LEE MARVIN’S BIRTHDAY, PRESIDENT’S DAY & THE WASHINGTON CONNECTION

Monday, February 19th would have been Lee Marvin’s 94th birthday, which, coincidentally enough, also falls on President’s Day this year. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are well aware of Marvin’s distant connection to the father of our country, thanks in part to a quoted letter from hs mother and dogged research from yours truly. With that in mind, I thought it a good reason to research the family link to our country’s first president in specificity. Bear with me as it’s rather entangled. Ready? Here we go….

Portrait of the Washington Family: (L-R) Martha, her granddaughter, husband George and grandson.

Lee Marvin’s mother, Courtenay Washington Davidge (1896-1963), was born in Virginia, to Estelle Courtenay Washington (1875-1942) and William Fendall Davidge (1871-1941). Got it? Good. Now, it gets a little complicated, especially since George Washington fathered no biological children. Since Courtenay’s mother was Estelle Washington, do you see the connection? Well, believe it or not, it’s not on her mother’s side. Courtenay’s father, William Fendall Davidge, was the son of Anna Louisa Washington Davidge (1836-1885) who’s father, renowned surgeon Dr. Bailey Washington (1787-1854), was the son of Lawrence Washington, making him the nephew of…..wait for it…GEORGE WASHINGTON!
Whew! That wasn’t so bad, now was it? All of this simply means that Lee Marvin’s blood line somehow includes the reason we celebrate Presdent’s Day…which by the way, never really fell on either Washington or Lincoln’s birthday. Please, don’t get me started on that one!
Anyway, I just like to think it’s good to know that the first President of the United States, first Commander-in-Chief, “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” gave so much so that one day, we were able to get Emperor of the North, LEE MARVIN!  Happy birthday, Lee, and Happy President’s day, one and all.

First president’s George Washington’s great, great, grand nephew.

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LEE MARVIN: IN COLD BLOOD

I recently watched the 1967 classic true-crime thriller In Cold Blood on TCM and it still packs one hell of a wallop. Writer/Director Richard Brooks was at the peak of his game in his stark tale of the horrific murders of the Clutter family at the hands of ex-con drifters Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and Dick Hickox (Scott Wilson). As readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know, Marvin himself came pretty damned close to being in the film.
How close? From the IMDb: “Lee Marvin wanted the role of Alvin Dewey but director Richard Brooks gave it to John Forsythe instead. Brooks had worked with Marvin on the extremely successful, The Professionals.  but Marvin had proved to be a handful on the set.”

L-R: Veteran character actor James Flavin, Robert Blake, Gerald S. O’loughlin, John Forsythe (in the role Marvin was to play) & Scott Wilson in Richard Brooks’ true crime thriller, IN COLD BLOOD.

I’m not quite sure where the IMDb got its information from but I had interviewed stuntman Tony Epper, who had worked very closely with Brooks and Marvin on The Professionals. His version of why Marvin was not in the film was quite different. While it’s true Marvin and Brooks did not always get along, both men were well aware of each other’s  personality traits and it was Marvin, not Brooks, who did not want to work with the other. Marvin thought of Brooks as a martinet who may have been a military veteran, but having not seen actual combat, he considered Brooks a phony and a bully. Unfortunate really as it was another golden opportunity that Marvin missed in being a part of portraying the horror of violence on film as never seen before at that time.

Lee Marvin as Detective Frank Ballinger on M Squad, or, as I like to think of it, how he would have appeared in the John Forsythe role for IN COLD BLOOD.

Tony Epper: “I’ll tell you what Lee did. I came over and Lee said ‘Go get some of that good wine at the liquor store.’ It was a different label, that’s all. Other than that, after the third drink, you know. Anyway, I get a phone call. I lived down in the valley in those days. It’s Richard. I remember Tommy Shaw, who was the production manager, in those days. He was a good production manager. Anyway, Brooks wanted to get the script of In Cold Blood to Tommy. He had called Tommy and Tommy couldn’t come. I took it, because his wife had a liver problem. That’s where the money went. Anyway, I went over and that’s when Brooks was still with Jean Simmons. He and I were good friends. Nothing but good friends…Anyway, I go in the house and there’s Richard. He says, ‘I want you to do me a big favor.’ I said ‘Do you want me to kill somebody?’ (laughs) He gives me the script. Lots of seals all over it. I stopped by Lee’s with the script and the bottle he wanted. Anyway, this part was Lee’s idea. He saw the sealed script I was to deliver to Shaw, and since he knew Brooks was so paranoid about anybody reading his script, he came up with this idea. He said, ‘Let’s just break the seal before giving it to Shaw.’ I asked Lee if he wanted to read it first. We never read it, just broke the seal. Brooks, until the day he died, kept asking me if we had ever read the script to In Cold Blood. I think that’s why he changed his mind about offering the role to Lee.”

IN COLD BLOOD writer/director Richard Brooks (behind the camera) and cinematographer Conrad Hall behinds Brooks.

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2-DVD SET OF LEE MARVIN RARITIES!

While I was working on Lee Marvin Point Blank, I put together a 2-DVD set that can best be described as Lee Marvin Rarities. It helped immeasurably with my research as it showed, among other things, Marvin being interviewed on a variety of subjects in a variety of setting, and he was ALWAYS quotable!
Of course, some of these items are available on YouTube and such but certainly not all making it quite a rare collection of vintage material, indeed! Anyone interested in a copy can message me here privately as I’m the only one allowed to read the messages and respond privately, as well. The DVDs consists of:
Commercials he did during M Squad for Pall Mall cigarettes
The Making of Point Blank
Point Blank Trailer
Bad Day at Black Rock Trailer
The Wild One Trailer
The Comancheros Trailer
Clip of him winning the Oscar for Cat Ballou
Interview backstage after the Oscars
The Dirty Dozen Trailer
The Making of The Dirty Dozen
Interview on the set of The Dirty Dozen (Tonight, Let’s All Make Love in London)
The Making of Monte Walsh
The Making of Emperor of the North
A comedy sketch with John Byner in tribute to John Wayne (1976)
Documentary footage making The Big Red One
Blooper clip from The Bob Hope Show
Appearance on The David Letterman Show
Interview for Spencer Tracy Documentary
Montage of film clips by the BSOL (Bastard Sons of Lee)
The BSOL and YOU promo tape

Check out the blurry screen grabs my poor technological skills were able to produce (the discs are not blurry, of course)…

Video grab: Hustling Pall Mall cigarettes for M Squad’s main sponsor.

Video grab: Rare footage showing Lee Marvin (with giddy fellow Oscar winner Julie Christie) being interviewed BACKSTAGE AT THE OSCARS.

Video grab: Being interviewed about swinging London on the set of The Dirty Dozen for the extremely rare documentary, TONIGHT, LET’S ALL MAKE LONDON.

Video grab: Being interviewed on the set during THE MAKING OF MONTE WALSH.

Video grab: Clowning around on location with costar Jack Palance during THE MAKING OF MONTE WALSH.

Video grab: Rare footage showing Marvin & costar Ernest Borgnine rehearsing their fight scene from THE MAKING OF EMPEROR OF THE NORTH.

Video grab: Documentary footage showing Lee Marvin doing his Sam Fuller impression from THE MAKING OF THE BIG RED ONE.

 

 

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