STARTING THE NEW YEAR OFF W/ A GIG: CLINT WALKER!

Happy new year faithful Lee Marvin Point Blank blog readers, and for yours truly, there’s no better way to start the new year than with a a new gig interviewing TV and movie legend Clint Walker! It proved to be another example of my Lee Marvin research turning into something more fortuitous.
The background story is rather interesting. I had interviewed the big fella back in the early days of my work on the book as he costarred with Marvin in The Dirty Dozen. Unfortunately, not all that great stories he related made the book, but hey, that’s where blogs come in handy.  I had then gotten back in touch with him fairly recently in hopes of getting his thoughts on working with Charles Bronson in The Dirty Dozen and then later in Bronson’s strange western/fantasy film, White Buffalo. As for the Bronson project, as Johnny Carson used to say, more to come.
Anyway, having done those two interviews with him, it occurred to me that the good folks who run Filmfax Magazine might be interested in a career-spanning interview with Walker. I contacted publisher Mike Stein about it and it was a go. I then contacted 90-year-old Clint Walker about it and he was slightly less enthusiastic about. He was retired in Northern California with his wife and really didn’t want to have anything to do with the business any more, aside from the occasional memorabilia show. On top of that he had recently suffered a fall and health-wise, he just wasn’t up to it. Well, it took no small amount of convincing by yours truly (as well as several schedule rearrangements!) and more than a little help from Facebook friend Deb Elsie, but eventually……

Filmfax cover for issue #150.

My interview with Clint Walker even made the cover. Seriously.
What’s that?
Don’t see it?
Well, look a little a closer in the top left corner there. Here, let me help…..

Top banner of FIlmfax, Dec.-Feb. 2018.

There, that’s better. Anyway, the interview indeed went well as Walker eventually opened up to talk about his many decades in the industry. I got him to tell great tales on such luminaries as Jack Warner, Cecil B. DeMille, Doris Day, The Bowery Boys, Kim Novak, Frank Sinatra, Arnold Schwarzenegger, even The Beatles! It’s the reason I love what I do.
I’m not going to post the article here, as it’s available in bookstores and newsstands everywhere. However, I can tease you a little to go out and buy a copy with this first page of the 8-page article….

Page 1 of my Filmfax interview with Clint Walker.

If  this teaser does want to make you go out and buy a copy of the magazine that publisher Mike Stein calls, “A five-ounce ton of intelligent fun,” then I humbly thank you.
By the way, if you like what you read, feel free to comment as the magazine really does print any and all letters to the editor. Honest! The contact info is:
FILMFAX MAGAZINE
Re: Edits 1320 Oakton St.
Evanston, IL 60202
Of course, if you didn’t care for the article, let’s just keep that to ourselves, shall we? I thank you and here’s to a happy and prosperous 2018!!
-Dwayne Epstein

Share

FROM THE 1998 FILMFAX ARCHIVES: THE RAT PACK

An old friend recently contacted me via social media about a question she and her husband had been pondering during dinner. It had to do with the infamous Rat Pack and instead of searching Google, she contacted me to ask about the group’s inception. I wrote her back based on what I remembered and the result pleased both her and her husband.
Of course, it also got me to thinking, how DID I know the answer to her query? The senior moment passed when I realized I had, albeit many years ago, written a rather tongue-in-cheek article about that very subject for Filmfax’s sister publication, Outre Magazine.
It was a favorite piece of mine as the subject is a favorite. Even though the articles are all done on spec, I didn’t have to sell this one very hard at all. A simple query was all it took. One of the many reasons I loved writing for the magazine was just that: They liked what I wrote and I liked their subject matter. A perfect fit. Besides, it allowed me to keep my chops up while I continued to research Lee Marvin Point Blank.
And so without further ado…..Oh, one more thing. The cable show I referenced but did not state by name was Mystery Science Theater. Very funny show in it’s day but I didn’t want to risk legal action….or something like that.
So NOW, without further ado, my homage to (please hold your applause until all names have been completed) Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and supporting players Shirley MacLaine, Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall. I give you, THE RAT PACK!
Rather appropriate for this Good Friday, don’t you think?

