JIM JARMUSCH AND THE SONS OF LEE MARVIN

Picture this: I’m in the earliest stages of researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, standing in the middle of the public library, when I read the Film Comment article written by director Jim Jarmusch that reveals the first mention I’ve ever heard concerning the Sons of Lee Marvin. I was still slightly on the fence at the time about whether I should undertake the project at all, that is unti I read Jarmusch’s article.
Being a lifelong film buff I had read much about the legacy of film stars following their passing. The cult surrounding stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and others are well know to myself and the general public. Such reverence is often shown via film revivals, books and other venues. However, in all the years I have encountered such things I have never encountered anything as what Jarmusch talks about in his unveiling of the Sons Of Lee Marvin. It literally made me laugh out loud when he retold the anecdote concerning fellow member Tom Waits and the real son of Lee Marvin. I was shushed by the librarian and warned if I repeat the guffaw I’d be asked to leave. I acquiesced to the glares and stares of the other patrons but figured in my head, what the hell, it was worth it. My appreciation of Marvin expanded and my curiosity deepened. Quite simply, the more I found out about him, the more I liked him.
This article, by the way, was part of series in Film Comment in which film makers were asked to list their “Guilty Pleasures,” films they know are bad but they like anyway and with a given reason. Jarmusch dedicates one 10th of his entire list to his favorite Marvin films! So, without further ado, below is the original article that helped pushed me over the edge into dedicating myself to researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank.
Oh, and by the way, the story about Waits and Christopher Marvin is pure b.s. but sounds great, doesn’t it? If you want to know the truth, from Christopher Marvin himself. you gotta read Lee Marvin Point Blank.

The original article by Jim Jarmusch in Film Comment.

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HAPPY 64TH BIRTHDAY TO SONS OF LEE MARVIN FOUNDER JIM JARMUSCH

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are quite familiar with the connection indie film director Jim Jarmusch has to the legacy of Lee Marvin. Jarmusch turns 64 today and in honor of his birthday, allow me to recount the tale.

Cult director and Sons of Lee Marvin founder, Jim Jarmusch

Jarmusch has been avoiding mainstream success for decades by making and occasionally appearing in his own indie films (Mystery Train, Down by Law, Stranger Than Paradise, Dead Man, Ghost Dog, etc). He’s also an avowed Lee Marvin fan, dying his hair white in tribute. Consequently, when I was still in the earliest stages of research of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I came across his tale, or at least his version of it, of how his ‘secret’ organization, The Sons of Lee Marvin, came into existence. I was standing in the middle of the Buena Park Public Library perusing back issues of Film Comment magazine. They used to have a semi-regular column called “Guilty Pleasures,” in which renowned filmmakers detail their love of movies they know are not very good but they love them anyway. I was not yet fully sold on committing myself to a Lee Marvin bio, but when I read Jim Jarmusch’s account of how The Sons of Lee Marvin came to be as part of his column, I was shushed for laughing out loud. It helped sell me on the idea of the book as in all my years of reading and researching films and stars I have never come across such an amazing tale! I was hooked.
In the interim, I was to discover (and later join), a shadow organization known as the BSOL. How they came to be introduced to the real son of Lee Marvin is also an intriguing exclusive of Lee Marvin Point Blank.

The main logo for The Bastard Sons of Lee.

A logo for the more accessible organization known as the BSOL, sometimes seen in Pasadena’s Doo-Dah Parade.

But I digress. The point here is that like all talented filmmakers, even fiercely independent ones, like birthday boy Jarmusch, has a knack for creating mythology. I was to discover how much of a mythology it is when I ultimately met and made friends with Christopher Marvin, Lee’s actual son. As Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know, Jarmusch’s tale of Chris Marvin and Tom Waits is, how shall I say it? As our current POTUS has coined it, an “alternative fact.” To know the truth, read Lee Marvin Point Blank. Until then, enjoy this page from my research binder in which Jarmusch himself recounts the tale in his Film Comment article. Happy birthday Mr. J. and keep the mythology growing! Enjoy……

The original FILM COMMENT article in which Jim Jarmusch explains the formation of the Sons of Lee Marvin.

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WHO COULD DIRECT A LEE MARVIN BIOPIC? PART I

A while back I raised the hypothetical of who could play Lee Marvin in a biopic based on my book, Lee Marvin Point Blank. Those previous posts can be found here, by the way: Part I and Part II. Since the response was so very positive, now I’d like to pose yet another hypothetical:  Which director, working today, has a style and vision that best suits the kind of film a Marvin biopic would be? I’d appreciate the thoughts of any reader interested in chiming in. As for myself, I have a couple of possibilties, a dirty dozen if you will of more than appropriate contenders. Truth be told, I do indeed have my favorites. So, the order, to avoid the appearance of favoritism, is strictly alphabetical…..

Guillermo Del Toro:

Director Guillermo Del Toro on the set of HELLBOY.

Director Guillermo Del Toro on the set of HELLBOY.

