JANUARY 2021 ON TCM

January 2021 is FINALLY upon us and not a moment too soon, as far as I’m concerned. With this new month and year (hell, new decade even!), comes a new schedule of films from the good folks at TCM. Below are the films that either star Lee Marvin or has a particular link to Marvin’s life, career or legacy. So, with January 2021 upon us, let the classic films begin!
All times are Pacific Standard Time

The Sea Wolf (1941), Wednesday, January 6 (1:15 am): It’s hard to imagine that Lee Marvin might have had anything in common with the legendary John Garfield but the two men shared an appreciation of the writing of Jack London. Garfield begged Jack Warner to put him in a London biopic but instead he got to costar in this classic sea story. London was at one point the most popular writer in the English language and his 1904 novel The Sea Wolf became his most often filmed stepchild. Filmed no less than nine times since 1913, this version with Garfield, Edward G. Robinson, Alexander Knox and Ida Lupino is the best known and for my money the best of all. I could easily see Marvin playing the villianous captain Wolf Larsen as well as Robinson played it, of whom Marvin was also a huge fan. Unfortunately, the closest Marvin ever got to playing a London character was A#1 in the London inspired Emperor of the North.
By the way, frequent Marvin costar Charles Bronson took a shot at playing the title character in a cable TV movie version for Turner’s TBS station with less than stellar results.

The Big Heat (1953), Saturday, January 9 (9 am):

The attitude of Vince Stone toward his annoying girlfriend, Gloria Grahame, is shown building to a painful climax in Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT (1952).

You want early Marvin sadistic mayhem? It doesn’t get any better than this. As gangster Vince Stone he terrorizes men but especially women like the screen had never seen before. Fritz Lang’s neo-noir classic stars Glenn Ford as a tough cop putting the heat on for the murder of his wife, Jocelyn Brando, you-know-who’s real-life sister.  Ford’s encounters with the city’s underbelly makes up the bulk of the film but the real stars are Gloria Grahame as Stone’s pouty-mouth moll and Marvin as Stone. Stories galore of its making in Lee Marvin Point Blank with the best being NY Times critic Vincent Canby dubbing Marvin “The Merchant of Menace.” Canby had no idea the best was yet to come.

The Searchers (1956) Saturday, January 16 (5pm):

John Wayne to Harry Carey, Jr: “What do you want me to do, DRAW YOU A PICTURE?! DON’T EVER ASK ME AGAIN!”

It’s been said that the cinematic mythology of the American western was pretty much created by John Ford and the best of his westerns  always starred John Wayne. Of their many films together, The Searchers remains their greatest for countless reasons and not the least of which is the fact that ol’ Duke Wayne was never more vicious in a movie than he was here. A shame he didn’t play more men of questionable morals as the racist Ethan Edwards but at least he did once…well, twice if you count his wonderful Captain Bligh on the cattle trail in Howard Hawks’ Red River (also airing this month on Saturday, January 23, 12:30pm) . What does all this have to do with Lee Marvin? Quite simply, Marvin loved the cinematic output of both men and luckily got to work with them both later in their careers. Watch The Searchers and discover why he admired them so much if you haven’t done so already..

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Sunday, January 17 (12:30 pm):

A young Lee Marvin as Mitch in the stage version of STREETCAR.

There isn’t much more to be said about this classic film starring the brutish young Marlon Brando, delicate Vivien Leigh, along with Oscar-winning Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. However, most people may not be aware that a young Lee Marvin played in the stage version in Summer stock. If you think he portrayed the savage Stanley Kowalski, think again. Actually, he played Mitch, Stanley’s oafish co-worker who’s smitten with Stanley’s sister-in-law, Blanche, until he sees the light, as it were. So, when watching the classic film written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Elia Kazan, pay attention to Karl Malden and picture a young Lee Marvin in the role.

Drum Beat (1954), Thursday, January 28 (5:30 am):

(L-R) Alan Ladd as Johnny Mackay and Charles Bronson as Captain Jack in DRUM BEAT.

Other than Marvin himself, the only other actor who spent a longer apprenticeship on the way to superstardom was frequent costar Charles Bronson. His scene-stealing performance as renegade Modoc warrior Captain Jack in the Alan Ladd western Drum Beat may have given hope that success might be right around the corner. Hope springs eternal. He had changed his name from Buchinski to Bronson with this film and got the best reviews of his career up to that time:
“The renegade redskin is forcefully played by Charles Bronson,” Variety.
“Charles Bronson is probably the most muscular Indian ever to brandish a rifle before the camera,” NY Times.
Alan Ladd…is dwarfed by that of Charles Bronson…proud, ruthless, magnificent,” Films and Filming.
Unfortunately, not many folks saw this fact-based color horse opera. He does outshine the nominal star, Alan Ladd, but it would be almost 20 years for audiences to appreciate Bronson’s screen image in 1973’s Death Wish. Watch him in Drum Beat to see what the likes of Lee Marvin and a handful of others had seen long ago.