The Rat Pack in Outre, Page 1

The Rat Pack in Outre, Page 1

The Rat Pack in Outre, Page 2

The Rat Pack in Outre, Page 2

The Rat Pack in Outre, Page 3

The Rat Pack in Outre, Page 3

The Rat Pack in Outre, Page 4

The Rat Pack in Outre, Page 4

The Rat Pack in Outre, Page 5

The Rat Pack in Outre, Page 5

 

 

Share

MY FAVORITE FILM FIGHT SCENES, PART 2 OF 5

As stated in the first installment, writing Lee Marvin Point Blank gave me a new appreciation for movie fight scenes. In this second installment of my favorite film fight scenes, the 1950s and early 1960s are rightfully represented….

6. IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER -1955

(L-R) Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey & MIchael Kidd survery the damage they wreaked aftet their brawl on live TV.

(L-R) Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey & MIchael Kidd survery the damage they wreaked aftet their brawl on live TV.

Let’s be honest, You’re infinitely more likely to see somebody sing and dance down the street then you’ll ever see an intergalactic space battle. Yet the latter rules the current box-office while the former has been relegated to the dustbin of time as being phoney and unrealistic. That’s a shame for many reasons, not the least of which is the amount of talent and ingenuity being wasted by not producing any more original film musicals which was once the bread-and-butter of the industry.
One of the best and least appreciated of the genre was the atypical, It’s Always Fair Weather. Three war buddies vow to remain friends and meet 10 years later only to find they have absolutely nothing in common. Not the plot of a ‘How-are-we-going-to-get-the-show-on’ musical, but an interesting character study that also pokes satirical fun at Madison Ave, professional sports, and most of all that new stranger in the house, television. Gene Kelly had at first thought it would be a sequel to On The Town but opted instead for a dance extravaganza with atheletic Dan Dailey, leggy Cyd Charisse and bite-sized Michael Kidd. I could go on about the greatness of this forgotten classic (it’s the one in which the 3 leads dance with trash-can lids on their feet and Kelly solos on roller skates) but since this about fight scenes check out this movies’ amazing climax. Since all fight scenes are essentially choreographed, who better to show off their prowes in their field than 3 of the best dancers in movie history? Kidd especially shines with rapid movements in, out, down and around the fight but Kelly and Dailey are no slouches. Just watch it some time and see for yourself.

7. BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK-1955

Robert Ryan (left) sics his bulldog Ernest Borgnine (right) on poor one-armed Spencer Tracy (center).

Robert Ryan (left) sics his bulldog Ernest Borgnine (right) on poor one-armed Spencer Tracy (center).

Maybe not THE most, but certainly one of the most influential fight scenes in movie history. A brillian study on that all-American virtue known as bigotry, director John Sturges and writer Millard Kaufman slowly turn the screws of tension as middle-aged, one-armed, slightly paunchy Spencer Tracy gets shut out in his attempts to find out what happened to his war-time comrade, Komoko, in the sleepy desert town of Black Rock. The film is brimming with great moments (including several with lower-billed henchman Lee Marvin) but the highlight is without question what happens when bulldog-squeezed-into-a-pair-of-jeans Ernest Borgnine taunts Tracy into a fight.
How could Tracy possibly come out alive? As Steve Allen said to me when I interviewed him back in the 90s: “The moment when poor, one-armed Spencer Tracy finally lashed out as the good guy, elicited from a good neighborhood totally white audience the loudest ‘Yeah!’ I ever heard in my life in a movie. I mean you hear it at football games and such but I never heard a [movie] audience do that before.”

8.THE KENTUCKIAN 1955

Director and star Burt Lancaster (left) lays it on bad guy Walter Matthau (right) in Matthau's film debut.

Director and star Burt Lancaster (left) lays it on bad guy Walter Matthau (right) in Matthau’s film debut.

