DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION CIRCA 1960

Now that the 2020 Democratic convention is in full swing despite the pandemic, I thought it a good time to revisit another Democratic convention, circa 1960. I’ve posted this previously but I thought it a good time to remind folks of a few things, such as the fact that not all badass movie stars are conservative Republicans. So without further ado…..

The 1960 Democratic Convention…..with Lee Marvin?
In researching Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I encountered many surprises, not the least of which was the actor’s personal politics. The popular theory was that in being such a macho tough guy on screen, he must have been a conservative Republican, like his frequent co-star John Wayne. Not so, in Marvin’s case, according to friends and family.

Fans may think of him as a classic badass who thought like Wayne, but the truth is he was, by all accounts, a lifelong liberal Democrat who despised Republican stalwarts, such as costar Ronald Reagan, as mentioned at length in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Marvin rarely made his politics publicly known but he felt so strongly for candidate John F. Kennedy, he agreed to appear on stage at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in support along with several other like-minded celebrities of the day (Ralph Bellamy, Lloyd Bridges, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Tony Curtis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Rosemary DeCamp, Anthony Franciosa, George Jessel, Phyllis Kirk, Hope Lange, Peter Lawford, Janet Leigh, Shirley MacLaine, Mercedes MacCambridge, Sheree North, Arthur O’Connell, Alma Pedroza, Vincent Price, Edward G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Jan Sterling, Inger Stevens, Shelley Winters).

Lee Marvin takes his bow when introduced on stage at the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles.

Marvin warbles the national anthem along with the likes of Nat ‘King” Cole, Shirley MacLaine and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Kennedy’s assassination during the filming of The Killers devastated the cast & crew and made for a poignant and ironic event in Marvin’s relationship with his son, also recounted in Lee Marvin Point Blank. He would never again publicly endorse a political candidate. But, in the heady days of 1960, his endorsement of JFK was shown in full flower with other Hollywood celebrities, as shown in the video below.  Enjoy…
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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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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