SONNY BARGER (1938-2022)

Sonny Barger, infamous founder of The Hell’s Angels has died of liver cancer at the age of 83. His life and exploits are recounted in this MSN obit. Pretty wild adventures, if you read the whole thing. 
So why is the passing of Sonny Barger the subject of this blog dedicated to Lee Marvin? 

Lee Marvin as Chino in The Wild One, inspiring a young Sonny Barger.

Well, quite simply, Marvin’s Chino in The Wild One (1954) proved to be the inspiration for Barger’s creation of The Hell’s Angels. Seriously. According to producer Stanley Kramer the film did not make much money when first released as it was banned more places than it played. However, it’s influence remains to this day. Never mind that it was the first of a plethora of biker films to come over the next several decades. It’s not worth remembering that most film critics at the time did not know what they were talking about when they said Marvin was too old to be a biker challenging young and moody Marlon Brando. The fact was the raid on Hollister, CA was the film’s inspiration and most of those bikers WERE closer to Marvin’s age. 
    Marvin’s opinion of his role, his relationship with Brando, and best of all, the way in which the real-life bikers reacted to Marvin’s performance on a personal level, are all recounted in Lee Marvin Point Blank for the first time in amazing detail. 
The film has had other influences, as well….

A young Jack Nicholson in HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS (1967) a few years before his breakout role in EASY RIDER.

Future superstar Jack Nicholson also found inspiration from Lee Marvin’s Chino as seen in the photo here in which he took a cue from Marvin’s striped shirt by incorporating a pair of similiarly striped pants. 
Matter of fact, Nicholson was quite a fan of Lee Marvin as I’ve written about previously

By the way, another Marvin cohort entered the realm of biker flicks.The actor’s Dirty Dozen (1967) and The Killers (1964) costar John Cassavetes paid for his more personal independent film by appearing in The Devil’s Angels (1967)….

John Cassavates as a rebel biker in THE DEVIL’S ANGELS (1967). 

So Rest in Peace, Mr. Barger. I don’t know if it was a life well-lived but it certainly was a full life. You might take some comfort in knowing that being inspired by Lee Marvin was not the only time that took place. In fact, in the same film, a young British musician heard the name of Marvin’s rival group and was also inspired. Anybody care to guess who?
– Dwayne Epstein

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Dirty Dozen (1967) podcast came as a well-timed pleasant surprise. It proved to be the brainchild of the versatile Steve Rubin, a writer, director, producer and yes, podcaster extraordinaire. After having done a previous podcast a while ago, Rubin contacted  yours truly to ask if I’d be willing to do it again in which the subject would be a Dirty Dozen podcast to be done along with film historian and screenwriter Steve Mitchell (Chopping Mall-1986). Of course I said yes. 

Montage of images from The Dirty Dozen.

    I got to know Steve Rubin through the auspices of FIlmfax magazine. Publisher Mike Stein asked if I’d like to an interview Rubin following his publication of The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia which turned out pretty good. We would talk periodically and help each other with research projects as he invited to me to join him and Stave Mitchell on a previous podcast. There were a few false starts but eventually it came to pass and despite my overt enthusiasm, I think it came off rather well.
     The latest installment of Rubin’s “Saturday Night at The Movies” podcast is available for listening now and I think it also came off rather well. We ran the gamut in discussing Robert Aldrich’s classic, covering everything from its flaws, its cast, screenplay, and its lasting impact. I especially enjoyed talking about the contributions of Ken Hyman,  Bob Phillips, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown and Telly Savalas. I come off a little too much like a hyperactive fanyboy, as usual, but the points are all well made. Luckily, I not only got to share thoughts of from Lee Marvin Point Blank but also hint at what will be included in next year’s publication of my book dedicated to The Dirty Dozen entitled Killin’ Generals by Kensington Publishing. So, give a listen here and feel free comment, criticize or what have you. In other words, enjoy!

Pop culture podcaster, Steve Rubin

– Dwayne Epstein

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Of the films Lee Marvin almost made, one of the standouts is a project in which he would have costarred with Anthony Quinn and been directed by….John Cassavetes! Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank have commented to this author on how much they enjoyed the appendix in which films the actor almost made are listed but some have questioned the veracity among the titles. I can assure one and all they are indeed documented as the Marvin-Quinn-Cassavetes project is proof of below.
Actually, Marvin and Quinn had worked together briefly in the early 50s western Seminole (1953) with Marvin in little more than a glorified cameo. However, on the face of it, Marvin and Quinn may seem an unlikely pairing based on their different cinematic appeal. Quinn was ethnic and earthy, while Marvin came off more weather-beaten and militaristic.
Their screen differences aside, Marvin was actually cast in a role meant for the Mexican-Irish actor. According to novelist, JPS Brown, author of the autobiographical novel Jim Kane which was the basis for Pocket Money (1972), Marvin’s character of Leonard, opposite Paul Newman, told me that Leonard was based on Brown’s Mexican business partner:

Lee Marvin as Leonard in Pocket Money, originally meant to be played by Anthony Quinn.

“His name was Andres Canye. He’s the character they tried to base Lee Marvin’s character on. They called him Leonard. I called him ‘The Lion’ in Jim Kane. So they got Leonard from that. A lot of imagination there, don’t you think? There’s only one Gato Canyes [‘Big Cat’] in the world….A man that knew the name of every plant, every weed, every grass, every rock. He knew the medicinal capabilities of everything on the range. He knew the mountains…he lived there in those mountains on horseback. He was a real man. In Pocket Money, here’s the two big gringos on great big stout horses. ….Gatos Canyes was just a great, big, course-looking Anthony Quinn. Really. And Anthony Quinn really liked the book.”
It was actor/director John Cassavetes who thought Quinn and Marvin might work well together. Marvin and Cassavetes had of course, worked together in The Killers (1964), and a few years later in The Dirty Dozen (1967). In discussing his career on the set of Emperor of the North (1973) for Rolling Stone’s Grover Lewis, Marvin opined: “Remember Cassavetes in The Dirty Dozen? Jeez, he was sensational in that. Then you go see Husbands and you have to say ‘What are you tawkin’ about Jawn?’ I mean, he’s a bizarre little guy. Very juicy. John’s a violent little Greek, is what he is.”

Actor/director John Cassavetes around the time he considered pairing Marvin and Quinn.

Grover Lewis also interviewed Cassavetes the same year who at the time mentioned teaming himself with Marvin and George C. Scott. He said at the time, “Maybe it’ll happen. Who knows? The thing about acting is…Well, I like to do it.”

Over a decade later,  when asked about Cassavetes in a 1986 Orange County Register interview, Lee Marvin said:

Renaissance man Anthony Quinn in The Secret of Santa Vittoria, or as he may have looked barhopping the Midwest with Lee Marvin.

“A wild greek. He wanted to get Tony Quinn and me to travel around the country, stop in all these honky-tonk bars, then he’d write a story based on all that and we’d go shoot it. I said, ‘No, John. Please. Oh, Jesus please, no. I don’t wanna die in some barroom brawl in the Midwest.'”

One can certainly understand Marvin’s feelings but it still leaves one wondering. As the old verse goes:
“Of all the words of tongue or pen,
the saddest of these:
‘What might have been.'”

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