IN HONOR OF VALENTINE’S DAY, LEE MARVIN STYLE

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I was rather stumped for a blog idea that would be appropriate for the occassion. At first, I though of simply uploading the image below. No, it’s not from the set of The Untouchables, although Lee did appear on it frequently enough. Actually, it’s a rare picture of Lee and first wife, Betty Marvin at a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Party in the 50s courtesy of Betty Marvin

Betty Marvin (left) with husband Lee (bottom right) dressed approriately for a St. Valentine's Day Massacre Party.

Betty Marvin (left) with husband Lee (bottom right) dressed approriately for a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Party.

herself.. Cool, huh?

Howevever, even better than the image is a completely different blog entry that was posted in Vanity Fair online shortly after Lee Marvin: Point Blank was released. Writer James Wolcott takes an interesting look at the subject that may seem far afield, but nails it nontheless. What do you think?

“FEBRUARY 14, 2013 3:15 PM

“Wash his face. He’s fine.”
BY JAMES WOLCOTT
It being Valentine’s Day, I can think of no more romantic way to waste the day (before I get to work) than by dipping in and out of a tender, caring, just-published biography of America’s former sweetheart, Lee Marvin. In Lee Marvin: Point Blank, written by Dwayne Epstein, the action star who terrorized the West with a bullwhip in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, taught a squad of murderers and borderline psychos how to love again in The Dirty Dozen, and let Angie Dickinson use him as a punching bag for her furious little fists in the movie that gives this bio its subtitle weaves through the pages like the big rangy scary cat he was.

I’d often wondered why Marvin and director Sam Peckinpah never worked together in movies. Such simiarities. Both tough ex-Marines, both heavy intakers of alcoholic content, both volatile, both white-haired with a silvery patina to their appearance. Maybe it was because their experience shooting a TV’s Route 66 killed off any chance of bromance:

…Frustrated with his career, at odds with director Sam Peckinpah, and hating the dreary Pittsburgh location, the actor drank too much during work hours and paid the price. “What I remember most was his eyes,” recalled co-star Bert Remsen [who would go on to become a member of Robert Altman’s rep company, appearing in California Split, Thieves Like Us, Nashville, et al]. “He’d come in from the night before with his eyes all red and that strange walk he had, and say with that voice, ‘Hiya baby! You going out drinking with me tonight?'” I’d say, ‘No way! I gotta work the next day.’ He could do it though. He’d come in all disheveled and go throw up in the corner. Sam would say, ‘Wash is face. He’s fine.’ He’d do the scene and never miss a line…”

It’s never good to work woozy, however, and during this episode there was a fight scene with Martin Milner where one of the actors zigged when he should have zagged and the result was a punch that split Marvin’s nose wide open, the resulting damage putting his career in jeopardy. He was fortunate, notes Epstein, that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was shot in black and white, masking the discoloration.

The pages devoted to Donovan’s Reef, the “rollicking comedy” (an extinct genre) that reunited Ford, the Duke, and Marvin, confirm the impression that I acquired at an early age that Donovan’s Reef is one of the booze-bathed movies of all time, a sot’s vision of tropical paradise. “For tax reasons [Ford] had to sell his beloved yacht, The Araner, so he decided to use it in the movie before selling it off, and figured he could have a good time drinking on board during the film.” This is the sort of consideration that seldom comes up in film-studies courses. As it turned out, Ford wasn’t allowed to drink for health reasons, so he “had to referee” while Wayne and Marvin went watery-eyed.

I once heard someone compare Donovan’s Reef to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but that person might have been drinking too.”

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LIBERTY VALANCE REMAKE? SADLY, YES!

I just read that there’s a remake in the works of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and it’s going to be updated to 1980s urban America. The source is reliable so the news comes as no small surprise. Having covered the making of this classic pretty thoroughly in Lee Marvin Point Blanknaturally through the prism of Lee Marvin’s participation in it ( at least I think I did), there’s very little to add about that other than my opinion of this upcoming remake.

Why would Lee Marvin wear a bandana over his face in his opening scene in Liberty Valance? Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank know why.

Why would Lee Marvin wear a bandana over his face in his opening scene in Liberty Valance? Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank know why.

