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 This includes unpublished interviews with cast and crew members resulting in this remarkable story.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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MAY 2021 ON TCM

May 2021 on TCM is offering a nice assortment of Lee Marvin films as well as Lee Marvin related films for the diehard and novice fan alike. Unfortunately, the treasures are not on display until the middle of the month and later. However, the line-up is certainly worth waiting for as it includes projects from the earliest part of his lengthy career as well as Marvin inspired projects and films he was offered but ultimately turned down. All of which makes for a wonderful cross section for May 2021 on TCM. Titles and dates are listed below but check local listing for air time. If you want greater detail as to each projects’ importance, there’s always Lee Marvin Point Blank

The Big Heat (1953), Saturday, May 15th: Fritz Lang’s ultra violent crime thriller (at least for 1953) stars Glenn Ford as a tough city cop out to bust up the mob responsible for his wife’s murder.

Debbie (Gloria Grahame) taunts her sadistic boyfriend, Vince Stone (Lee Marvin).


A terrific supporting cast actually steal the show (especially pouty-lipped Gloria Grahame), and that includes a young Lee Marvin as sadistic Vince Stone, dubbed by N.Y. Times critic Vincent Canby as “The Merchant of Menace,” and with good reason! Marvin’s opinion of his director and costars are detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank, as well as a rather unsavory run-in concerning Glenn Ford several years later. 

The Rack (1956), Thursday, May 20th: A showcase for the talents of a young Paul Newman, this Rod Serling & Stewart Stern scripted drama explores the phenomenon of American soldiers consorting with the enemy during the Korea War. Marvin delivers in a small yet essential role in two powerful scenes. An all-star cast enlivens the proceedings with Marvin and Newman reuniting on more equal ground almost two decades later for Pocket Money (1972).

Original ad campaign for THE RACK (1956).


I had not written much about The Rack in my book due to Marvin’s small contribution, but this blog helped me discover a fascinating detail that I would have included had I known about it at the time. Instead, it can be read here

Petulia (1968), Friday, May 21st: Director Richard Lester’s stylized film depicting swinging 1960’s San Francisco was first offered to Marvin who turned it down. In doing so, it opened the door to allow George C. Scott to play the frustrated middle-aged doctor infatuated with the kooky title character played by the luminous Julie Christie. The film is a time capsule

The original psychedelic poster art for PETULIA (1968).


that also includes a wonderful supporting cast, not the least of which is a VERY creepy Richard Chamberlain looking to change his image from the clean-cut Dr. Kildare.

Not only picture Marvin playing the role, but look quick for members of the San Francisco comedy troupe The Committee (Howard Hesseman most notably), The Grateful Dead (A very funny Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh & Bob Weir) as well as Big Brother and The Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin.
   Another film Marvin turned down reportedly without even reading the script gave Scott his greatest success the following year. Any guesses?

Point Blank (1967), Saturday, May 22nd: This seminally influential films, is, as I like to call it, the first arthouse action film. What can be said about this neo-noir cult clasic that hasn’t been said already by yours truly and countless others?

Point Blank, 1967




John Boorman’s vastly original style still packs a wallop due largely to star Lee Marvin’s haunting performance.


Again, a veteran supporting cast keeps the film watchable, along with the surrealistic execution presented in muted colors, trippy sound, innovative editing and photography. At the end of the day it’s still Lee Marvin one recalls long after the film is done. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a surprise. If you have seen it, see it again. As with all classics, there’s always more to experience with each viewing.


Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), Tuesday, May 25th: Once again, a stylized 1960s film, this time strangely directed by the legendary John Huston and starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. 

Original poster for Reflections in a Golden Eye.


The basic premise is easy to describe but the characters and execution certainly are not. Brando is a southern military officer unhappily married to shrewish Elizabeth Taylor, who is carrying on an affair with docile Brian Keith, who is unhappily married to fragile Julie Harris. Along for the strange proceedings is Robert Forster making his film debut as a young recruit who pines for Taylor. Hence the premise.
   As for the execution, it’s all shot in a strange and sickly sepia tone and the character interactions go beyond bizarre, especially Brando. It’s all based on an equally bizarre novel by Carson McCullers. its inclusion here is based on the fact that Marvin was offered the Brando role but ultimately turned it down. Taylor had accepted the role as a chance to help her close friend, Montgomery Clift, who died before he could play the part. Longtime Clift rival Brando came aboard and the entire production is an acquired taste. I found the film rather mesmerizing, even more so if you imagine Lee Marvin in the role. After all, he did say, this.

