PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: AN OP-ED

The ongoing controversy surrounding the candidacy, election, and then presidency of Donald Trump has raised the question a while back (in my mind at least), what would Lee Marvin had thought of him? Before I go any further with that thought, allow me to give an important disclaimer: I never met Lee Marvin personally, therefore I am no expert on his politics, nor am I any kind of political expert, per se. In the words of Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers.
However, while researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank, I think I can come to some logical conclusions. Granted, there were not any candidates like Donald Trump when Lee Marvin was alive, but there is a way of confirming Marvin’s political viewpoint which is stated in detail in the book.
All that said, President Donald Trump is well on his way to become arguably the single worst commander-in-chief this country has ever seen. There are a plethora of examples given in the daily news cycle since he’s been in office. Most recently, and most devastating is the effect his administration has had on the COVID-19 pandemic. He knew about it as far back as January/February of this year and did nothing to stem its tide. Now,over six months into this nightmare, he continues to do nothing as tens of thousands of citizens continue to get sick and die and the economy implodes.
On top of that, it’s recently been reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin has offered bounties to Afghan soldiers who kill American soldiers in that ongoing war. Trump claims he was not aware of such intelligence info during any briefings. However, since it’s been reported, the Trump Administration has done nothing to condemn the Russian government, nor retaliated in any way. His Democratic rival, former vie-president Joe Biden has called Trump’s reaction, whether he was aware of it then or since, “A dereliction of duty.” He was being diplomatic. It’s quite simply treason in the face of a foreign enemy.

What do any of these horrific revelations concerning President Donald Trump have to do with Lee Marvin? I think the answer can be found in the 1956 Robert Aldrich directed film, Attack! in which Marvin costarred. The underrated WWII drama was quite controversial in its day, as I had blogged previously. The star of the film was Jack Palance, in a rare sympathetic role.

(L-R) Lee Marvin as Col. Clyde Bartlett and Eddie Albert as Capt. Erskine Cooney in Robert Aldrich’s ATTACK!

However, I think it can be seen that the characters portrayed by both Marvin and Eddie Albert may be the two sides of Donald Trump, candidate and president. Marvin is Colonel Bartlett, a platoon leader with political aspirations after the war. His cunning and wily ways are shown to be similiar to that of candidate Trump as his ultimate goal is purely selfish. He enlists the aid of his friend, Captain Erskine Cooney to help plan an attack as the Battle of Bulge looms. Bartlett’s history with Cooney goes back to their childhood, when Bartlett clerked for Cooney’s politically powerful father, hence Bartlett’s postwar aspirations.
Then there is Cooney, as brilliantly and frighteningly portrayed by Eddie Albert. He is without question a bully and a coward masquerading as an officer, consequently putting his men’s lives in danger. I won’t spoil it for anyone who has not seen the film but to my mind, Cooney’s actions rival the recent ones of President Donald Trump. See the film and draw your own conclusions.
What brought it to mind for me was the publication of the book by Trump’s niece, Mary Trump. I have not read it yet but the many revelations being reported about it concerning Trump’s father treatment of his son and that of Captain Cooney’s revelation about his own father are quite remarkable.

The cover of Mary Trump’s new book about her uncle: TOO MUCH AND NEVR ENOUGH.

The book’s cover is Trump’s military school photo. The last time I saw that image was in the New York Daily News and it had served a different a purpose. But the very image is what brought to mind Trump in the first place….

Cover of New York’s Daily News when Trump was still a candidate.

The comparison for me is undeniable. Cunning political manipulator like Col. Bartlett and candidate Trump — or cowardly military leader endangering the lives of American soldiers, like Capt. Cooney and President Trump? A little of both or more one than the other? I have my own opinion and I’m pretty sure in light of recent revelations, Lee Marvin would agree with me.
– Dwayne Epstein.

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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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BURT LANCASTER: THE NIGHT WE MET

Burt Lancaster is one of three individuals I consider my all-time favorite movie actors, a holy trinity, if you will. The other two — James Cagney and Steve McQueen — I never had the good fortune to meet. However, one memorable night in the 1980s, I spent at least a half an hour talking with Lancaster one-on-one in the alcove of the Nuart Theater in Santa Monica. Seriously.