Then again, there may be a few tidbits left, such as this quote from Rolling Stone magazine in which Marvin talks about the film’s legendary director: “John Ford. Fucking Ford. You’ll never see skillets and steaks like that in anybody else’s picture. He’s like Dickens. It’s all larger than life. That’s what the old guys  understood about movies. If its not bigger than life, put it on television.”
Or, Marvin’s opinion of the film’s leading actor, John Wayne: “Now there is a legend. I liked him. But films were his whole life. I tried not to let that happen to me. I’ve never had any desire to die in the saddle.”

Lee Van Cleef (far left) watches as Lee 'Liberty Valance' Marvin holds his own up against film legends Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne.

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

That all said, the obvious question becomes why in the Wide World of Sports would Paramount want to remake this classic western? Yeah, the easy answer is always money but if that’s the case why remove the element that made the film so enigmatic and get listed on the National Registry? Film critic Gene Siskel used to expound on how classic films shouldn’t be remade but bad ones should so they can improved. I partially agree with him but who want to make a bad film? There’s no money in it. It is possible that the remake could open the original up to a new audience of younger viewers but successful DVD sales have already done that.

Cover image for the extremely popular deluxe 2-disc DVD release of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Cover image for the extremely popular deluxe 2-disc DVD release of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

So the question still resonates: WHY???? Is contemporary Hollywood so bereft of originality they have to remake EVERYTHING?? Pretty disheartening thought, I know, but here’s an idea. If any Hollywood producer, director, actor, or screenwriter is genuinely interested in a terrific property worthy of screen adapation, contact ME here or my agent, Mike Hamilburg. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover what a worthy project Lee Marvin Point Blank would be on the big screen. After all, like the man said, if it’s not larger than life, put it on televsion.

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LIBERTY VALANCE: IN HONOR OF THE TCM FEST SCREENING

Since the TCM Classic Film Fest is full swing, I thought I’d post a blog about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which was recently screened at the festival. Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank are already familiar with some of the intrigiuing details and anecdotes that went into the making the John Ford classic.

A pre-release ad from a movie magazine in which the p.r. people had some rhyming fun.

A pre-release ad from a movie magazine in which the p.r. people had some rhyming fun.

I was extremely fortunate to interview Lee Marvin’s career long agent Meyer Mishkin, who got his first big boost in the business thanks to the irascible Ford. Mishkin answered many questions for me, and, as Point Blank readers discovered, helped me discover what Ford thought of Marvin, what Marvin thought of Ford. Readers also found out why Marvin thought he’d be fired just before he started work on the film, what Marvin’s ten-year-old son said when he was introduced to John Wayne, and infinitely more.

A pure ballyhoo production article from SCREEN STORIES, June, 1962.

A pure ballyhoo production article from SCREEN STORIES, June, 1962.

 

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There’s also nothing like getting information from one who was there and Woody Strode fit the bill. His hilarious tale of the first time he ever met Marvin — on the set of Valance — is a personal favorite, and one that proved to be the beginning of the end for Marvin’s first marriage. Marvin and Strode bonded during the filming of Liberty Valance and the friendship deepened through the years. They didn’t always see each other often through the years but, like most great friendships, time had no meaning. Below, in Woody Strode’s own words, is a wonderful unpublished tale that illustrates the point:
“Now, I stayed in Europe for years. I came home and I hadn’t seen Lee for about four years. I got a job in New Mexico called The Gatling Gun. By now, I got a Mercedes. The good life had touched me. I called Lee. I said, ‘Lee, I’m working in New Mexico and I’m coming to see you when I finished.’ We finished the picture. I didn’t let him know I was driving a Mercedes. Well baby, it took a couple of days for us get there. I parked out in front of the house, I think in Tucson. I honked the horn. He come out saying, ‘Who the hell is honking that horn?’ He come outside and I said, ‘Hello, you son-of-a-bitch.’ He said ‘Woody, you finally…’ I said, ‘You see what I’m driving?I got to the fucking money, in a foreign country!’ That’s the type of relationship we had…. So, we had our little weekend. Pamela [Lee’s second wife] didn’t know me like that but she heard about me. When I got there, a writer from Australia was doing an article on Lee Marvin. He saw our relationship and said, ‘You guys are like brothers.’ I been in Europe almost four years and he ain’t seen me in years. I’m in a Mercedes, got a little bank account. It made him feel good.”
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