DECEMBER ON TCM

December on TCM is upon us and with it, comes a rather paltry amount of entries for Lee Marvin fans. In fact, from what I can tell, they’re not airing a single one of his films this December. However, there are a couple of little gems being aired during the month that might be of interest in terms of Lee Marvin’s life and legacy. All times are PST….

The Snow of Kilimanjaro (1952) Thursday, December, 3rd at 12:45am

Susan Hayward comforts gangrene-stricken Gregory Peck in the overblown SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO.


Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know the importance of this Hemingway tale to the Marvin oeuvre, despite this bastardized version Hollywood did to this poignant short story. Starring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner, this lush looking Twentieth-Century Fox production bears almost no resemblance to what the author wrote, which is why he hated so many of the films made of his stories. Of course, in fairness, Lee Marvin’s The Killers, based on Hemingway’s short story suffered the same fate which might be rather Karmic in its own way.

On Dangerous Ground (1952) Thursday, December 3rd, 3:00am

Marvin costar Robert Ryan as psycho cop Jim Wilson near opening of ON DANGEROUS GROUND.


Frequent Marvin costar Robert Ryan could be pretty villianous when he had to be and I personally don’t think he was ever more frighteningly so than in this taut little thriller directed by cult filmmaker Nick Ray and costarring Ida Lupino and Ward Bond. It’s on in the wee small hours but if interested in watching any part of it, by all means watch the scene early on when Ryan threatens an informer and then follows through on his threat (“Why do you make me do it?!”) He’s never been scarier. As for Ryan’s thoughts on Lee Marvin. I was privileged to get some insight into that from his daughter, Lisa Ryan.

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) Tuesday, December 15th, 9:45am

Gloria Grahame appreciating her Oscar for THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.



Lee Marvin’s The Big Heat costar Gloria Grahame won her only Oscar for Best Supporting actress in this wildly overrated expose’ of a Hollywood cad that everybody hates and loves at the same time. Kirk Douglas plays the cad with Barry Sullivan, pouty-mouthed Lana Turner and Dick Powell as satellites to Douglas’s burning sun. Grahame plays Powell’s smalltown pouty-lipped wife who craves the attention of hollywood glamor. Director Vicente Minelli won many plaudits for this behind-the-scenes expose’ but I found it to be just okay. Watch and see for yourself if you think Grahame was more deserving of an Oscar for this or for her role as Debbie, Lee Marvin’s scar-faced moll in The Big Heat. My opinion is obvious.

Susan Slept Here (1954) Saturday, December 19th, 11am & Christmas morning, 9:15am.

(L-R) Glenda Farrell, Alvy Moore and Debbie Reynolds.


Speaking of Dick Powell, he stars in this bit of froth that has almost no connection to Lee Marvin at all….almost. Powell’s last screen appearance has him playing a middle-aged writer who gets the surprise of his life on Christmas Eve in the person of juvenile delinquent Debbie Reynolds. The Marvin connection? One of the film’s supporting players is Alvy Moore, better known as Mr. Kimble, “Green Acres” befuddled county agent. Moore was also a decorated WWII Marine and very good friend of the young Marvin who told this author that the buzz on him for this film actually got him more roles and talk of an Oscar nomination. Watch and see if the buzz was worthy as he said which had his buddy Marvin more than a little envious.  
Well, there you have it, A rather dismal holiday feast for Lee Marvin fans but some interesting nuggets, none the less. Hopefully, January and 2021 will bring some better viewing choices. Anything has got to be better than 2020.
– Dwayne Epstein

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REMEMBERING KIRK DOUGLAS, MAY HE REST IN PEACE

Remembering Kirk Douglas is something many will be doing over the next couple of days and weeks. I also have my own such memory of the legendary star.
Back in 1981, long before I had even though about  writing Lee Marvin Point Blank, I had read that both Kirk Douglas AND Burt Lancaster were going to appear on stage together as Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer as older men in the 1920s. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to talk my childhood friend, Ty Elliott, into going with me up to San Francisco to see the two legends in the brief run of “The Boys In Autumn.” Why? Because ever since he and I were kids The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was our favorite book and Burt Lancaster was our favorite actor. Who could ask for more?!

The theatre marquee in San Francisco for the short-run of “The Boys in Autumn.”

So, off we went and it was quite an adventure. Truth be told, the play itself was not all that good, making Tom Sawyer (Douglas) a child molester pining over Becky Thatcher and turning Huck Finn (Lancaster) into a mercy killer of his dying wife…yech! The saving grace was seeing these two titans of film in person, with an ending in which they joked playfully while doing a soft shoe routine. Movie fan heaven. (Side note: the play was retooled and went to Broadway with George C. Scott & John Cullum in the leads and not surprisingly, it still flopped!)

Burt Lancaster & Kirk Douglas as he looked around the time I met him.

