MOVIE MAN WAVE ON ITS WAY…AND IT’S NOT THE FIRST TIME

Movie man wave? Whatever it is, it’s on its way, according to an article in Deadline Hollywood. I’m assuming the writer is trying to come up with a new, hip phrase along the lines of “Bro-mance,” or some other term in these days of viral social media. Based on the comment section he appears to be taking his lumps for it, too. Personally, I think ‘movie man wave’ is a terrible term but the movies he’s referring to all sound like winners. From Ford Vs. Ferrari to The Irishman and more, it’s looking to be a great end of the year movie season. Of course, nothing in Hollywood happens as a stand alone as Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood started the current trend last summer.
Truth be told, it’s a trend that actually started as far aback as silent movies, with the likes of What Price Glory? (1926). Some of the best early ones co-starred the likes of James Cagney and Pat O’Brien, or Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. When I was growing up such films were called ‘Buddy Movies,’ which made more sense than ‘Bro-mance or ‘Man Wave.’

Paul Newman and Lee Marvin may have lacked chemistry in POCKET MONEY but the film did allow for this wonderful candid image of Marvin that remains my favorite.

The actor who made more films in this realm? Probably Lee Marvin, whether as friends, rivals, or downright enemies, he worked with all the other major male stars in that capacity. It’s an impressive list that includes the likes of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune, Jack Palance, Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Robert Shaw, Richard Burton, Oliver Reed, practically the entire spectrum of male movie stars. The final result often varied in quality but the star power certainly didn’t. And what did Marvin think of this various and divergent list of co-stars? That answer can only be found in detail within the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank.
– Dwayne Epstein

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WRITER/DIRECTOR RICHARD BROOKS: THE NIGHT WE MET

Writer/director Richard Brooks has not been as historically lauded as many other directors but he’s always been a personal favorite of mine. I’ve been an admirer of many of his films long before I began researching Lee Marvin Point Blank and unfortunately, he passed away before I really started that research. A shame really as I would have liked to have gotten his take on working with Marvin on one of the best films either of them ever made: The Professionals (1966).

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Richard Brooks and Woody Strode discuss a scene for THE PROFESSIONALS.

As an aside, I recently found out that one of Brooks last and highly underrated films, Bite The Bullet (1975), was originally going to be a prequel of sorts to The Professionals, with Gene Hackman and James Coburn playing the characters Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster played in The Professionals. By the way, if you haven’t seen Bite The Bullet, I highly recommend it.

Writer/director Richard Brooks pictured in Maureen Lambray’s photo book, AMERICAN FILM DIRECTORS and as he looked at the time I met him.

One night, back in the early 1980s, a friend and I went to the Nuart in Santa Monica to see a Brooks double feature of Elmer Gantry (1960) and The Professionals, in which Brooks did a Q&A following both films. Knowing that the Oscar-winning writer/director had a penchant for adapting successful books and plays, I asked him about that, which allowed for the following exchange in the crowded theater:

Me: Knowing that in the stage version of Sweet Bird of Youth Paul Newman’s character is castrated, what did you think of the criticism the film got when you changed it to Newman getting beat up?
Brooks: What do I think of the castration of Paul Newman? Oh, I’m all for it!

The crowded theater roared with laughter followed by applause. It didn’t bother me that he avoided answering my query. I was glad to be able to feed him such a well used straight line. A group of us followed him out to the parking lot to continue the discussion when a little red sports car convertible came screeching in front of him. The female driver emphatically asked Brooks, “How can I get in touch with Burt Lancaster? HE IS SO HOT!” Everyone laughed and Brooks chuckled, “Sorry, dear. I haven’t seen or heard from Burt in years.”

The program from the double feature retrospective honoring writer/director Richard Brooks that he graciously signed for me.

….And then there was the time I got Robert Altman mad at me….oy!
– Dwayne Epstein

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JOHN FRANKENHEIMER: STORIES OF LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK: Part 1

Several folks have told me that the stories of some of my encounters in researching Lee Marvin: Point Blank are worthy of a book itself. Well, with that in mind, I’ve decided to recount some of those adventures periodically via this blog. First up, the late, great film and TV director, John Frankenheimer. L.A. Times film critic Charles Champlin graciously put me in contact with Frankenheimer of whom whose films I have been a fan of, such as The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May, Bird Man of Alcatraz and especially the underrated Seconds.
Getting the interview itself was somewhat rocky as schedule conflicts, traffic, and unfortunate events kept cropping up on both ends. Yet, I persevered. In doing so I learned a basic rule of thumb that a researcher can really do nothing about but grit one’s teeth and sally forth. Works like this: If the subject is amenable and easy to get along with, then whoever you must come in contact with in their sphere is almost always the opposite, i.e. managers/agents/assistant/Gal Fridays, etc. Since Frankenheimer was ultimately a wonderful interview, you can guess what his assistant was like. She’ll remain nameless out of respect, but geez, did she put me through the wringer!
As for Frankenheimer, he could not have been more forthcoming with wonderful heretofore unknown tales of working with Marvin in both early live television and in the mammoth undertaking of filming Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh with Marvin in the starring role as Hickey. I had no idea that both Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando were up for the role which Frankenheimer savored with delight in recounting how glad he was that Marvin played it. There were other revelations, of course, but you have to read the book to discover those.

Director John Frankenheimer (left) with Lee Marvin on the set of The Iceman Cometh (1973).

Director John Frankenheimer (left) with Lee Marvin on the set of The Iceman Cometh (1973).

Here’s the interesting part. The interview was conducted in his temporary offices for the editing and promotion of his then latest project, the cable movie he directed about Andersonville. As such, the quarters were rather cramped with narrow hallways throughout to connect the trailer-like buildings. As for Frankenheimer himself, he had a striking a presence, with a resonant voice, tinged with a slight New England accent and a broad-shouldered build well over six feet, more than enough to intimidate my scrawny little 5 foot 6 frame. I was not surprised to find out later that he had originally wanted to be an actor. He could have been quite successful with his massive frame and impressive bearing.
All this is stated to set the scene. The interview over, we shook hands. said our goodbyes and I make a quick trip to the restroom before going out to my car for the long trek home on the 405. As I turned the corner on the way out, Frankenheimer was turning the narrow corner towards me. With no one else around at the time, he seized the moment to put the final punctuation on our conversation.

As he looked when I met with him, from the L.A. Times obituary of John Frankenheimer.

As he looked when I met with him, from the L.A. Times obituary of John Frankenheimer.

His massive hand jutted out just slight below my throat to slam me against the wall. Pinned like a butterfly, allI I could do was stare at him. Doing that very theatrical thing that tough guys like to do in movies, he looked away from me, sniffed the air slightly and said, “You’re not going to take any cheap shots in your book,” then looked directly at me to add, “Are you?” In my head I was saying,”That’s none of your business, buddy!” What came out of my mouth was, “Of course not, Mr. Frankenheimer, sir.” He held me there a few seconds more, staring me down, and then, finally released me. I slid down the wall slightly, checked my neck to make sure it was still there and then sheepishly left to my car. I tried like hell to look as masculine as possible, but I think I looked as masculine as Don Knotts. As I drove home I kept thinking to myself, “Are all the interviews gonna go like this and is it worth it?” The answer would take me months and even years to discover.

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