STUART WHITMAN, COMANCHEROS COSTAR, DEAD AT 92

Stuart Whitman, who costarred with John Wayne and Lee Marvin in 1962’s The Comancheros, has died at the age of 92 from skin cancer.

Ad for THE COMANCHEROS, in which Lee Marvin’s appearance remains is not quite what it was in the movie.

The age of 92 is a ripe one for any person, but for a veteran actor know for his dark, brooding good looks to survive for that period of time, is quite an accomplishment.

In all honesty, I was not much of a fan, despite his lengthy and prolific career listed in this online obit.
An apt description was given his career in British David Quinlan’s 1981 compendium, The Illustrated Directory of Film Stars: “Black-haired, craggy-faced American leading man who played a lot of very small roles before breaking into the big time via a Fox contract. These years at the studio (1958-1965) were his only ones as a top Hollywood star, and contain his best performances. Since then, he has remained a regular, if somewhat immobile, second-line leading man.”

COMANCHEROS Pressbook press release on the then burgeoning career of Stuart Whitman.

Whitman also had a small role in the underrated Randolph Scott & Lee Marvin western, Seven Men From Now (1956). That aside, I just always thought of him as part of that generation of actors who for a brief period starred in films at the tail of the studio system, as Quinlan mentioned. Hollywood’s feudal studio system was beginning to crumble so the attempts to make superstars out of the likes of Stuart Whitman and George Hamilton was short-lived. The changing cultural landscape did allow audiences a glimpse at early roles of actors who supported the likes of Hamilton and Whitman, and would become lasting major superstars later in the 1960s and 1970s, Such as Charles Bronson, and yes, Lee Marvin.
Don’t get me wrong, Whitman was a serviceable presence in the right role, such as Pau Regret in The Comancheros — the making of which is detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank. Personally, despite his well-deserved Oscar-nomination for The Mark (1961), I liked him best in the gritty true-life crime drama, Murder Inc. (1960). Granted, Whitman’s all-American good looks seemed out of place among the ethnic faces, but his scene towards the end of the film in which he confronts Abe “Kid Twist” Reles (Peter Falk), may very well be Stuart Whitman’s best acting ever, in my humble opinion.
Until then, with all the social isolation in place, it might not be a bad idea to catch up on some classic films made by Whitman and others so you can judge for yourself. The ranks are clearly thinning.
– Dwayne Epstein

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THE UK TELEGRAPH ON LEE MARVIN RECENTLY

The UK Telegraph, the major newspaper of the United Kingdom, recently published a fairly lengthy article by Martin Chilton focusing mainly on the actor’s singing of “Wandering’ Star” in Paint Your Wagon (1969). The article can be found here and it’s fairly entertaining.
To his credit, writer Martin Chilton uncovered some interesting factoids I was not aware of, such as the quotes from Nelson Riddle’s son, Christopher Riddle, and a few other tidbits.

Famed photographer Bob Willoughby captured Lee Marvin with his infrared lens on location for Paint Your Wagon.

To his discredit, he also got some things obviously wrong. Normally I wouldn’t mind but since the author chose to mention me and my book, Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I think it best to set the record straight, as is my way:

Lee Marvin & Clint Eastwood early in the film also captured by Bob Willoughby.

– Marvin was never, repeat, never in the army. That is the last thing you would ever want to mix-up in the presence of a Marine. Nor are the Marines affiliated with the Navy, as one person commented. The USMC is and always has been an autonomous branch of the U.S. military.
– He also did not have his sciatic nerve severed on Saipan but NEARLY had it severed. The 13 months of convalescence was bad enough but had it been severed, he’d never be able to walk again.
– His entry into theatre wasn’t quite a lark but a calculated stumble into a series of events.
– Betty Marvin, Lee’s first wife, was not trained as an opera singer but trained in musical comedy at UCLA by MGM musical director Roger Edens. The requirements are quite different.
– The photo of Marvin and his costar from The Dirty Dozen misspells Charles Bronson as BROSNAN. Wonder how Pierce feels about that?
I’m rather surprised that the UK Telegraph didn’t bring up the urban legend about Marvin and Captain Kangaroo and revive that old chestnut like a Walking Dead zombie.
Bottom line, as always, if you want the straight, hard, and fascinating facts behind Lee Marvin’s life, career and legacy, read Lee Marvin Point Blank. Then we’ll talk.
– Dwayne Epstein

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HAPPY 96TH BIRTHDAY, LEE MARVIN!

Happy 96th birthday to Lee Marvin! Yes, it’s that time of year again as on this day in 1924 in New York City’s Booth Memorial Hospital Lee Marvin came into the world.
Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve written about his birthday in the past, such as back in 2016, 2017, etc. So with that in mind, I was rather hard pressed to find a new angle to write about it.
Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know the circumstances surrounding his birth, early years, and more via my exclusive research. So, what’s left?

Photo montage of great Lee Marvin images courtesy of Facebook friend, Aldora Terrell.

Well, apparently, the web has caught on to the idea of celebrating the life and work of Lee Marvin, and for that I am of course grateful. There have a been a couple of pretty good blog entries about him today. Take for instance this wonderful tribute by blogger Sheila O’Malley. Well done, Sheila.
But then there are others which are meant well but feel more like a caraway seed in my wisdom tooth. A website called Groovy History recently posted about Marvin and not only misspelled my name as a reference source, they misinform the reader about the life and work of Lee Marvin and to my my mind, THAT is unforgivable. Seriously. A film extra right after the war? No mention of his years of stage work on and off Broadway? His training with the American Theater Wing? A pacifist? Come on! As my Facebook friend Erc Farkas wrote me, “Did he even read your book?” Sigh.
Ah well, be that as it may all one can do is simply say Happy 96th birthday, Lee. Glad they still remember you. But hey, if you want to get the facts straight, read the Award-Winning NY Times Bestseller, Lee Marvin Point Blank. Better yet, watch a Lee Marvin movie. Talk about your win/win scenarios! In both instances, you won’t be disappointed.
– Dwayne Epstein

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