The Killers (1964), Saturday January 30 (9:30pm) & Sunday, January 31 (7:00 am):

As hired killer Charlie Strom, Lee Marvin gently persuades blind receptionist Virginia Christine  to divulge vital information in Don Siegel’s THE KILLERS.

Ernest Hemingway’s five-page short story was first filmed in 1946 with a star-making debut of Burt Lancaster as the doomed Swede, an ex-boxer awaiting the title characters. The story goes that screenwriter Richard Brooks met Hemingway in a bar and asked him what he thought the reason would be the killers were coming for Swede. A drunken Hemingway apparently slurred, “Damned if I know. Probably had something to do with big money or maybe a special woman…or maybe both.” Thus, a film noir classic was born.
Almost 20 years later, Lew Wasserman of MCA had the idea of reworking it on the cheap as the first TV-movie, that is until JFK was murdered on the streets of Dallas. There is of course infinitely more to tell about the remade little thriller and I was lucky enough to get great stories about it for Lee Marvin Point Blank from such principal players as Angie Dickinson, Clu Gulager, Norman Fell and Bob Phillips. If you’ve read my book you’ll know what to look for when watching the film.

So there you have it, a summary of Lee Marvin films and interests on TCM for January 2021. Enjoy and above all, have a great new year and good riddance to 2020!
– Dwayne Epstein

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EXCLUSIVE CLU GULAGER INTERVIEW EXCERPT

The great Clu Gulager turned 88 years-old on November 16th. In honor of that auspicious event, I chose a never-before-seen excerpt from my interview with him back in January, 1997. It took place on a frosty morning at the Farmer’s Market and he could not have been nicer nor more forthcoming.
Having worked with Lee Marvin in 1964’s The Killers, directed by Don Siegel, Clu Gulager’s input was invaluable to my research to LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK. One of the many stories he imparted that I could not fit into the final version of the book had to do with a scene in the film between Marvin, Gulager and future president, Ronald Reagan in his last acting role. Throughout most of the movie, Gulager and Marvin’s characters had been bullying people to get information. When they get to Reagan, the script called for a secretary in Reagan’s outer office to try and stop them before they get to Reagan. Marvin believed it would be a waste of screen time as the audience would’ve already seen them do it previously in the film. Reagan disagreed as it would be taking lines away from a fellow actor, in this case, the secretary. Director Siegel came up with a compromise in which the actress is shown trying to stop them as they barrel through into Reagan’s office. Gulager had told me that version as seen below. However, when he spoke at Santa Monica’s Aero Theater after a screening of the film, he told a much more colorful version of the same story, adding that actress in question was actually Reagan’s paramour (!)

(L-R) Moderator Jim Hemphill, Point Blank producer Jud Bernard, yours truly, Christopher Marvin and Clu Gulager on stage at the Aero Theater as Gulager gives a VERY different version of the story below.

(L-R) Moderator Jim Hemphill, Point Blank producer Jud Bernard, yours truly, Christopher Marvin and Clu Gulager on stage at the Aero Theater as Gulager gives a VERY different version of the story below.

Dwayne Epstein: OK, on The Killers
Clu Gulager: Let me tell you about that. We came in to do our thing. Where we had to go into the offices of Reagan. I knew nothing of what Don said in his book about this- the lady being Reagan’s sweetheart. I knew nothing about that. Obviously, it had occurred. I think maybe that ticked off Lee because he was pissed off about something. I know they stopped us. It didn’t make any sense to stop us there with the secretary. She said something and then came on. We would have just swept right in there. We wouldn’t let anyone get in out way, apparently.

Lee Marvin's son, Christopher meets up with Clue Gulager who he had not seen since he was a child.

Lee Marvin’s son, Christopher, meets up with Clue Gulager, whom he had not seen since he was a child.