After the play, we went over to a Bar & Grille to get drunk and bemoan both the play and the fact that we didn’t get to meet either of the two legends in-person to actually talk to. We were on our umpteenth gin & tonic when who should walk into the crowded establishment to pick up a to-go order? That’s right, the dimpled chin one himself, looking every inch a movie star. He came in like a whirlwind, wearing slacks, a dapper tan trench coat over a ribbed red turtleneck, hair flipping as he walked looking 20 years young than his mid-60s. He sat down in the shadowy corner waiting for his food, while I screwed up my courage. I downed the rest of my drink, gathered my screwed up courage, and took the long jaunt over to where he impatiently sat, hoping not to be bothered by fools such as I. Good thing I was drunk.
I stood in front of him, cleared my throat and was about to speak when he put his finger to his lips, making that ‘shushing’ sign and said, “Son, I’m just leaving now and would rather not be bothered…”
I cut him off and said, “Mr. Douglas. I just came over to thank you. Thank you, for Spartacus, Lust for Life, Lonely are the Brave, Paths of Glory….”
He looked at me while I babbled as he tried to read my face. An eternity later, he jutted out his hand and said, “You know what? Thank you, young man. We in the industry don’t hear that enough from our fans. I want you to know that I appreciate it.”
It was a moment that for obvious reasons I’ll never forget. Incidentally, a few seconds later, I watched Ty down his drink and do the same thing before Kirk Douglas beat his hasty retreat. What a memorable night.
And now, now that he’s no longer with us at the age of 103, I will personally be remembering Kirk Douglas for many years to come, thanks to his ending of the Blacklist with Spartacus, AND for Lust for Life, Lonely Are the Brave and so many more. Your legacy is secure as his your place in history.
– Dwayne Epstein

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BURT LANCASTER: THE NIGHT WE MET

Burt Lancaster is one of three individuals I consider my all-time favorite movie actors, a holy trinity, if you will. The other two — James Cagney and Steve McQueen — I never had the good fortune to meet. However, one memorable night in the 1980s, I spent at least a half an hour talking with Lancaster one-on-one in the alcove of the Nuart Theater in Santa Monica. Seriously.

The facade of the Nuart Theater where I first me Burt Lancaster.

Long before I began working on Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was living a very strange existence. By day, I was a janitor at Kaiser Permanente in Downey, and by night, I went to movie premieres via the freelance writing I did for our local newspaper. My friends and I also haunted all the great revival theaters on the L.A. scene, depending on the scheduled programs. I distinctly remember reading the program of the Nuart one day while at work and seeing an upcoming screening for a Lancaster double feature of The Professionals & The Scalphunters, two of his best! In a small box at the bottom of the listing were the words: “Mr. Lancaster will appear between films, schedule permitting.” Since he had been in the news recently due to major bypass surgery, I thought the chance of his appearances were slim to none. Even so, I knew I’d regret not taking the chance if he did somehow show up since surgery aside, he rarely did such events even in good health. Besides, they’re great films to see on the big screen.
My best friend and his fiancee’ were students at CalArts so we arranged to meet that night at the theater along with some of his classmates. On the outside chance Lancaster showed up, I brought along my original poster to Birdman of Alcatraz for him to sign if he was willing. No pressure.
Well, my friends arrived, the movie started, and since I knew it inside and out, I went with my gut that if he showed up, it would be around this time. I ambled outside, and waited outside the lobby with its colorful sunburst mosaic along with a few other fans. In no time at all a sleek jet black Jaguar cut thru traffic, then pulled to the curb and out popped the man. Dressed in a black suit with a turtleneck and sporting a salt & pepper goatee, he whirled around with that Lancaster smile and asked, “How’s that for a New York driver?” Among the gathered, not a word was said as the movie geeks stared at the bona fide movie star in stony silence. I’m a movie fan but deny my geek-dom, as I had a pretty non-movie related social life.
So, I broke into applause and said “Very nice. Very nice indeed.” He smiled back at me, walked up, shook my hand and thus began our conversation as he signed my poster.

The poster I framed after Burt Lancaster signed it.

Check out the blurry image in the top right corner.

The interior of the Nuart is festooned with retro movie posters and a small couch in an alcove under a giant poster of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which is where our conversation continued. I’m embarrassed to admit that much of the memory of our talk has vanished into time, other than a few highlights, such as telling him about going to see him and Kirk Douglas in their play in San Francisco (that adventure can be read here).

Burt Lancaster as he looked around the time I met him.

I do remember that I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually talking to Burt Lancaster. In fact, at one point I said as much and he responded, “Listen son, we’re having a nice conversation. Don’t ruin it….” He then threw his head back and did that famous Lancaster laugh. I had to tell him, “You do you really good!” To which he knowingly stated, “Oh no. Frank Gorshin does me MUCH better!”
It wasn’t long before someone came over and told him it was time to speak. We said our goodbyes and I joined my friends inside. When my buddy asked where the hell I was, I told him, “I’ll tell you later.”
The house lights then went up and the man was introduced to thunderous applause. He spoke briefly and then took questions. What was extremely cool was that the audience consisted of true Lancaster fans. Someone asked about Nick Cravat and there was a smattering of applause. Lancaster smiled and asked the audience, “You know Nick?” Then the place went nuts. He laughed heartily and said, “Well, I’ll tell him you said hello!”
And so it went. A truly magically night of movie memories. I’ve often wondered why he didn’t do such things more often as he clearly enjoyed himself at the event. Years later, when I began working on Lee Marvin Point Blank, I thought about that night many times, thinking how perfect it would have been had I asked about The Professionals and working on that particular classic. Such was not to be of course, but, I did talk to costars Woody Strode, Jack Palance, Lancaster’s career-long stunt double Tony Epper, producer Phil Parslow and more. Each went on the record with exclusive tales about Burt, Lee, director Richard Brooks and more, all of which can be found only in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank.

From the many photos in LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK that I was able to caption.

Until then, all the best, and if you ever get the chance to meet your idols, by all means do it. You won’t be disappointed. At least I wasn’t.
– Dwayne Epstein.

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