PRE-STARDOM: LEE MARVIN & THE LADIES

Unlike other male film stars, Lee Marvin didn’t have many romantic entanglements in his films, as readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank are fully aware. When he became a leading star that changed only very slightly but it was even more true in his pre-stardom days.
Oh, he interacted with the opposite sex on screen but certainly not in the manner that normally befitted a future superstar. Take for example 1953’s The Big Heat, in which he played henchman, Vince Stone. His girlfriend, Debbie, was played by Gloria Grahame and anyone who has seen the film knows how their relationship winds up.

A self-satisfied Debbie (Gloria Grahame) hands the phone over to an impatient Vince Stone (Marvin) knowing it’s his boss after she just chided Stone for jumping whenever the big boss calls, in Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT.

Of course Marvin’s chivalry towards the opposite sex is on display earlier in the film in how he treats Carolyn Jones and the way he offers her a cigarette. Talk about foreshadowing!

Then there’s the way Marvin’s aptly named Slob interacts with Terry Moore in the bizarre 1955 cult classic, Shack Out on 101. From the pre-credit prologue until the film’s finale,

Terry Moore as Cotty tries to deal with the advances of Slob in SHACK OUT ON 101.

Marvin and Moore’s way of dealing with each other is one of the highlights of the film. Terry Moore detailed the way in which Marvin threatened her on camera when I interviewed her for Lee Marvin Point Blank and she was delighted with the results. Less delighted was Donna Reed about her equally terrifying scene with Lee Marvin in Hangman’s Knot (1952). Her reaction delighted Marvin but certainly not her.
It seems the only time Marvin was allowed to be halfway human towards women was on television, in which his versatility was put to better than use than on film….

A tender moment with Patricia Donahue in The Last Reunion episode of the NBC anthology series, GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATRE.

As Lt. Frank Ballinger, Marvin has a uncharacteristically tender moment on his show M SQUAD.

Television notwithstanding, once viewers were able to attach a name to the familiar face, Lee Marvin was back in movie theaters enacting some typical love scenes…

As hired killer Charlie Strom, Lee Marvin gently persuades blind receptionist Virginia Christine  to divulge some vital infomation in Don Siegel’s THE KILLERS.

Vivien Leigh drives home her point to Lee Marvin in their heated debate concerning women’s shoe styles in Stanley Kramer’s SHIP OF FOOLS.

On the brink of major stardom in the early 1960s, Lee Marvin’s roles in such films as The Killers and Ship of Fools had him treating the opposite sex very much in keeping as he had throughout his pre-stardom years of the 1950s. By the end of the 1960s, however, he was an undeniable superstar, in the clinches with the likes of Jane Fonda, Jeanne Moreau and the ever present Angie Dickinson. How did he deal with these ladies on camera as well as off? The subject of the next blog entry….and a good portion of Lee Marvin Point Blank.

 

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PILLARS OF THE SKY W/ JEFF CHANDLER & LEE ‘WARD BOND’ MARVIN

Universal Pictures’ 1956 release, Pillars of the Sky, starred Jeff Chandler (Ira Grossel) and Dorothy Malone (Dorothy Maloney) but way down the cast list, fifth biilled, as a matter of fact, was Lee Marvin. Of course, it’s mentioned in Lee Marvin Point Blank as I was lucky enough to interview one of its stars, Martin Milner. As a side note, he told me a great anecdote that wasn’t in the book but did make a great blog entry.

One of two ad campaigns for PILLARS OF THE SKY.

As for Marvin in the film, I was able to include one of my favorite stories about him in the book that took place during the film’s production concerning veteran actor, Ward Bond. It’s a wonderfully telling tale that p.r. veteran Peter Levinson passed on to me. Gotta read the book to find that out as it’s a hoot!
As for Marvin’s contribution to the over produced film, it consisted of several early scenes playing what he did best, a swaggering, veteran calvary officer clearly based on Ward Bond himself, as he affected a poorly rendered Irish brogue, for reasons known only to Marvin. My guess is , he did it out of boredom and wanted to have some fun with the part. He was never very accomplished when it came to attempting accents, however: A Mexican bandit on an episode of “Wagon Train,”  an Armenian grape grower on the short-lived “Great Adventure” series, and a slight southern twang in Attack!, are the handful that come to mind.
The film itself is typical of its time. A forthright attempt to show good white folks trying to help native Americans, hampered by the bigotry of other white folks, all the while barely attempting to show the native Americans point of view, who go on a rampage that endanger good and bad white folks alike. Oh, and sexual innuendo is thrown in for good measure in the form of Dorothy Malone and Jeff Chandler’s ongoing love-hate relationship on the open plains. When or if it ever shows up n TCM or any other movie channel, check it out…but keep your expectations low to enjoy it more.

Alternate ad for the film in typical ballyhoo style that hints at the film’s original title: THE TOMAHAWK AND THE CROSS.

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30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PASSING OF LEE MARVIN

This August 29th will mark the 30th anniversary of Lee Marvin’s passing and much has transpired in those three decades. Truth be told, much more should have transpired within that time period. The publication of Lee Marvin Point Blank in 2013 I felt was a worthy addition to the effort of keeping his memory alive but there really hasn’t been much else. If you look at the scan from my book’s back pages you’ll see there’s only been a handful of projects that are a result of Lee’s work & legacy.

From the paperback version of Lee Marvin: Point Blank.

Some of the highlights include the long overdue The Big Red One reconstruction in 2004; A tribute to his films in 2007 by the Film Society of Lincoln Center;  MTV voting Lee Marvin’s Walker in Point Blank the top 5 badass in movie history in 2009; Playwright Nick Zagone’s original stage play “Lee Marvin Be They Name” in 2011.
When my book was in production and my publisher wanted a little more back material, I came up with this idea to keep the actor’s legacy alive in the mind of the reader….

From Lee Marvin: Point Blank, my own idea of films Lee could have made had he lived.

After my book was published, the good people at the American Cinematheque, in conjunction with Larry Edmunds Bookstore in Hollywood contacted me about the possibility of running a short film festival of some of Lee’s films. The turn out surprised everyone as the event proved to be a sell out!

Aero Theater Schedule for Lee Marvin film fest.

Aero Theater write-up. Part 2

Flyer of the festival as put out by Larry Edmunds Bookstore.

As I say, the turn out was wonderful and surprising to all. Similarly, was the fact that Lee Marvin Point Blank made the NY Times Bestseller list in 2014 at number four! Everyone has been surprised. This being the 30th anniversary of Lee’s passing, whenever his name is mentioned since then, I keep hearing how surprised folks are that he’s remembered at all and then how great it is that he is remembered.
Hey, I’m not going to lie to you. I think it would be great to keep selling copies of my book but there’s another reason other than money. Want to keep his memory and legacy alive? Sure, buy the book but more than that: Watch a Lee Marvin movie and tell other folks about it. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.

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