THE PASSING OF MITCH RYAN

The passing of Mitch Ryan occurred recently but in the midst of such harrowing headlines as Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, the stubborn pandemic and record-setting inflation, the death of a veteran character actor may not get much media attention. However, to this writer it certainly bears attention as I got to know the man, albeit briefly, and found him to be warm, personable and most of all, one hell of an actor. My experience with the man had been blogged about previously here, as well as here,
I was extremely fortunate to get him to go on the record with me about his friendship with Lee Marvin as he proved to be a most valuable source concerning Marvin’s final days, having visited him in the hospital on the last day of his life, all detailed here in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
His passing at the ripe old age of 88 has been chronicled sufficiently on entertainment news websites, citing his work in such films Letha Weapon (1987) and 1960s TV’s “Dark Shadows.” However, I thought he was hysterically funny as the deadpan dad of Greg on TV’s “Dharma & Greg.”
However, the performance I felt was his personal best was the tragically poignant ‘Shorty’ in the criminally underrated Monte Walsh (1970).

Monte Walsh cast

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Mitch Ryan and Jack Palance in MONTE WALSH.

Here’s a spoiler alert warning if you haven’t seen the film but if you have, consider this a rarely known anecdote defining the brilliance of both Marvin and Ryan. The film’s finale consists of former friends Monte (Marvin) and Shorty (Ryan) facing down each other in a gunfight for Shorty’s murdering of Chet (Jack Palance). According to Ryan, it was Marvin’s idea that just before they were to draw on each other, Ryan should drop his arms and open his hands, as an admission of guilt for killing Chet. Director William Fraker clearly liked the idea and did a close-up of Ryan’s hands a split second before Marvin draws on him. What follows is an even more poignant moment as Marvin cradles the dying Ryan in his arms and gives a touching requiem to his fallen comrade. See it again with this new perspective and it just might get even better than you may have remembered it.
And so with the passing of Mitch Ryan the world has again become a little less interesting place. Thank you, Mitch, for your time, generous nature, but most of all your extremely impressive talent.

(L-R) My girlfriend Barbara poses with Mitch Ryan, her hero from “Dark Shadows” at my book signing at Larry Edmunds. Right after I took this, photo, Ryan kissed her cheek (!)

-Dwayne Epstein

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JUNE 2021 ON TCM

June 2021 is almost upon us and with it comes a new month of films on TCM. Unfortunately, the line-up is rather sparse when it comes to Lee Marvin but thankfully, thee are a few (rather redundant) choices. 

Ship of Fools (1965): June 12th, 2021.

Lee Marvin off camera as Bill Tenney in SHIP OF FOOLS. Anyone know who the Annette Benning look-alike is helping Marvin adjust his tie?


This Stanley Kramer directed classic has aired on TCM more than a few times but it’s well worth multiple viewings. Diehard Lee Marvin fans are not particular enamored with it as he’s not toting any heavy firepower. In fact, the only firepower he totes is his racist southern accented dialogue. There are many interesting facts behind the scenes concerning Lee Marvin’s involvement in the film that I’ve blogged about in the past, but the best and most intimate revealing details are of course in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Lee Marvin and the diminutive Michael Dunn share a laugh between scenes.



The film is not entirely successful in its melodrama but if you do choose to watch it having not done so before, be sure to hang in for the great scene between Marvin and Michael Dunn, as well as the climax between Marvin and Vivien Leigh. 

The Bat (1959): June 23rd, 2021.
No, Lee Marvin is not in this Vincent Price thriller but he was, believe it or not, in a stage version of the play early in his career. It’s not known which part he did play but it’s a pretty safe bet it was the Vincent Price role. So with that in mind, watch it….if you dare! 
Ahem, sorry.

I Died a Thousand Times (1955): Junes, 25th, 2021. 
Jack Palance took a stab at leading man status in the scene-for-scene remake of Humphrey Bogart’s High Sierra. Marvin’s scenes are minimal as one of Palance’s goofy henchmen but he did leave an impression on a young Shelley Winters as I wrote about previously.

That’s it for June, 2021, Lee Marvin fans. As I said in the beginning, the choices are sparse but I figure ANY Lee Marvin is better than none. 
– Dwayne Epstein

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SPOILER ALERTS: ONE MAN’S OPINION

Spoiler alerts are not necessarily a new phenomenon as they have existed in all forms of media for some time, whether movies, TV, plays or books. However, the very existence of spoiler alerts, usually accompanied by an obligatory disclaimer, are a major pet peeve. Why? Because if any entity states a spoiler alert is forthcoming and then proceeds to give away an important plot element or worse, the twist finale, they have not done their job. In other words, a film critic who cannot review a film without giving away the ending, should be fired on general principle.  Seems harsh, perhaps, but I stand by it. Such individuals should and can work just a little harder to make their point without ruining a given project for others.
   Believe me, I know as I’ve been faced with that conflict myself. Case in point: My interview with Mitch Ryan concerning his performance in Monte Walsh (1970).

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Mitch Ryan and Jack Palance in MONTE WALSH.


He was not an easy person to get to agree to an interview as he initially turned me down, several times. Luckily, he eventually relented and I am eternally grateful. His exclusive input was invaluable. All of what he told me concerning his friendship with Lee Marvin and the making of Monte Walsh went into Lee Marvin: Point Blank….well, except one anecdote. I mulled it over for some time about its inclusion, as it gave away the end of the film. No spoiler alerts here as ultimately, I did NOT include it, no matter how much I wanted to since it was a wonderful example of Marvin’s creative thinking as an actor. He had suggested something to Ryan that Ryan actually did in the scene and it was a brilliant touch. You’ll just have to see the film and possibly figure it out for yourself.
– Dwayne Epstein 

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