JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT & THE CURSE OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

A scene from John Ford’s DONAVAN’S REEF with Lee Marvin and John Wayne…re-imagined.

John Wayne Airport, located in Orange County, California, may be returning to it’s original name of Orange County International Airport. Why the name change? It appears to be the victim of political correctness run amok in the wake of protests condemning systematic racism. An interview John Wayne did in Playboy Magazine back in 1971 brought to re-examination his controversial philosophy when he stated, “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”
Of course, the likes of John Wayne’s son, Ethan Wayne, denies his father’s bigotry in a recent statement.  All of this has come to light due to the growing protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd and others at the hands of law enforcement. My question is this: Sure, some times political correctness goes too far, but why in the world was an airport named after a movie star in the first place? Let’s be honest, that’s what he’s famous for. He didn’t serve his country in the military, cured a disease (although a medical center is also named after him since he was a victim of one), or ever held public office. With all due respect, he was simply a beloved film star. How does that rate an airport? I don’t figure it.
  The other thing is this: political correctness is not the only culprit. Unknown cultural history is also to blame. Even though the interview dates back to 1971, it had only recently been rediscovered. Kind of like the way folks were surprised by Clint Eastwood’s outrageous performance at the GOP convention talking demeaningly to an empty chair as if it were President Obama. Some folks were shocked, not only by the stupidity of the attempt, but discovering how right-wing Eastwood’s personal politics are. Did they not get the point of Dirty Harry?
  I find it extremely ironic. The info has always been out there, and in the digital age, one thinks it would be even more prevalent, but such is not the case. Because of this revelation (that has always existed) John Wayne Airport may become a memory.
   What does any of this have to do with Lee Marvin? Well, as readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know, Marvin’s personal politics were diametrically opposed to that of John Wayne, but it didn’t keep them from working together…THREE TIMES! In fact, I encountered some static from Marvin fans when the book came out. Some said they were deeply disappointed by the man’s personal beliefs, as also stated in a Playboy interview. Bottom line, let the work of the individual speak for itself and the hell with political correctness. If it matters to you all, find out for yourself and do the homework. Don’t let others think for you. John Wayne fans take heart, though. There’s still Duke University.
– Dwayne Epstein

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STUART WHITMAN, COMANCHEROS COSTAR, DEAD AT 92

Stuart Whitman, who costarred with John Wayne and Lee Marvin in 1962’s The Comancheros, has died at the age of 92 from skin cancer.

Ad for THE COMANCHEROS, in which Lee Marvin’s appearance remains is not quite what it was in the movie.

The age of 92 is a ripe one for any person, but for a veteran actor know for his dark, brooding good looks to survive for that period of time, is quite an accomplishment.

In all honesty, I was not much of a fan, despite his lengthy and prolific career listed in this online obit.
An apt description was given his career in British David Quinlan’s 1981 compendium, The Illustrated Directory of Film Stars: “Black-haired, craggy-faced American leading man who played a lot of very small roles before breaking into the big time via a Fox contract. These years at the studio (1958-1965) were his only ones as a top Hollywood star, and contain his best performances. Since then, he has remained a regular, if somewhat immobile, second-line leading man.”

COMANCHEROS Pressbook press release on the then burgeoning career of Stuart Whitman.

Whitman also had a small role in the underrated Randolph Scott & Lee Marvin western, Seven Men From Now (1956). That aside, I just always thought of him as part of that generation of actors who for a brief period starred in films at the tail of the studio system, as Quinlan mentioned. Hollywood’s feudal studio system was beginning to crumble so the attempts to make superstars out of the likes of Stuart Whitman and George Hamilton was short-lived. The changing cultural landscape did allow audiences a glimpse at early roles of actors who supported the likes of Hamilton and Whitman, and would become lasting major superstars later in the 1960s and 1970s, Such as Charles Bronson, and yes, Lee Marvin.
Don’t get me wrong, Whitman was a serviceable presence in the right role, such as Pau Regret in The Comancheros — the making of which is detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank. Personally, despite his well-deserved Oscar-nomination for The Mark (1961), I liked him best in the gritty true-life crime drama, Murder Inc. (1960). Granted, Whitman’s all-American good looks seemed out of place among the ethnic faces, but his scene towards the end of the film in which he confronts Abe “Kid Twist” Reles (Peter Falk), may very well be Stuart Whitman’s best acting ever, in my humble opinion.
Until then, with all the social isolation in place, it might not be a bad idea to catch up on some classic films made by Whitman and others so you can judge for yourself. The ranks are clearly thinning.
– Dwayne Epstein

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MOVIE MAN WAVE ON ITS WAY…AND IT’S NOT THE FIRST TIME

Movie man wave? Whatever it is, it’s on its way, according to an article in Deadline Hollywood. I’m assuming the writer is trying to come up with a new, hip phrase along the lines of “Bro-mance,” or some other term in these days of viral social media. Based on the comment section he appears to be taking his lumps for it, too. Personally, I think ‘movie man wave’ is a terrible term but the movies he’s referring to all sound like winners. From Ford Vs. Ferrari to The Irishman and more, it’s looking to be a great end of the year movie season. Of course, nothing in Hollywood happens as a stand alone as Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood started the current trend last summer.
Truth be told, it’s a trend that actually started as far aback as silent movies, with the likes of What Price Glory? (1926). Some of the best early ones co-starred the likes of James Cagney and Pat O’Brien, or Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. When I was growing up such films were called ‘Buddy Movies,’ which made more sense than ‘Bro-mance or ‘Man Wave.’

Paul Newman and Lee Marvin may have lacked chemistry in POCKET MONEY but the film did allow for this wonderful candid image of Marvin that remains my favorite.

The actor who made more films in this realm? Probably Lee Marvin, whether as friends, rivals, or downright enemies, he worked with all the other major male stars in that capacity. It’s an impressive list that includes the likes of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune, Jack Palance, Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Robert Shaw, Richard Burton, Oliver Reed, practically the entire spectrum of male movie stars. The final result often varied in quality but the star power certainly didn’t. And what did Marvin think of this various and divergent list of co-stars? That answer can only be found in detail within the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank.
– Dwayne Epstein

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