The facade of the Nuart Theater where I first me Burt Lancaster.

Long before I began working on Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was living a very strange existence. By day, I was a janitor at Kaiser Permanente in Downey, and by night, I went to movie premieres via the freelance writing I did for our local newspaper. My friends and I also haunted all the great revival theaters on the L.A. scene, depending on the scheduled programs. I distinctly remember reading the program of the Nuart one day while at work and seeing an upcoming screening for a Lancaster double feature of The Professionals & The Scalphunters, two of his best! In a small box at the bottom of the listing were the words: “Mr. Lancaster will appear between films, schedule permitting.” Since he had been in the news recently due to major bypass surgery, I thought the chance of his appearances were slim to none. Even so, I knew I’d regret not taking the chance if he did somehow show up since surgery aside, he rarely did such events even in good health. Besides, they’re great films to see on the big screen.
My best friend and his fiancee’ were students at CalArts so we arranged to meet that night at the theater along with some of his classmates. On the outside chance Lancaster showed up, I brought along my original poster to Birdman of Alcatraz for him to sign if he was willing. No pressure.
Well, my friends arrived, the movie started, and since I knew it inside and out, I went with my gut that if he showed up, it would be around this time. I ambled outside, and waited outside the lobby with its colorful sunburst mosaic along with a few other fans. In no time at all a sleek jet black Jaguar cut thru traffic, then pulled to the curb and out popped the man. Dressed in a black suit with a turtleneck and sporting a salt & pepper goatee, he whirled around with that Lancaster smile and asked, “How’s that for a New York driver?” Among the gathered, not a word was said as the movie geeks stared at the bona fide movie star in stony silence. I’m a movie fan but deny my geek-dom, as I had a pretty non-movie related social life.
So, I broke into applause and said “Very nice. Very nice indeed.” He smiled back at me, walked up, shook my hand and thus began our conversation as he signed my poster.

The poster I framed after Burt Lancaster signed it.

Check out the blurry image in the top right corner.

The interior of the Nuart is festooned with retro movie posters and a small couch in an alcove under a giant poster of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which is where our conversation continued. I’m embarrassed to admit that much of the memory of our talk has vanished into time, other than a few highlights, such as telling him about going to see him and Kirk Douglas in their play in San Francisco (that adventure can be read here).

Burt Lancaster as he looked around the time I met him.

I do remember that I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually talking to Burt Lancaster. In fact, at one point I said as much and he responded, “Listen son, we’re having a nice conversation. Don’t ruin it….” He then threw his head back and did that famous Lancaster laugh. I had to tell him, “You do you really good!” To which he knowingly stated, “Oh no. Frank Gorshin does me MUCH better!”
It wasn’t long before someone came over and told him it was time to speak. We said our goodbyes and I joined my friends inside. When my buddy asked where the hell I was, I told him, “I’ll tell you later.”
The house lights then went up and the man was introduced to thunderous applause. He spoke briefly and then took questions. What was extremely cool was that the audience consisted of true Lancaster fans. Someone asked about Nick Cravat and there was a smattering of applause. Lancaster smiled and asked the audience, “You know Nick?” Then the place went nuts. He laughed heartily and said, “Well, I’ll tell him you said hello!”
And so it went. A truly magically night of movie memories. I’ve often wondered why he didn’t do such things more often as he clearly enjoyed himself at the event. Years later, when I began working on Lee Marvin Point Blank, I thought about that night many times, thinking how perfect it would have been had I asked about The Professionals and working on that particular classic. Such was not to be of course, but, I did talk to costars Woody Strode, Jack Palance, Lancaster’s career-long stunt double Tony Epper, producer Phil Parslow and more. Each went on the record with exclusive tales about Burt, Lee, director Richard Brooks and more, all of which can be found only in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank.

From the many photos in LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK that I was able to caption.

Until then, all the best, and if you ever get the chance to meet your idols, by all means do it. You won’t be disappointed. At least I wasn’t.
– Dwayne Epstein.

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