Burt Lancaster made his directorial debut with this film, and although rarely appreciated in his canon of work, it has one of my all-time favorite fight scenes. Walter Matthau made his film acting debut as Lancaster’s nemesis, taking him on with a whip as Lancaster battles bare-fisted. It’s a western, but unlike most westerns it takes place in the early 1800s, tells the tale of a traveling backwoods single father and his young son and, despite some overly talky scenes, has some phenomonally action scenes. It buils to a fight between Lancaster and Matthau, whom we’ve seen is an expert with a bullwhip while all Lancaster has is bare knuckles. Feel sorry for Matthau, who does make you think he has ol’ Burt out maneuvered….for a little while, anyway.
Becuause former acrobat Lancaster directed the film, he gave himself a rousing end scene in which he races through a pond without cutting away in order to stop his enemy from relaoding his flintlock. Must be seen to be believed.

9. WEST SIDE STORY-1961

Richard Beymer (left) as Tony scrambles to help Russ Tamblyn as RIff (center) against rival gang leader Bernardo (right) played by Geroge Chakiris.

Richard Beymer (left) as Tony scrambles to help Russ Tamblyn as RIff (center) against rival gang leader Bernardo (right) played by Geroge Chakiris.

Yeah, it’s a favorite and since there’s very little I can add about this classic that hasn’t been said already a million times, I’ll just go on about what it means to me personally. Oh, other than it’s another example of a movie still chided for being less beleviable than a superhero franchise simply because street gangs don’t go around dancing the mean streets of NYC. Right. But caped crusaders do. Please!
Anyway, when I was a kid and first saw the knife fight ballet, it scared the hell out of me! Seriously.  I bought into the film’s premise completely and since I was just a kid, I picked sides. Russ Tamblyn as Riff was a favorite since seeing him in Tom Thumb and then seeing the gymnasitc dancing he did made him even more a favorite. I still recall being on the edge of my seat during that knife fight and my pounding heart jumping into my throat at the outcome. I really didn’t expect it and watching it today, it still gets to me. Sure, they’re dancing in the fight but it makes it no less belevable to me. I recall George Chakiris once saying that Jerome Robbins taught him the difference in dancing between just movement in step and movement as character and geez, does it show in this sequence. Watch it again and you’ll see what I mean.
Oh, one more  afterthought:  Tamblyn and Chakiris have remained friends through the years and recently, Tamblyn underwent open heart surgery. Apparently it was touch-and-go but when they wheeled him out of post-op one of the people Tamblyn saw nervously awaiting the outcome, was Chakiris. They locked eyes and Tamblyn smiled, held up his hand and snapped his fingers. Is that cool or what? I guess Riff was right: “When you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way….”

10. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE-1962

Henry Silva (left) as a VERY savvy houseboy and Frank Sinatra (right) do battle.

Henry Silva (left) as a VERY savvy houseboy and Frank Sinatra (right) do battle.

If a paranoid cold war thriller can be considered perfect, than this is the one.  Why they thought it neccessary to remake it 2004, is beyond me. Well, they didn’t ask me so there you go…..
Anyway, from the very first scene this one grabs you. The opening (suggested to director John Frankenheimer by Frank Sinatra) sets the tone for the unrelenting weirdness to come, all the way up to and including the amazing ending. In the midst of the strange doings, Korean War vet Frank Sinatra, frsutrated over the nightmares he’s experiencing, confronts one of the people in his nightmare, Korean houseboy Henry Silva (!?) Both being combat vets, they tangle in hand-to-hand-combat while Sinatra desperatley tries to extract needed information from Silva. It’s a fight scene that is filmed, edited, and performed in a highly stylized format for the early 60s and consequently, still packs a wallop. A true stand-out in films in general but especially for a film already brimming with stand outs.
I remember seeing an interview Barbara Walters did with Frank Sinatra late in his life in which they toured his Palm Springs home. They then settled in by the pool in which Walters noticed the giant Queen of Diamonds shimmering in the cement beneath the crystal clear water. She then asked Sinatra, “Is that a symbol from your Vegas Rat Pack days?” Sinatra smiled at her and said, “Actually, Barbara, it’s from a film I made years ago called The Machurian Candidate….”
I hate a journalist who doesn’t do their homework.

Share