The Bell System, the original phone company before it was forced to break up into a lot of “Baby Bells,” was a pretty powerful communication force. Powerful enough to sponsor TV’s first color broadcast known as “The Bell Telephone Hour” (1959-1969) among other ventures. One of those other ventures was a one hour TV special aired April 1970 entitled “It Couldn’t Be Done,” hosted and narrated by none other than Lee Marvin. 

Full page oversized ad promoting “It Couldn’t Be Done” in 1970.

The idea behind it was to celebrate American industrial accomplishments with rare footage, interviews, musical interludes by the then popular 5th Dimension singing group, singer Steve Mills and insight given by Lee Marvin.
    It being 1970, he’s still sporting his long-ish hair and mustache from Monte Walsh (1970) and Paint Your Wagon (1969). It’s interesting in that at the time, once a former TV actor was lucky enough to establish a successful film career, they would never deign to again appear on TV, assuming it might jinx their hard-earned success or the medium was beneath them somehow. Not Lee Marvin. He returned to TV regularly throughout his career and doing so did not adversely effect him. Matter of fact, some of his best and most versatile performances were on television, as I discovered and wrote about in Lee Marvin Point Blank
  As for the show “It Couldn’t Be Done,” The Bell System wasted no time being as patriotic as possible in its depiction of American ingenuity while seeming to not care about the non-existent element of political correctness. For example, they fail to mention that Mount Rushmore was carved into the sacred Black Hills of the Lakota Sioux of South Dakota. Just saying. 
 Okay, political correctness aside, below is the actual (dated) one hour special as posted last year on YouTube. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein


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Donald Zec, the British journalist to lay claim to being the first Lee Marvin biographer, has died at the the ripe old age of 102, on September 6th according to published reports.  Zec had a very lengthy and enviable career as a entertainment reporter for the U.K.’s Daily Mirror, the highlights of which include interviewing everyone from Marilyn Monroe to the Beatles and more. He had also published full-length biographies on the likes of Sophia Loren as well as Marvin and a collection of interviews of celebrities with the aptly titled author’s spin, Some Enchanted Egos. The Marvin bio, however, was indeed the first of its kind, which I snapped up when it came out in 1980.

Dust jacket of the 1980 biography of Lee Marvin by Donald Zec published by St. Martin’s Press entitled simply, MARVIN.

Cover of the British paperback of Donald Zec’s Lee Marvin bio.

I am not one who wishes to speak ill of the dead and do indeed appreciate and respect the fact that Zec was able to write the book. However, my personal opinion of his work had been stated previously in this blog and can be found here.  
In other words, I thank Mr. Zec for authoring a book that helped me to decide to write on the similar subject, but with vastly different results. Perhaps the last word on the subject was best stated by Lee Marvin himself. As Marvin told Roger Ebert in a 1984 interview about the Donald Zec book:
“Years ago there was a book about me. One of those as-told-to books. I said a lot of astounding things in that book. That was back when I was still in the image-building stage. I wasn’t misquoted. I really did say all those things. But, whether they’re true? Well, they might be true and they might not be true. What do I know?” 
So, all that said, rest in peace, Mr. Zec is all I can add.
If you want the real story of Lee Marvin’s amazing life, career and legacy, there’s always Lee Marvin Point Blank.
– Dwayne Epstein

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Marvin, Rickles & Ali is not a law firm but the participants of a an early 1970s talk show. Insult comic extraordinaire Don Rickles was sitting in for Johnny Carson one night and was in top form as he skewered guest Lee Marvin, who got an assist from legendary boxing champ Muhammad Ali.  Marvin appeared to promote Prime Cut (1972) apparently on his way to Hawaii. He comes off rather laid back but still on his toes as he was an old hand at such doings. I always enjoy his talk show appearances and have blogged about them before, such as the Dick Cavett Show and Merv Griffin Show.  However, if you think Marvin talks about Prime Cut think again. He just apparently was not in the mood but you can read al about it in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Screen grab of Marvin, Ali & Rickles.

  It should be said that Marvin did not always appear sober when interviewed but he seemed to be sober here. I also want to apologize in advance for the quality of the video as I had nothing to do with the transfer since it was uploaded to YouTube by someone else. Mavin shows up at around the 35 minute 8 seconds mark, having followed Ali and comedian Don Adams along with Carson stalwart Ed McMahon. Adams and McMahon, like Marvin, were also in the Marines.
Later on the same video is another clip of a show with Rickles and James Caan along with Karen Black which is pretty funny. Oh, and the clip before Marvin, Rickles & Ali is of Flip Wilson hosting Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows and poker great Amarillo Slim…..if you’re interested, if not, fast forward to Marvin, Rickles & Ali as they are all on their game and VERY funny, especially Ali!
Oh, and a special “thank you” to regular blog follower Shawn Marengo for bringing it to my attention.

– Dwayne Epstein

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