The Devils Brigade (1968), & Kelly’s Heroes (1970) both Sunday, May 30th: Here are two films that applied 1960s sensibilities to the genre of WWII action films in the wake of the immense popularity of The Dirty Dozen. Although The Devil’s Brigade is not as well known, personally, I like them both, with maybe Brigade, a little bit more.

Original ad art for The Devil’s Brigade not accidentally similiar to the Dirty Dozen.

Allegedly based on a true story, it tells the story of a team of crackerjack Canadian soldiers led by Cliff Robertson, teaming up with a ragtag group of American G.I.s led by Vince “Ben Casey” Edwards all under the command of an over-the-hill William Holden. They even managed to recruit ‘Dozen’ alum Richard Jaeckel in a scene stealing performance as a jackrabbit-like G.I. named Omar. The standout is Claude Akins in a performance to rival John Cassavetes in Dozen. Unfortunately, there’s also an annoying performance by Andrew Prine and plenty of former football players, ala Jim Brown in The Dirty Dozen.  
   As for Kelly’s Heroes, Dirty Dozen alumni Donald Sutherland and Telly Savalas along with comedian Don Rickles are the best thing in the movie that sadly toplines a very wooden Clint Eastwood. A former boss and I were once comparing the films and he argued Kelly’s Heroes had a more believable premise of men risking their lives not for glory but for a treasure of Nazi gold. All I can say to that is you be the judge.

The Dirty Dozen (1967), Monday, May 31st: Not the first film with a plot consisting of WWII renegades on a secret mission, but certainly the best.

Poster for THE DIRTY DOZEN, the best of Men on a Mission films in which the genre is defined in the ad.



Even before The Devils’s Brigade and Kelly’s Heroes, there was Roger Corman’s The Secret Invasion (1964) with a similar theme. All that aside, this “men-on-a-mission” classic puts all the others to shame. TCM has long been a fan of this timeless classic, showing it whenever they can and promoting it as well, as seen here. Not much more to add to that, other than to suggest it certainly is worthy of repeat viewings. 

So, there you have it: May 2021 on TCM for Lee Marvin fans. Things are surely looking up!
• Dwayne Epstein

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TRINI LOPEZ SUCCUMBS TO COVID-19

Trini Lopez, renowned entertainer and costar of Lee Marvin’s The Dirty Dozen, passed away recently, a victim of the Corona virus pandemic. He was 83  years old. 

Original DIRTY DOZEN vinyl soundtrack cover featuring Trini Lopez.

He was one of the film’s last surviving stars and despite his character’s early offscreen death (explained by Clint Walker in Lee Marvin: Point Blank), he remained popular with audiences throughout his life. 
 I was not all that familiar with his background until I read his obit recently. Quite fascinating stuff, in my opinion. Now that he’s gone, that leaves only Donald Sutherland (85) and Jim Brown (84) still alive from the original cast of stars. It is with that in mind, I present some rare graphics highlighting Trini Lopez’s small yet important contribution to the creation and promotion of the now classic 1967 war film. Rest in Peace, Trini…..
– Dwayne Epstein

Back of the original soundtrack album that lists all the film’s music cues and placement in the film. Too bad all soundtracks don’t do this.

From the rarely seen program to THE DIRTY DOZEN in which the huge cast describe their own characters, including Trini Lopez. Much of these quotes were also used for the film’s trailer.

MAD Magazine’s parody, entitled DIRTIER BY THE DOZEN, includes this funny little depiction of Lopez by cartoonist Mort Drucker, as “Jose Jimenez.”

From my own record collection (yes, I am fan of his music!), the back cover to one of his several live performance albums. Check out the lineup of musicians! Jesse Lopez is Trini’s brother.

An extremely strange news clipping from the late 70s during the infamous palimony suit : (L-R) Lopez, Michele Triola, Marvin Mitchelson, Gloria Allred (yes, THAT Gloria Allred) and Bill Dana. Don’t know what he’s doing with his hands but he was the original “Jose Jimenez.”

 

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