JOHN MITCHUM ON LEE MARVIN

John Mitchum, veteran character actor of countless films and TV shows, was also the younger brother of the legendary Robert Mitchum. He once wrote a book in the late 1980s about his life and experiences in Hollywood that’s overflowing with anecdotes and sometimes bawdy tales.

Paperback cover of John Mitchum’s memoir, THEM ORNERY MITCHUM BOYS.

I discovered the book, titled Them Ornery Mitchum Boys after my book, Lee Marvin: Point Blank, had already been published. It concerned me at first as I had always been a fan of his “Big Brother Bob,” and thought there may be something therein I may have missed out on for my research. Luckily, I had interviewed John Mitchum during a visit to the Lone Pine Film Festival and was able to get some wonderful quotes from the man at the time.
Since that time, I purchased a copy of the book on Ebay and was happy to discover it was also signed by the author!

Signature of John Mitchum.

That said, I was able to enjoy reading the tales of John and “Big Brother Bob” without trepidation that I had missed out on any important talking points John may have included, since he did indeed work with Lee Marvin on M Squad and also Point Your Wagon.  By the way, if you want to see some of “Big Brother Bob’s” best work, check out his astounding trilogy of films fro the early 70s: The Yakuza (produced by my agent, the late Mike Hamilburg) The Friends of Eddie Coyle & Farewell My Lovely. if they don’t make you a fan of his world-weary cynicism, then nothing will.
Anyway, below is the section of tales John wrote about Lee that includes thoughts on Jean Seberg, Ty Cabeen, and more. Enjoy…
– Dwayne Epstein

John Mitchum’s take on working with Lee Marvin.

Share Button

BURT REYNOLDS (R.I.P.) REMEMEBERED LEE MARVIN

Burt Reynolds, who passed away this week at the age of 82, will of course be sadly missed for the movie icon that he was, especially in the 1970s. His charm and wit were also on full display as a frequent talk show guest, making a career out of self-effacingly making fun of his career.
In researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Burt Reynolds knew and liked Lee Marvin. He tells a great anecdote in his 1994 autobiography concerning one of his very first professional acting jobs. In a 1959 episode of M Squad he played a young, troubled student battling some bullies at a trade school.

Lee Marvin (back to camera) as Lt. Frank Ballinger tried to get troubled trade school student Burt Reynolds to testify against school bully, Tom Laughlin.

His nemesis in the episode was none other than Tom “Billy Jack” Laughlin, playing his role like an ersatz James Dean. The casting made sense as Reynolds was often compared facially to a young Marlon Brando, so the two most famous juvenile delinquents of the 1950s appeared to square off against each other.

The cover of Burt Reynolds’ 1994 autobiography.

Reynolds wrote that he was late to the set the first day as he misunderstood the call sheet time he was supposed to show up. Despite his remorse, the assistant director chewed out the young actor in front of the cast and crew.

Lee Marvin puts the heat on the ‘late’ Burt Reynolds in M SQUAD.

A hung-over Lee Marvin came out of his trailer angrily asking what all the noise was about. When the A.D. told Marvin that Reynolds was late, Marvin angrily shouted, “So was I! What’s the big deal? Now shut up and let’s get to work!” Reynolds praised Marvin no end for helping to salvage his fledgling career.

A decade later Burt Reynolds wrote a second memoir, focusing mostly on the fascinating people he met and knew throughout his career aptly entitled But Enough About Me. He and co-author Jon Winokur dedicate an entire chapter to Marvin, apparently cribbing much information from another source that blog readers may be aware of…ahem….How do I know? Because a large portion of his Marvin biographical material was rather exclusively based on MY research. One need only see the way he incorporates Marvin’s war record and more to see the source. Don’t take my word for it, though. If you’ve read Reynolds’ book, read Lee Marvin Point Blank and then see for yourself.

Burt Reynolds’ 2015 memoir, published 2 years after Lee Marvin Point Blank.

In any event, he ends that chapter on Marvin with a rather poignant personal anecdote all his own that says much about both men. (pp. 89-90)

“Just before Deliverance was released, I went to a screening at Warner Brothers with Lee Marvin, who took me aside and gave me some unsolicited advice: ‘Don’t let’em fuck you up, pardner! You’re gonna be a under a microscope and it’s gonna change your life forever.’
‘I sure hope so,’ I said.
Lee grabbed me by the lapels. ‘No, listen to me! It’s gonna change everything and you’ve got to be careful. Don’t let’em fuck you up!’
‘I won’t,’ I said.
‘Goddamn it! You’re not listening!’
And I wasn’t.
I had no idea.”

Rest in Peace, Mr. Reynolds. Like all greats, we shall not see your like again.
-Dwayne Epstein.

Share Button

PRE-STARDOM: LEE MARVIN & THE LADIES

Unlike other male film stars, Lee Marvin didn’t have many romantic entanglements in his films, as readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank are fully aware. When he became a leading star that changed only very slightly but it was even more true in his pre-stardom days.
Oh, he interacted with the opposite sex on screen but certainly not in the manner that normally befitted a future superstar. Take for example 1953’s The Big Heat, in which he played henchman, Vince Stone. His girlfriend, Debbie, was played by Gloria Grahame and anyone who has seen the film knows how their relationship winds up.

A self-satisfied Debbie (Gloria Grahame) hands the phone over to an impatient Vince Stone (Marvin) knowing it’s his boss after she just chided Stone for jumping whenever the big boss calls, in Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT.

Of course Marvin’s chivalry towards the opposite sex is on display earlier in the film in how he treats Carolyn Jones and the way he offers her a cigarette. Talk about foreshadowing!

Then there’s the way Marvin’s aptly named Slob interacts with Terry Moore in the bizarre 1955 cult classic, Shack Out on 101. From the pre-credit prologue until the film’s finale,

Terry Moore as Cotty tries to deal with the advances of Slob in SHACK OUT ON 101.

Marvin and Moore’s way of dealing with each other is one of the highlights of the film. Terry Moore detailed the way in which Marvin threatened her on camera when I interviewed her for Lee Marvin Point Blank and she was delighted with the results. Less delighted was Donna Reed about her equally terrifying scene with Lee Marvin in Hangman’s Knot (1952). Her reaction delighted Marvin but certainly not her.
It seems the only time Marvin was allowed to be halfway human towards women was on television, in which his versatility was put to better than use than on film….

A tender moment with Patricia Donahue in The Last Reunion episode of the NBC anthology series, GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATRE.

As Lt. Frank Ballinger, Marvin has a uncharacteristically tender moment on his show M SQUAD.

Television notwithstanding, once viewers were able to attach a name to the familiar face, Lee Marvin was back in movie theaters enacting some typical love scenes…

As hired killer Charlie Strom, Lee Marvin gently persuades blind receptionist Virginia Christine  to divulge some vital infomation in Don Siegel’s THE KILLERS.

Vivien Leigh drives home her point to Lee Marvin in their heated debate concerning women’s shoe styles in Stanley Kramer’s SHIP OF FOOLS.

On the brink of major stardom in the early 1960s, Lee Marvin’s roles in such films as The Killers and Ship of Fools had him treating the opposite sex very much in keeping as he had throughout his pre-stardom years of the 1950s. By the end of the 1960s, however, he was an undeniable superstar, in the clinches with the likes of Jane Fonda, Jeanne Moreau and the ever present Angie Dickinson. How did he deal with these ladies on camera as well as off? The subject of the next blog entry….and a good portion of Lee Marvin Point Blank.
– Dwayne Epstein

 

Share Button