The Pan’s Labrynith director is on record in conversation with Robert Rodriguez as being a very big fan of Lee Marvin’s films. He told Rodriguez in a 2015 interview: “When I was a kid, my favorite movie, was a Lee Marvin movie. Lee Marvin, James Coburn, these were guys who were not handsome. They had real faces. Tough guys. One of my favorite movies was Emperor of the North [directed by] Robert Aldrich with Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. The fight at the end with the axe and the chain, it’s an amzing movie. I want that on the screen. I’m not interested in young people’s movies.” As a visionary director, the imagery he could lend to a film about Marvin is indeed intriguing.

James Gunn:

Young upstart director, James Gunn.

Young upstart director, James Gunn.

The young upstart director of the surprise blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy has also stated his appreciation of Lee Marvin and that can only be a plus to what he might add to the mix. Okay, I admit I haven’t personally seen the film as I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the plethora of comic book-based movies that has infected the market of late. But, the fact that he had a surprise hit with the subject based mostly on his interpretation of the source material — at least from what I read, anyway — makes me optimisitc. The St. Louis native is a Troma Films alumni and didn’t make it into mainstream filmmaking until mainstream filmmaking became a little quirkier than it had been previously. Sort of like the way Lee Marvin didn’t become a leading man until the mid-sixites, when Hollywood morphed into the culture’s changing tastes. I like that.

Walter Hill:

Legendary action film director, Walter Hill.

Legendary action film director, Walter Hill.

This once prominent director (48 Hours, Streets of Fire, The Long Riders) and screenwriter (The Getaway, The Drowning Pool, Hickey & Boggs), might be considered less than up to the task as he is now in his 70s and has not had a mainstream hit in some time. I, however think otherwise. The director of Charles Bronson’s best vehicle, Hard Times, as well as several other gritty, muscular films, he’s on record as stating Point Blank was an inspiration for him in terms of its spare style and writing. Heavily influenced by European and Asian action films, Hill has said recently, “I hadn’t had a good-sized hit in quite a while. And, frankly, I went through a couple of experiences that left me pretty disgusted with it all, and I was thinking the time had passed. I was just sitting at home reading magazines and looking out the window….” A Lee Marvin biopic might be just the tonic.

Ron Howard:

Oscar winning director and former actor Ron Howard (left) as he appeared in an ad for Monte Walsh starring Lee Marvin (right).

Oscar winning director and former actor Ron Howard (left) as he appeared in an ad for Monte Walsh starring Lee Marvin (right).

We all know the Oscar-winning director started out as an actor — from The Andy Griffith Show to Happy Days — but do you know his connection to Lee Marvin? He costarred with him in the 1974 film, Spikes Gang, along with Gary Grimes and Charlie Martin Smith as Marvin’s young gang of neophyte bank robbers. Even more impressive, Howard, a gifted storyteller when it comes to film making, is on record as stating that Lee Marvin’s The Dirty Dozen turned him into a huge movie fan: “It was perfect. I was twelve, thirteen years old; going through puberty. Here was this totally macho rock ’em-sock ’em, heroic action movie — one of the best ‘mission’ movies ever made,…Everything about it, top to bottom, was cool. And it turned me on to the movies. In a lot of ways, it made me want to go to the movies every single week to try and have the kind of experience that would just take you away.” As far as I’m concerned, such enthusiasm can only enhance a Lee Marvin biopic.

Jim Jarmusch:

Sons of Lee Marvin founder and stubbornly independent film maker, Jim Jarmusch.

Sons of Lee Marvin founder and stubbornly independent film maker, Jim Jarmusch.

The mastermind behind the Sons of Lee Marvin, director Jim Jarmusch has not been shy about his admiration for Marvin. Granted, the organization he founded with fellow Marvin fans Tom Waits, Nick Cave, etc. may be more fictional than fact (Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank no what I mean), but the admiration is undeniabe. As a filmmaker his work seems to drag at times, but a subject such as Marvin’s life & times may possibly change that. His New York underground ‘indie’ roots are still on display in his work but who knows? That may be a good thing. Ether way. he is defintely in the running.

Christopher Nolan:

Stylized Britsh director of American action films, Chrstopher Nolan.

Stylized Britsh director of American action films, Chrstopher Nolan.

Best known for resurrecting the Batman franchise with Christian Bale, this British filmmaker has also made some wonderfully intense and thoughtful thrillers, such as Memento and Insomnia that are head and shoulders above the Batman films. Although I grew up loving the original DC Comic (Jim Aparo & Neal Adams’ renderings being my favorites) I for one am not a fan of the rebooted franchise(s). I think Bale and many others were miscast . Nolan’s direction of the action scenes are so muddled that it’s almost impossible to keep track of who is pounding who. My thinking is that Nolan’s take on a Marvin biopic would be (hopefully) less like Batman and more like Insomnia.

In Part II the possibilites are continued with some less the obvious surprises. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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