Long gone, the publishing company Citadel Press put out of series of books as “The Films Of..” which focused on actors, genres, directors and decades, with The Films of The Sixties being a prime example. Written by Douglas Brode and published in 1980, it contains a series of essays chosen by the author in chapters broken down by each year within the decade. Brode was one of the better writers in Citadel’s stable and his insight into a given film is highly perceptive. That’s the good news about this title. The bad news is in the amount of information he got wrong, either by misinformation or by omission. By omission it can be stated that he includes only two Lee Marvin films in his assessment, The Professionals and The Dirty Dozen. Since the book came out in 1980, the cult status and influence of Point Blank was well enough established to have included in the book, as well as several others.
The cover of the Citadel Press book, THE FILMS OF THE SIXTIES by Douglas Brode.
When researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, I perused all available sources but was left wanting by Brode’s essay on the film. Why, you may ask? Well, the essay is below but here’s what to look for in terms of what went wrong.
-Donald Sutherland may be complimented to be referred to as intellectual but he’s certainly not English. He was born and raised in Canada and his character, Vernon Pinkley is neither Southern nor retarded. Slow-witted maybe, but his standout scene inspecting Robert Ryan’s troops shows him to be anything but retarded.
– Jim Brown’s character of R.T. Jefferson (Napoleon White in the novel) has good reason to be anti-white but Trini Lopez was certainly not his character’s Puerto Rican sidekick. Brown’s sidekick in the film is clearly Charles Bronson’s character.
– Although it’s a point that’s open to interpretation, Maggot’s murder of the young German girl is hardly on par with the inceneration of german officers and their civilian female counterparts.
– The author even misspelled Telly Savalas’ TV alter ego, Theo Kojak. Oy!
His overall assessment of the film and its importance is on the money, but the wince-inducing mistakes left me cold. This month being the 50th anniversary of The Dirty Dozen’srelease, I invite you read for yourself the essay written on the film’s impact….
The Dirty Dozen, the biggest box office hit Lee Marvin had in his career, was released in theaters June 15, 1967 and in the 50 years since, fans have speculated what Marvin really thought about the film. Despite social media comments to the contrary, in my nearly 20 years of researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, nowhere have I found any reliable quotes attributed to the actor in which he claimed to dislike the film. How that got started I have no idea, but I do know that Marvin had his opinion of the film and it was not a negative one. As late as 1986, a year before he died, he told the L.A. Daily News in his own inimitable style: “Here I am a reclusive major going no place in the military, and they really want to court martial me. So rather than do that they say, ‘Let’s kill him doing something good for the movement.’ They get me all these baddies and we go over and blow ourselves up getting the German generals. So that’s it — the American underdog, right?” Does that sound like someone who didn’t like the film and did it only for the money? By the way, it may not seem like it looking at the final products, but Marvin never did a film just for the money, and that includes such bombs as Paint Your Wagon, The Klansman, Pocket Money, and more. The script is what ignited his interest, but of course the sizable paydays helped. So, for the record, Marvin was as proud of The Dirty Dozen as he was of any of the films he ever made.
The making of the film provided some of the best anecdotes I ever encountered in researching his life — the tales of costar and Marvin crony Bob Phillips (Cpl. Morgan) being a prime example — but for that, you must read the book!
In the meantime, here’s a rare 1967 British magazine heralding the film’s release. Enjoy and all hail The Dirty Dozen on its 50th anniversary!
November 1967 cover of ABC FILM REVIEW highlighting the release of The Dirty Dozen.
Double trunk spread of ABC FILM REVIEW article. Sorry for the cut-off caption. Blame my scanner.
Dirty Dozen article featuring artwork and quotes used in the film’s advertising.
Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia may be the most appropriate place to honor Memorial Day this weekend. For some reason, it seems to me that in recent years, some folks have either confused or deliberately forgotten the true meaning of the day. I’ve know some veterans who have been justifiably irate when someone thanks them for their service on Memorial Day. That, of course is the function of Veteran’s Day. Truth be told, it should be the function of every day but that’s another matter. For Memorial Day, we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, or are no longer with us but their memory sustains us. For that purpose, Arlington — established just before the end of the Civil War — is the quintessential ground in which the grateful citizenry pay its respects.
USMC Private First Class Lee Marvin toward the end of his duty in the Pacific during WWII.
Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know that he is interred there but the criteria for his inclusion is barely met, believe it or not. It’s not simply a matter of his active service but the fact that he received a Purple Heart that allowed him entry. However, his celebrity status resulted in a very special placement in a section reserved for dignitaries, officers and heads of state. For Marvin, who was actually cremated (known as inurnment as opposed to interment) his remains are near the final resting place of heavyweight boxing cheapen and WWII veteran, Joe Louis. His headstone smaller, Marvin’s placement is nonetheless well earned.
Lee Marvin’s headstone next to that of boxing champion, Joe Louis.
Not able to make it Arlington National Cemetery this weekend? Totally understandable. There are other ways to honor our fallen that has nothing to do with the unofficial start of summer, such as big box sales or backyard BBQs. My publisher has informed me recently that Kobo has chosen my e-book version for their Memorial Day Sale for which I am of course honored to discover. So, if you can’t make it to Arlington but want to pay your respects to a true American hero this weekend, feel free to read and discover what makes Lee Marvin an eligible member of that honored and elite group. And may your Memorial Day be a safe and honorable one.