JACK NICHOLSON DIRECTS LEE MARVIN…ALMOST

Jack Nicholson once came this close to directing Lee Marvin in a film Nicholson considered a dream project for years. The iconic film legend just turned 82 years old, supplying the perfect reason to blog about the project that almost was. I discovered this near-miss while researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, one of several frustratingly close projects the actor almost made that I put in a separate appendix in the back of the book.

Lee Marvin on location in Malta for SHOUT AT THE DEVIL, around the time Jack Nicholson wanted him for MOONTRAP.

Jack Nicholson, circa 1977, at the time, the hottest property in Hollywood.

The project was entitled Moontrap, based on a novel by Don Berry. It was part of the author’s “Oregon Trilogy,” and, according to Amazon:
“The year is 1850, a transitional period in the new Oregon Territory, with settlers and lawmakers working to subdue the untamed region. Johnson Monday, a former mountain man, has been living on a bend of the Willamette River near Oregon City for seven years with his Shoshone Indian wife, struggling to make a place in settled society. One day, Webster T. Webster, a raucous, unrepentant trapper, arrives for an unexpected visit. With his earthy humor and stubborn adherence to the simple life, “Webb” leads Monday through adventures that flirt dangerously close to lawlessness, while helping him to rediscover his moral center. Through defiance, triumph, and tragedy, Moontrap follows Johnson Monday as he realizes that relinquishing the stark honesty of mountain life for the compromises of civilization may be too high a price to pay.”

As hot a property as Nicholson was at the time, he was unable to get the financing he wanted to get the film made. A major sticking point was the fact that he only wanted to direct it, not star in it. Several investors were approached, almost agreed, and then walked when Nicholson declined to get in front of the camera. It’s a shame really, as it would have made a fascinating and worthy project had it come to pass. Not sure which role would’ve been played by Marvin, but the character’s situation of Johnson Monday sounds like the original plot to the stage play Paint Your Wagon. However, the description of Webster T. Webster sounds more like Lee Marvin’s screen persona.
We’ll never know now, of course. We can merely wish the great Nicholson a most happy birthday and recall the immortal words of John Greenleaf Whittier: “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’ “

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KINO LORBER RELEASES THE ICEMAN COMETH ON BLU-RAY

The new cover of Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of THE ICEMAN COMETH.

Full cover insert to Kino Lorber’s original DVD release of THE ICEMAN COMETH back in 2003.

Kino Lorber, the DVD releasing company, has chosen to release The Iceman Cometh on Blu-Ray as of late last month. The same company had released it on DVD back in 2003 but they must have figured the time was right to update it to the newer technology. As far as any extras go, the Blu-Ray version has the same goodies that the good folks at Kino Lorber had added to the 2003 version.
To put it another way, if you want to know some fascinating, never-befoe-published stories about the making of this criminally underrated classic, then don’t think you’ll find it on the Blu-ray. The best place to find such gold nuggets is between the pages of …that’s right, Lee Marvin Point Blank. What nuggets, you ask? Well, through due diligence (and timing), I was fortunate enough to get interviews with the likes of director John Frankenheimer, co-star Jeff Bridges, and several of the children of Robert Ryan. All of whom told me wonderful and unheard of tales concerning the making of the film.
What kind of stories? Well, you can find out who the other superstar actors who were offered the Lee Marvin role of Hickey that Frankenheimer hoped would say no. You can discover the valuable inside lesson Jeff Bridges learned fro Marvin that they DON’T teach in acting school. Then there’s the very strange and off-putting thing Marvin did the day he met film legend Fredric March, that is according to Cheyney Ryan, Robert Ryan’s son who was there to witness it.
Don’t take my word for it, of course. See the brilliance of Marvin’s performance and the rest of the cast on Kino Lorber’s recent Blu-Ray release and then, for the full story on The Iceman Cometh’s making, read Lee Marvin Point Blank. You won’t be disappointed.
– Dwayne Epstein

On the cover of the now defunct WORLD Magazine, Lee Marvin does his part to promote THE ICEMAN COMETH.

Hard-to-find four record set of the film’s soundtrack. Cool cover, huh?

2-Page spread in 1973’s edition of SCREEN WORLD.

 

 

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LIBERTY VALANCE REDUX? HERE WE GO, AGAIN!

Liberty Valance redux looks to be on its way into production with some slight changes. According do Deadline.com, John Ford’s classic western will now be about the NY Drug Wars of the 1990s.

The 3 principal cast members of THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (L-R): Jimmy Stewart (Ranse Stoddard), Lee Marvin (Liberty Valance) and John Wayne (Tom Doniphon).

Movie purists will angrily shake their fists at such blasphemy but before they do, there’s some things to keep in mind, so take a deep cleansing breath…..

Liberty Valance toying with his prey on the streets of Shinbone before the big finale.

– John Carpenter did the same with Howard Hawks’ classic western Rio Bravo (1959), by updating it to Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), which itself was later remade in 2005.

– Hawks also bastardized the tale himself over the years with both El Dorado (1967) and Rio Lobo (1970), all three of which starred John Wayne. So much for acting and directing legends maintaining the integrity of their careers.

– Oh, I know Rio Bravo Redux is not Liberty Valance Redux. For the record, it’s also not the first time The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has had a redux..of a kind. There was a stage play mounted in London a few years back that received surprisingly good reviews.

For Lee Marvin’s opening scene in the film, readers of LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK know the real reason he’s wearing the bandana over his face.

–  Also, an updated remake of Liberty Valance has been bandied about for a while now as I had blogged about it back in 2015. As you can see by the blog entry, I’m certainly not defending the idea of an updated remake. Quite the contrary. It’s just that I think in this day and age we should no longer be either shocked nor surprised by such things. Sadly, it is the way of the world we live in.
Besides, to paraphrase the famous line in the film, “When the truth becomes the legend, (re)print the legend.” Would you expect anything  less from Hollywood?
– Dwayne Epstein

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