Dwayne: Which was Lee’s idea. He just wanted to rush right into the office.
Clu: Which is the best way. (mimes Lee) “Watch what I’m going to do here”. Lee would rehearse it. We rehearsed it once. Reagan sat behind his desk and Lee did it a certain way in the first rehearsal. Reagan acted a certain way. We rehearsed it again for lights and so forth, so Lee did it another way. He did another interpretation. Mr. Reagan did exactly the same thing he did in the first take. No matter what Lee would do, he would do exactly the same reactions. He had it all planned in his mind. So, we did it a third time, a very complex shot that needed a third rehearsal with the lights and sound, actors up to par, dress rehearsal. Lee did it another way and Reagan did exactly the same thing. Lee said of Reagan at the time, “That guy couldn’t act worth shit. He couldn’t act his way out of a fucking paper bag.” In other words what Lee was saying to me was that you really ride with the situation of the scene. It’s not all preplanned. You have to kind of give and take a little to make it more of a …he was saying that Mr. Reagan didn’t have the ability and so forth. I happened to think, my observation, I loved what Ron did in the scene. I loved what he did in the film. They may have cut out a lot of shit, I don’t know. Whatever they left in, I thought worked for Reagan. Anyway, he was really adamantly against it, Mr, Reagan. I never understood why until I read Don’s book.
Dwayne: Siegel’s book comments on the same incident. I got the sense from other people that Lee’s dislike of Reagan happened even before the movie started. I think they may have worked before together in TV.
Clu: Oh, a lot. What makes me think this is maybe Lee was, I mean Don was stretching it a bit. I don’t believe at that point, Reagan fooled around on his wife. I do not believe that he did. That’s my recollection. I knew him a little bit and I knew her. They were very much in love and I do not believe he had a girl out there who was his paramour and so forth. I didn’t believe it. I don’t believe that Reagan would have stopped the scene and said “Don, I stopped this and I’ll walk off unless….”. I don’t believe it.
Dwayne: Unless I misinterpreted, I remember it as being Reagan, having been SAG president, was very big that every actor gets their line and the woman had several lines. The way Lee wanted to do it, just walk right through. Siegel had said he thought Reagan got on a soapbox; “I’ve never seen such as thing where an actor takes lines out of another actor’s mouth”, etc.
Clu: It happens all the time and it should happen. We know what’s best. Actors are very instinctive.

Clu Gulager signs my copy of Lee Marvin: Point Blank in the lobby of the Aero Theatre. Behind him are (L-R) publisher Tim Schaffner, Lee's daughter Cynthia Michaels, Christopher Marvin, and Cynthia's son, Lee's only grandchild, Matthew Michaels.

Clu Gulager signs my copy of Lee Marvin: Point Blank in the lobby of the Aero Theatre. Behind him are (L-R) publisher Tim Schaffner, Lee’s daughter Cynthia Michaels, Christopher Marvin, and Cynthia’s son, Lee’s only grandchild, Matthew Michaels.

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MY INTERVIEW WITH ‘INVASION’S’ KEVIN McCARTHY

This being the birthday of the late, great Don Siegel (1912-1991), I thought it a perfect opportunity to post my interview with Kevin McCarthy (1914-2010), the star of his most famous film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Yes, Siegel did indeed direct Lee Marvin in The Killers, but that was pretty well covered in Lee Marvin Point Blank via my exclusive interviews wtih Norman Fell, Clu Gulager, Angie Dickinson and Bob Phillips. Siegel’s collaborations with Clint Eastwood may be popular, but to my mind, and many film geeks like me, Invasion was his best work. Besides, this time of the year, it certainly makes more sense to post about that film than say, Dirty Harry.
My 1999 Filmfax interview with McCarthy was no small coup as publisher Mike Stein said they had been trying to get him for years. I lucked out meeting MCarthy at a trade show in which he was hawking his new book at the time in tribute to Invasion (see inside cover below), aptly titled “They’re Here!”

McCarthy's inscription for my copy of his book reads, "To Dwayne Epstein - 'Sleep No More!' Like They're Coming! But they are skipping the fearful Epsteins!"

McCarthy’s inscription for my copy of his book reads, “To Dwayne Epstein – ‘Sleep No More!’ Like They’re Coming! But they are skipping the fearful Epsteins!”

The stars were aligned when he agreed to sit down with me a few weeks later at Musso & Franks. McCarthy was understandably wary of the interview at first, having been burned in the past. He was specific in citing writer Patricia Bosworth in her bio of McCarthy’s best friend, Montgomery Clift. According to McCarthy, she had misquoted him so badly, he vowed to never be interviewed again unless he could have approval of the content before publication. I rarely agree to such conditions but figured it was worth it. My one condition was that seeing how long and varied his career had been, no subject was off limits. The resulting article and accompanying rare photos proved so liked by the publisher, he commissioned artist Harley Brown to render the cover…my first cover article! Enjoy….

Artist Harley Brown's impressive cover image for my Kevin McCarthy interview.

Artist Harley Brown’s impressive cover image for my Kevin McCarthy interview.

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