Mitch Ryan, the veteran actor of film, TV and stage has turned ninety-two years old today! He made his film debut in his twenties in the Robert Mitchum cult classic, Thunder Road (1958), returned to the stage and then didn’t make another film until his appearance as Shorty in the Lee Marvin classic, Monte Walsh (1970). Naturally, it was his work in that underrated western that made him the subject of my intense interest. In fact, here’s a story  that I’ve never told publicly before that I think says volumes about the man’s character.

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

I had attempted to interview him several times over the years but the attempt was often in vain. Lee Marvin’s lawyer, David Kagon, knew Ryan and contacted him for me while I was in Kagon’s office. Ryan was polite but firm. He said he had to honor Pam Marvin’s wishes and not speak to me.
Okay, flash forward a few years and I’m still working on the book and attempting more interviews. I don’t recall how but I came in contact with Ryan again. This time, however, he was infinitely more receptive and agreed to a phone interview. The result was one of the most revealing and useful interviews I ever got as he was a great friend to Marvin throughout the remainder of his life. Our talk can be read in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank and it is both impressive and poignantly revealing.
After the book came out, Jeff Mantor invited me to a Q&A Book signing at his legendary store, Larry Edmunds Bookshop on the dirty boulevard of Hollywood. He encouraged me to invite a celebrity who knew Marvin to help sell books. Not many of my interview subjects were still around but when I asked Mr. Ryan…..

Mitch Ryan at the Larry Edmunds book signing enthusiastically shows off his prized possession.


What a guy, huh? I’m telling ya, not just a wonderful actor but a true mensch. We dined at Musso & Franks before the signing (on my publisher’s dime) and had a wonderful time at the signing itself. I can’t say enough about this great man so happy birthday, Mitch, and here’s to many more. You’re aces in my book! And thanks to your help, it’s a NY Times bestseller!
– Dwayne Epstein



For the second time in as many years, I had a terrific time at the Aero Theatre last night signing copies of Lee Marvin: Point Blank for a Lee Marvin double feature, courtesy of the good graces of the American Cinematheque and Larry Edmunds Book Store. The event came out of the blue last month when programmer Grant Monniger contacted me and asked if I wanted to do it as part of their John Boorman retrospective.

The Aero Theatre Marquee in Santa Monica last night

The Aero Theatre Marquee in Santa Monica last night

Naurally, I jumped at the chance. When I asked what I had to do in terms of getting the books, how many, time to arrive, etc. I was told the time and the rest would be done through Jeff Mantor at Larry Edmunds Bookstore. I had no idea how right Grant was. Jeff did indeed do it all….

Flyer done up by Larry Edmunds' for last night's screening.

Flyer done up by Larry Edmunds’ for last night’s screening.

I arrived, schmoozed with Jeff a bit and watched the crowd shuffle in. Met some folks I knew, some I’ve been meaning to meet via Facebook, and heard a lot of people say nice things about Lee Marvin but they’d buy the book after the first film. Jeff told me “Yeah, let’s see about that.” I was asked to introduce Point Blank, which I dutifully did (I could kick myself for not remembering more interesting anecdotes…oh well). Then came the screening…..

Lobby card from Point Blank showing why it was called the first Arthouse action film.

Lobby card from Point Blank showing why it was called the first Arthouse action film.

True to their word, those who said they’d buy the book did indeed do so after the movie, which was quite a relief considering the schlep to get there from Long Beach during rush hour traffic on the 405. What was interesting were some of the comments made to me, en masse about Marvin:
“What was the year of his birth?”
He was wounded on Guadalcanal, right?”
Where did he do most of his drinking in Malibu?”
“Oh 1924. Yeah, but what was the date?”
“Didja ever see Prime Cut?”
When did he die?…No, the actual date.”
You know about him and Capt. Kanagroo, right?”
“Yeah,  I met him a few times….Real asshole.”
And on it went. In fairness, those were the choice ones that stuck out the most in my memory. Most of the other questions & comments were actually pretty encouraging in terms of both Marvin and several folks who read the book and went out of their way to tell me how much they enjoyed it. Then, Hell in the Pacific, which I really was looking forward to finally seeing on the big screen…..

Toshiro Mifune (left) and Lee Marvin in John Boorman's WWII allegory, Hell in the Pacific.

Toshiro Mifune (left) and Lee Marvin in John Boorman’s WWII allegory, Hell in the Pacific.

It was not as late as I thought it would be by the time the film ended so going home was a breeze. I’m only writing this to say such events are always a pleasure and a surprise when they occur and genuinely hope they keep happening.
Oh, and for the record: He was born 2/19/24, he drank at a bar called The Raft in Malibu (among others), he was wounded on Saipan not Guadalcanal, and Yes I’ve seen all of films which includes Prime Cut ….. oh, and for umpteenth time, Captain Kangaroo did NOTsave Lee Marvin’s life on Iwo Jima. Geez!



Mitchell Ryan at Larry Edmunds Bookstore: For those poor unfortunate souls who missed last night’s book signing, here’s a bit of rundown of what transpired…..

Lee Marvin flyer















First, I said a few words about why I wrote Lee Marvin Point Blank….



Then, owner Jeff Mantor played a DVD that I brought of some Lee Marvin rarities. It included trailers, ‘Making of’ shorts of some of his films, a cigarette commerical he did for M Squad, and even a clip of him backstage after winning the Oscar…..



Then, we introduced a special guest, Lee’s Monte Walsh co-star and personal friend, acting great Mitch Ryan, who regaled those gathered with some great anecdotes and observations….

mitchsitting Those in attendance made some interesting connections themselves, and I include myself among them. First up, I met up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while, Dyana Levinson…


This is what consider to be the really cool part. Several of those in the audience who joined us posed for a group shot….


Starting from the left: John Gloske, author of a great bio on the unsung actor Frankie Darro. John was a great help to me putting together my bio on Lee as he was great friends with several of Lee’s costars. Next to him is yours truly followed by actor Ron Thompson. Does he look familiar? Ron was the star of one of my all time favorite films: Ralph Bakshi’s American Pop. He played both Tony & Pete in the cult animation classic. Next to Ron is Claudette Sutherland, veteran actress, personal manager, and friend of Mitch Ryan. Ron and Claudette were both there by chance, had not seen each other in years, and actually were in high school together! How’s that for cool? And of course, on the right, the great Mitch Ryan!

Owner Jeff Mantor, with his back to the camera, made sure there were enough copies of books to go around, be sold, and signed by the author, as well as the extra treat of having it signed by Mr. Ryan….

Also in attendance were several other notables, such as….

candidgroup2 Film producer, Chris Chesser (Major League, Kansas), pictured in profile on the far right. He told of growing up in Arizona and being amazed at the filming of Monte Walsh.

Also present, good friend and fellow biographer Jim Gladstone, author of a great book on lawyer Greg Bautzer entitled The Man Who Seduced Hollywood. It’s a great read by the way and it is HIGHLY recommended! That’s Jim barely visble on the far right….
















And for me the best part of all? My lovely girlfriend Barbara, who’s birthday is this weekend, got to have dinner with and spend the night with a genuine movie star. Barbara had me take her picture with her childhood crush Mitch Ryan. For those who may not remember, Ryan played Burke Devlin on Dark Shadows. Two seconds after I snapped this pic, Ryan kissed her cheek. Now THAT’s a birthday present!