November 2021 on TCM is going to be terrific for us Lee Marvin fans. They’ll be showing three of his films and a plethora of other films related to his career. The choices may seem to be a bit of a stretch, but one need merely read Lee Marvin Point Blank to see it’s no stretch at all. The titles below bear this out:
The Rack (1956) Thursday, November 11, 3 a.m.
Starring Paul Newman in one of his first films, Marvin costars in a small yet important role as a fellow Korean War-era P.O.W. who testifies during Newman’s court-martial for collaborating with the enemy. A similar theme akin to Marvin’s Sergeant Ryker (1968), the film is rather dated but does have its moments, due mainly to the all-star cast. Interesting trivia discovered by yours truly after my book came out but blogged about here.
The Dirty Dozen (1967) Thursday, November 11, 12:30 p.m.
A TCM favorite that is, like The Rack, airing appropriately enough on Veteran’s Day this November 2021. There’s not much more that I can possibly say about this timeless classic that made me a Lee Marvin fan and also hoisted him into the rare atmosphere of superstardom but as my next project suggests, I’m discovering fascinating, unheard of details all the time, so stay tuned!
The Professionals (1966) Saturday, November 20, 9 a.m.
Not only one of Lee Marvin’s best films, but a solid classic in its own right, The Professionals deserves a much better reputation than its legacy suggests, which means no matter how many times you’ve seen it, you’ll want to see it again…and again, and again. Yeah, it’s that good. See for yourself if you don’t believe me and discover also some behind-the-scene factoids along the way.
Below are some other films airing November 2021 that have an interesting connection to Lee Marvin’s career:
Out of the Past (1947) Friday, November 12, 10:30 a.m.
Considered by many to be one of, if not the greatest film noir of all time, Marvin would have fit in quite comfortably in this film, although it was made before he launched his acting career. Robert Mitchum stars as a man looking to forget his dubious past but his former gangster boss played by Kirk Douglas ferrets him to find his femme fatale girlfriend played by Jane Greer. Naturally sparks fly and soon all hell breaks lose. Marvin would be right in either role but I’d like to think he’d add and extra something in the Kirk Douglas role. You be the judge.
The French Connection (1971) Saturday, November 13, 5 p.m.
Quite possibly the best 1970s cop film ever that once again, just gets better with the passage of time. Airing for the film’s 50th anniversary, Gene Hackman earned a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar as Popeye Doyle, a tough cop doggedly determined to bust the biggest heroin ring in NYC history. Based on the real life exploits of Eddie Egan (who, along with partner Sonny Grosso, had supporting roles in the films), it also won the Oscar for Best Picture. All well and good and all properly documented. So, what is it doing in this compendium of Lee Marvin films and themes? I recently discovered that Marvin was considered (among many others) for the lead role. Seriously. Would have been interesting but in all honesty, I’m actually glad he didn’t do it. No one could have been better than Hackman.
The Lineup (1958) Saturday, November 13, 9 p.m.
Based on the CBS radio and TV series of the same name, this obscure little thriller pairs Eli Wallach and Robert Keith as a couple of professional criminals looking to retrieve a cache of smuggled heroin. So, once again, why is it mentioned here? The film was directed by the underrated Don Siegel who often provided brilliance on a small budget, such as the similar-themed The Killers (1964) a few years later. Watch the relationship between psychotic Wallach and his mentor Keith and see if it reminds you of Marvin and Clu Gulager. If you do watch it, make sure to check out that slam bang ending!
The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) Monday, November 15, 1 pm and Saturday, November, 27, 2:45 pm.
A classic in its own right, it also stands as one of Lee Marvin’s personal favorite films. And with good reason, as I showed in an earlier blog. Its reputation is well deserved but I’ll add my own two cents. I’ve never really been that big of a Humphrey Bogart fan, depending largely on the film itself. I thought the man came off rather stiff too often. However, when he played characters dangling on the edge of sanity as in The Caine Mutiny (1954) or In A Lonely Place (1950), then he was something to see. No where is that more true than his performance here as Fred C. Dobbs. It’s brilliant.
The Split (1968) Wednesday, November 24, 2:30 p.m.
Hot off the success of The Dirty Dozen, big Jim Brown reteams with fellow Dozen alum Ernest Borgnine and Donald Sutherland in this variation of Point Blank with a fascinating cast and premise. Brown is recently released from prison and is hired by mob boss Julie Harris (!) to rob a football stadium with cohorts Borgnine and Sutherland along with Warren Oates and Jack Klugman. As a typical 60s caper film it fits its time period but the sparks really fly AFTER the caper as the title suggests. Diahann Carroll is Brown’s love interest, Gene Hackman is a crooked cop who wants a piece of the split and James Whitmore is a psychotic sex criminal as crazed as any movie villain can be. Some cast, huh? Point Blank connection aside, check it out for yourself for that powerhouse cast alone!
So, there you have some cinematic goodies and thoughts about them that are airing November 2021 on TCM. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein