RAOUL WALSH

Raoul Walsh, the legendary director of countless classic films, was the subject of a wonderful documentary I watched recently on TCM entitled The True Adventures of Raoul Walsh (2014). I’ve always been a fan of Walsh’s work but had my eyes opened to some of the man’s personal experiences of which I knew very little, such as his friendships with the likes of Mark Twain, Wyatt Earp and Pancho Villa. 
 Those factors aside, it was the man’s plethora of films that has stood the test of time as he, along with a handful of others (John Ford, Howard Hawks, etc), were the pioneers of American action films. Of course, when it came to more contemporary action films there are the likes of Robert Aldrich and Sam Peckinpah.
   I mention these gentlemen in total because one of the things they had in common is that I believe Lee Marvin may be the only actor who worked for all of them, with the exception of Howard Hawks. So, imagine my pleasant surprise when the Walsh documentary included a late life interview with Marvin. He told a great anecdote about the man that was echoed later by the likes of the late Jane Russell and Tab Hunter. 

(L-R) Phil Carey, Roberta Haynes and Lee Marvin in Raoul Walsh’s Gun Fury.

The film Marvin made for Walsh was a western programmer entitled Gun Fury (1953)  that toplined a young Rock Hudson and Donna Reed, along with Leo Gordon, Phil Carey, Roberta Haynes and Neville Brand. What isn’t mentioned n the documentary was the fact that film was shot in 3-D ….and Walsh only had one eye! 

Original poster for Gun Fury that shows Lee Marvin terrorizing Donna Reed in the top left corner.


   Also not mentioned was the ingenious additions Marvin added on camera and, according to costar Leo Gordon, the ingenious pranks he pulled off camera. all of which are recounted in Lee Marvin Point Blank. 

   Of course,the post-civil war revenge tale of Gun Fury is not one of anybody’s more impressive works but the fact it was made at all certainly looked good on Marvin’s resume’. 

The highlight of the Raoul Walsh documentary for me was the better films he made with such stalwart Warner Brothers stars as Errol Flynn (Gentleman Jim), Ann Sheridan (They Drive By Night), and mostly James Cagney (Strawberry Blonde, The Roaring Twenties & White Heat), among others. He was an original, that’s for sure and although it’s cliche’ to say it, the cliche in this case was born of truth: We shall never see his like again.

(L-R) Errol Flynn, director Raoul Walsh & set visitor James Cagney.


– Dwayne Epstein

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100 BEST FILMS OF ALL TIME

100 Best Films of All Time? Pretty impressive concept for a list, if I do say so myself. A gargantuan undertaking, to be sure, but I recently came across a website attempting to do just that. Granted, such lists have existed elsewhere, such as within the American Film Institute and elsewhere. What makes this particular list different is how updated it is to include films as recent as 2021.
   Therein lies the problem. I can understand updating a list every five or ten years or so. However, to be considered “the best” anything requires several aspects, most notably, the test of time. A film released last year may be considered great now but in a few years could be largely forgotten or considered overrated in its day. This particular list can be taken to task for just that reason among others. It also failed to acknowledge several known classics that has most definitely stood the test of time. There are no Capra classics on the list, such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) It Happened One Night (1934), and others. Also non-existent are the films of such stars as Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Jane Fonda, Steve McQueen, Meryl Streep or James Cagney. 
   Granted, such a list is highly subjective but the fact that this list was said to have been compiled by film critics makes me shake my head in disappointment as they really should have known better. Sure, nowadays everybody seems to be a film critic via social media, but if these acknowledged critics were really worthy of the title they should definitely know better!
   Okay, my rant is over…well, almost. There sis only one single solitary Lee Marvin movie on the list. No, not Point Blank (1967). Not The Dirty Dozen (1967), not even Bad Day at Black Rock (1955! The one film? Believe it or not, at number 78 — which puts it near the bottom — they chose this….

Lee Van Cleef (far left) watches as Lee ‘Liberty Valance’ Marvin holds his own up against film legends Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

And the worst part is they give away the twist ending without even a mention of a spoiler alert! I’ve always said any critic who gives away the ending of the film in a review should not be allowed to do their job. Unforgivable! 
    Okay, now the rant is over. Don’t just take my word for it in terms of the problematic aspects of the list. You can read this “100 Best Films” list for yourself by clicking this link. Read it and weep, as they used to say. In the mean time, you can always find out what made the likes of Lee Marvin more worthy of such a list, or any list for that matter, by reading Lee Marvin Point Blank.
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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100 BEST NOIRS…..AHEM!

100 best noirs seems like an ambitious undertaking, especially since it has nothing to do with Eddie Muller, the self proclaimed ‘Czar of Noir.” However, a Facebook friend (who shall remain nameless) recently sent me a link to an online magazine article in which the attempt to catalogue the 100 best noir films is done by several writers. Here’s that list and some further thoughts on my own.
   It’s a thoughtful, fairly well-written piece but as my friend pointed out, it seems to lean heavily on more recent films and less so on more classic noir. It seem to me, that if you’re going to proclaim the 100 best noirs then some of the choices that made the list are either incorrect or just plain bogus. Sorry but Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), the film that made me a huge James Cagney fan is NOT noir. If you put that on the list then all the great 1930s Warner gangster pix should also be included.
And why Gaslight (1944), Key Largo (1948) or Miller’s Crossing (1990)? Sorry, all great films but hardly noir. 
   More importantly are the films absent from the list. These are my choices both classic and modern:
Act of Violence (1948), On Dangerous Ground (1951) & Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), all three starring the criminally underrated Robert Ryan!
Brute Force (1947)
Panic in the Streets (1950)
The Hustler (1961)

Modern noir? How about these:
Serpico (1973)
Mean Streets (1973)
Who’ll Stop the Rain (1978)
Cutter & Bone, aka Cutter’s Way (1981)

And since this blog is dedicated to Lee Marvin and as the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank, allow me to ask, where’s this cult favorite remake? 

Theatrical poster for the made-for-TV movie (the first!) THE KILLERS, released in theaters worldwide.

Not to brag but I did get to interview many of the costars, including Clu Gulager, Angie Dickinson, Norman Fell and Bob Phillips, all of whom told me great tales concerning this classic noir! 
Now I ask you, did they miss the boat in the article, or what?! Any of your favorites missing as well? Feel free to comment.

– Dwayne Epstein 

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