LEE MARVIN IN ‘THE RACK’….OH, AND PAUL NEWMAN, TOO!

One of the main purposes of this blog is to supplement Lee Marvin Point Blank, as well as shed light on some of the actor’s lesser known work, and a perfect example of that is the 1956 Paul Newman vehicle, The Rack. Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling with an expanded screenplay by Stewart Stern, the film was based on the high number of U.S. soldiers that collaborated with the enemy during the Korean War. At the time of the film’s release that number was more than three thousand.
To shed light on the problem, Serling and then Stern fashioned this tale of how one solider (Paul Newman) broke under pressure as a P.O.W. and the effect it has on his martinet father (Walter Pidgeon), widowed sister-in-law (Anne Francis), and his court-martial that takes up the bulk of the film. The lawyers battling the case are prosecutor Wendell Corey and defense attorney Edmond O’Brien.

Original ad campaign for THE RACK (1956).

See any mention above of Lee Marvin in that summation? Well, there’s a reason for that…..

Herald sent to theaters to help promote THE RACK focused on one promotional aspect of the film.

Marvin’s contribution to the film is important enough to rate the billing he received but not enough to be included in the advertising. Why is that? Mainly due to the fact that he has only two short scenes in the film, but they are two of the best the film has to offer. He plays a fellow P.O.W. who early on sets the tone of the films’s seriousness when he commits an act of symbolic assault on Newman….

As Capt. John R. Miller, Lee Marvin perpetrates an ambush on fellow P.O.W. Paul Newman that sets the tone of the film.

Later, during the extensive court-martial sequence, Marvin’s character gives testimony that proves that not every soldier who endured torture at the hands of their captors broke under pressure…..

An ad highlighting Marvin’s testimony scene during the court-martial.

Despite his limited screen time, Marvin added that necessary realism to the proceedings the overwrought melodrama desperately needed. Newman and company were up to their task but it’s Marvin’s character, based on a real P.O.W. screenwriter Stewart Stern read about, that gives the film it’s all-important ‘other-side-of the coin’ point of view. Stern had learned of some of the incredibly inhumane  torture this particular soldier had gone through, but it was far too intense for studios and audiences of the 1950s.  For example, as he told Roger Ebert in a late life interview: “The Marvin character was partly based on that prisoner I’d read about. The Chinese had done everything they could in terms of physical torture. They tossed Army helmets full of urine in his face, they put cigarettes out on his skin…and when this didn’t work they peeled the skin from his penis and tossed him into solitary confinement in a tiny shed with corrugated iron across the top. And he still wouldn’t talk. There was a nail-hole in the corrugated iron, and every day at the same time, a tiny ray of sunlight would shine through the nail-hole, and he would hold his penis up into that tiny ray of sunlight so it would heal faster. The Chinese never broke him, and that was one of the reasons they turned to psychological abuse as a means of torture.”
Naturally the above horrors could not be depicted in 1956 so another way of emotionally affecting the viewers were used and Marvin was more than up to the task. The scene still packs a wallop but will not be described here as it must be seen intact for its full emotional effect. Besides, I loathe spoilers!
Did Marvin know of what Stern had researched? Probably not. Did he see his own version of war’s horror inflicted on humanity? Absolutely, which is why his performance, although brief, is ALWAYS worth watching.

 

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OFFER ON AMAZON HARDCOVER SALES IN U.S.

Amazon’s hardcover sales of Lee Marvin: Point Blank have dropped and as an incentive to help boost that number, I thought I’d make a promotional offer. Anyone who lives in the United States and purchases one of the remaining hardcovers via the Amazon link (click on the blue book title anywhere throughhout this post), will recieve a postcard signed by yours truly, the book’s author. It will be as if youy had attended one of the many book signings that have taken place over the last two years but could not get to, no matter where you live! Works like this: Simply buy the hardcover, reply to this blog post that you’ve bought the book, which postcard you prefer, and I’ll private message to get your snail mail address. That’s it! It’s between you and I alone and you don’t have to pay for the postage. The postcards come in two varieties:

The first, is from the book signing I did in April, 2013 at a great little bookstore in Novato, Calif called Loveable Rogue. The front of the card depicting the book is on the left and the back is pictured on the right:

FREE SIGNED POSTCARD FROM LOVEABLE ROGUE BOOK SIGNING.

FREE SIGNED POSTCARD FROM LOVEABLE ROGUE BOOK SIGNING.

The other postcard is from the 2001 A&E Biography on Marvin that I was interviewed for and provided a large part of the graphics for, as well. The show was done well and allowed me the chance to meet and later interview Angie Dickinson. Again, below is the card with an image of Marvin waiting on the set of The Dirty Dozen on the left and the back of the card with info about the show is on right:

FREE A&E BIOGRAPHY POSTCARD OF LEE MARVIN.

FREE A&E BIOGRAPHY POSTCARD OF LEE MARVIN.

Pretty simple, right? By the way, even though Amazon sells the book at a pretty good discount, it does not effect my royalties one bit, so why wait? It’s the definition of a win/win! Go ahead and order the hardcover, give me a shout out that you did, and I’ll do the rest. As they say on TV, better hurry while supplies last!

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