WILD BUNCH REMAKE? DON’T FORGET LEE MARVIN!

The Wild Bunch remake has recently been announced, to be written and directed by Mel Gibson. Lots of voices are arguing over whether it should even be done but to my mind, the question is will Lee Marvin finally get the credit he so richly deserves? What credit, you may ask? Well, as I discovered in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, he was heavily involved in the project’s creation and was set to play the William Holden role of Pike Bishop.

Lee Marvin in THE PROFESSIONALS as Henry ‘Rico” Fardan, looking a lot like….

William Holden as Pike Bishop in the original version of  THE WILD BUNCH.

I discovered this lost nugget of information thanks to the files at the Academy Library in Beverly Hills in which the notes and communications between producers Phil Feldman and Ken Hyman tells the remarkable story in detail of Lee Marvin’s involvement in Sam Peckinpah’s renowned classic.
For Marvin’s part, he told his version to Grover Lewis in a 1972 Rolling Stone interview: “Good ol’ lovable Sam. …He approached me about doin’ The Wild Bunch. Shit, I’d helped write the original goddamn script, which Sam eventually bought and rewrote. Well, I mean I didn’t do any of the actual writing, but I talked it out with these guys who were writin’ it, Walon Green and Roy Sickner. Sam said, ‘Jeez, aren’t you even interested?’ I told him I’d already done The Professionals and what did I need The Wild Bunch for? And when the picture came out I didn’t think it really succeeded. It didn’t have the — I mean, it had all the action and all the blood and all that shit, but it didn’ have the ultimate kavoom, you know? It didn’t have the one-eye slowly opening it should’ve had.”
What Marvin failed to mention was the real reason he turned it down and why he made Paint Your Wagon, instead. Career-long agent Meyer Mishkin revealed that to me, which of course, is in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank.
As to The Wild Bunch remake? I reserve judgement on Gibson’s version until I see it. Bad enough he ripped off Marvin’s Point Blank with his bizarre remake Payback. Hopefully, with The Wild Bunch remake, he’ll give the devil — in this case Lee Marvin — his due.

(L-R) Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode in a p.r. still from THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

(L-R) Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden and Ernest Borgnine in the climatic scene in THE WILD BUNCH (1969).

Share

IN HONOR OF SAM PECKINPAH’S 90TH BIRTHDAY

Sam Peckinpah would’ve been 90-years-old last month. A recent conversation with writer Jeb Rosebrook (Junior Bonner) reminded me of the fact and the conversation got me to thinking yet again how interesting it would have been had Lee Marvin & Peckinpah ever made a film together. They came close several times — most notably The Wild Bunch — but unfortunately, it was never to come to pass. They did however work together several times on episodic televison. Peckinpah directed Marvin on “Route 66” and the anthology show “The Dick Powell Theatre.”

Lee Marvin as Dave Blassingame (top), Adam Lazzare as Blind Johnny (left) and Keenan Wynn as Burgundy Smith (right) in The Dick Powell Theatre production of The Losers (1963) directed by Sam Peckinpah.

Lee Marvin as Dave Blassingame (top), Adam Lazzare as Blind Johnny (left) and Keenan Wynn as Burgundy Smith (right) in The Dick Powell Theatre production of The Losers (1963) directed by Sam Peckinpah.

Both shows were written about in Lee Marvin: Point Blank but some rather bizarre anecdotes did not quite make it into the final draft. The information I obtained was from Peckinpah biographer, David Weddle. What did not go in to book can be found below. Enjoy and Happy birthday Sam!

David Weddle, author of the 1994 Sam Peckinpah biography, "If They Move, Kill'em!"

David Weddle, author of the 1994 Sam Peckinpah biography, “If They Move, Kill’em!”

Weddle: When Sam was working out at Warner Brothers during The Wild Bunch & Cable Hogue, they [Marvin & Peckinpah] would meet over at these bars. I forgot the names of them but all these bars, like the Mexican restaurant by Warners, a lot of stuntmen used to congregate there….. So Sam would go in and tear up and he Lee Marvin would get together there a lot. This one lawyer, who used to work for Sam when Sam was having a lawsuit against Warner Brothers, would show up there. He had to get Sam to sign papers pertaining to the lawsuit. Sam would say, ‘Meet me at so-and-so…’ Anyway, he’d be sitting there like, ‘Sam I need you to sign. Here are the papers.’ He’d be with Marvin and scream at him, ‘You son-of-a-bitch! You don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Marvin would say, ‘Fuck you, Peckinpah!’ Then the lawyer would say something and Peckinpah would go, ‘Yeah just a minute.’ [Yelling to Marvin], ‘And another thing…!’ I think they came to blows a couple of times, or shook each other. They never seriously hurt each other.
D: After Peckinpah’s death and about a year before his own, Marvin was quoted as saying something interesting about Sam: “The problem with Sam and I was I had Sam’s number and he had mine and that’s a dangerous thing because he’s a little guy.”
W: There was that other line that Peckinpah is quoted a couple of times. He was drinking with Marvin one time and said, ‘God, I hate actors.’ Marvin smiled and said, ‘Every actor does, Sam.’
D: Marvin may felt cheated out of The Wild Bunch but I’ve read where Peckinpah put on a big act of being chetaed of Emperor of the North
W: Yeah, I talked to [producer] Ken Hyman about that. They had been waiting and waiting for Sam. I heard other stories but his is probably true because Ken Hyman is a pretty honorable guy. Sam decided to go off and do The Getaway because they offered him a great deal, a better deal. He kept telling Hyman, ‘Just wait, I’ll do yours next.’ He had promised to do it next, instead, he took The Getaway. So, Hyman just decided, ‘Forget it. I’m going with somebody else [Robert Aldrich]. I’m not waiting.’ Then Sam turned around, as Sam often did and said, ‘Ah, you stabbed me in the back.’

The late Sam Peckinpah, who would've been 90 years old last month.

The late Sam Peckinpah, who would’ve been 90 years old last month.

Share

DIRTY DOZEN OFFSCREEN: IMAGES FROM THE FILM

THE DIRTY DOZEN OFFSCREEN

aldrich

The Dirty Dozen Offscreen: Director Robert Aldrich shows Lee Marvin how to kick John Cassavetes when he’s down.

Making The Dirty Dozen (1967) in England took intense concentration on the part of all concerned but The Dirty Dozen offscreen was something else. Of course, after a day’s work several of the pubs in London took their usual dents from Marvin & company, as detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank. On the job, however, was another story entirely.

The above image is a case in point. Director Robert Aldrich (right) is not giving his opinion of the films of John Cassavetes (center). He’s showing Lee Marvin how he wants to see Cassavetes kicked when he’s down during the opening scene of the film. Note the padded mattress used for rehearsal but NOT seen in the onscreen version .

With apologies to Monty Python, Marvin took such important knowledge to heart as he demonstrates his prowess with a “pointed stick” ….

hyman

The Dirty Dozen offscreen: The bemused victim is producer Ken Hyman (right) while fellow Lee Marvin crony Bob Phillips (center) vocalizes instructions.

By the way, the photo above was graciously contributed by Phillips who was a former college football star, US Marine and Chicago police detective. He was exactly the kind of guy Lee Marvin would want to pal around with, which is exactly what he did. The interview I conducted with Phillips remains one of my favorites as he contributed some of my favorite stories to the text of my book. He and Marvin spent a good part of their time wreaking havoc and having fun on one movie set or another. Amazingly, despite such bizarre shennigans as the hysterical pub brawl in London and the infamous female reporter incident (gotta read the book!), both men were always ready and able to work the next day. The old saying is true: They just don’t make’em like that any more!

Share