with the script and she was waiting. After about two hours, she said, “Well?” He said, “Listen, it takes a long time to get through this crap.” (laughs) Once again, you know? He was like, “Give me a break.” Oh, she was livid! That was Lee’s lovely way. And I’m not saying out of respect for me. He didn’t like her crappy script because she was doing a lot of garbage. It was just interesting.

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LEE MARVIN, STAR TREK & SCOTTY

It isn’t widely known but in Lee Marvin’s long and varied career he worked with almost every member of the original cast of Star Trek in one medium or another. In the early days of live TV, William Shatner played his hotheaded younger brother in a Playhouse 90 western titled “Time of the Hanging.” During the run of Marvin’s series M SquadLeonard Nimoy appeared twice as a criminal who tangles with Marvin’s Lt. Ballinger. An early 60s anthology show called The Great Adventure had Marvin playing an unlikely Armenian grape grower with young Walter Koenig playing his son. He also had a great scene in the film Raintree County as a maverick Union soldier who captures a gentlemanly Confederate officer played by DeForest Kelley. All in all, a pretty good batting score of Star Trek cast members for Marvin without ever appearing on the show!
But of all the Star Trek cast members he worked with, none were able to say they knew Lee Marvin nearly as well as James ‘Scotty’ Doohan. The two actors started out together in Woodstock New York’s Maverick Theater after the war and appeared in several plays together, including Marvin’s professional debut in “Roadside” (see picture below with Doohan on the right).
I was lucky enough to interview Doohan for my book Lee Marvin: Point Blank back in the 90s and worked most of what he told me into the text. However, for various reasons, not all of what he had to say made the final cut so below is the unpublished transcript of that conversation. The words are his own with elliptical dots replacing my questions. Enjoy, Trekkies:

James Doohan: He was a very, very impressive guy. I loved him immediately. He was just terrific. We got along like a house on fire. Always were good friends. No if, ands, or buts, fights, or anything else. He was just terrific. …He was never a phony and we got a lot of phonies in this business. He was as true to himself as he could possibly be…. He was the characters that he played. He would actually be perfect for them. He was just a great guy. Became a great self-actor….At The Maverick Theatre, yeah. It was really a nice theater. We got pretty darn good crowds. We were just a bunch of actor/students. Somebody said, “I saw this guy. He’s friends of the Ballantines. I saw this guy and geez, he’d be perfect for one of the parts that we have,” Tex in “Roadside.” (Does voice) I played old Pap Rader. Anyway… We did about 10 plays. … It was a very exciting thing. The most specific thing that I remember about Lee is that of course that he was a Marine and I was and officer in the Royal Canadian Artillery and had taken some commando training and also infantry training. One day, we were fiddling around outside in the beautiful sunshine and everything else. Lee said, “Hey Jimmy, catch!” There was a rifle coming at me (laughs). I thought “Oh wow-wee!” I caught it, and I don’t have the best hand equipment in the world because I had three bullets hit this one finger….machine gun on D-Day. I was number one off of our beach on D-Day…. That’s why he would like throw the rifle at me. “Hey, catch this!” He said it after it was in the air (laughs) I had to look up and there was a a goddamneROADSIDE W DOOHAN-1d rifle coming at me, perfectly thrown ,though. So you have chance to grab it perpendicular… I just said, “Oh, okay.” He was just, “You know what you’re doing,” except I didn’t know as much as he knew.
– Dwayne Epstein

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