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.

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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

 

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MY 1998 INTERVIEW WITH THE LATE ROBERT VAUGHN

I don’t normally post a blog as frequently as this but the recent passing of Robert Vaughn compels me to do so. I interviewed Mr. Vaughn at the  Beverly Garland Hotel on January 18. 1998. I was well aware of his impressive career and would loved to have talk to him about it at length. However, my purpose for speaking with him had to remain at the forefront, which was his work with Lee Marvin. Since he had known Lee’s first wife, Betty, my mentioning of her gained me entry into a discussion with Vaughn. He was erudite, literate and most of all, a consummate pro. I was nervous but my fears were quickly allayed once we began. Would have loved to talk with him about his wonderful book about the blacklist, Only Victims, or his work on The Magnificent Seven or “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” Bullitt, or countless other projects worthy of his talent. Sadly, I never got the chance.
However, here is the actual interview below, unedited and put to good use in fleshing out Lee Marvin Point Blank. Enjoy.

DWAYNE: You worked with Mr. Marvin in Delta Force, right?
ROBERT VAUGHN: Yeah, I worked with him in Delta Force. We shot that in Israel. I guess it was the 80s. He was not well at the time.
D: Yeah, that was his last film.

The late Robert Vaughn as General Woodbridge in 1986's DELTA FORCE.

The late Robert Vaughn as General Woodbridge in 1986’s DELTA FORCE.

R: Was that his last picture? [I nod]. He was very pleasant but he was fragile; getting up very slowly, getting down very slowly. He was not in good health. But I knew him from many, many years ago when he was married to his first wife and they lived out in the canyon area. I remember I was going with a girl named Joyce Gibbs who knew Betty and we used to go out there. Lee used to greet us with a Bloody Mary in his hand about 10:00 Sunday morning. So I knew him very many years, before he did “M Squad.”
D: Do you recall when you first met him?
R: I believe it was in the late 50s. When was “M Squad?”
D: That was in the late 50s.
R: Then it was around that time. I don’t think he had done it…I believe he was a member of that which I was a member of called the Stage Society. I don’t know whether he was a member but I know he was around there. It was a little theater group out on Melrose & Doheny. It was around 20 years in the late 50s and early 60s. It was founded by Gary Cooper and people like that.
D: I’m not familiar with this.
R: Well, Betty was obviously a member of the group but I think Lee was around the theater quite a bit. I don’t think he was actually a member of the group but that’s when I first met him.
D: Was there any shows that he did?
R: He didn’t do any plays there as far as I know.
D: I know he did some plays, like in La Jolla.
R: He didn’t do any there [stage group] while I was there. I know that for sure because I was very actively involved from around ‘52 to ‘56. Maybe that was the time I met Lee.
D: When you think of Lee Marvin, are there any specific incidents that that stick out in your mind as to the kind of man he was?
R: I just thought he was a classic case of movie star appeal. There was just nobody else like him. The X-factor, sex appeal, whatever you want to call it. Lee was Lee and he was just a tremendous force on the screen.
D: What was he like to work with in a scene as another actor?
R: I really didn’t work with him in Delta Force.
D: If I recall, the scenes you had with him in conversation…
R: I was in a room talking, he was on a monitor and I was on a monitor talking somewhere else. Although I saw him quite a bit while we were filming, I didn’t actually work with him in a scene.
D: It’s one of those cases of working with an actor but never actually working with him.
R: I did a movie called Black Moon Rising where I was the principle heavy and the lead was Tommy Lee Jones and we never met. We had a whole sequence at the end of the picture where I was chasing him around a garage in a car but we never actually personally met on film. So, movie magic works its ways.

Also from 1986, Robert Vaughn costarred with Tommy Lee Jones in BLACK MOON RISING but according to Vaughn, they never met!

Also from 1986, Robert Vaughn costarred with Tommy Lee Jones in BLACK MOON RISING but according to Vaughn, they never met!

D: Yes, it does. When you were working on Delta Force, how did he get along with the rest of the cast?
R: Very well. The fellow who directed it was also the producer, Menachem Golan. He was very kind to me. He gave me his chauffeured car and drove me through Jerusalem and various other sights in the Holy Land. He gave me his chauffeur and his car and it so happens his chauffeur was very knowledgeable, as most Israelis are, not only of the history of the state of Israel, but roots to the bible. So this guide took me all over Israel, which is impossible to do in a tizzy, but he was a wonderful tour guide.
D: That was a pretty eclectic cast, with people like Joey Bishop, Shelley Winters and…
R: Chuck Norris. I worked with him on his show a couple of years ago.
D: How did he play with the rest of this kind of cast?
R: As I say, I didn’t really work with any of these guys. Most of my scenes were shot in one room, as I recall. I was talking to somebody on a TV screen. I didn’t really work with any of these people. I just saw them around Israel.
D: Was Marvin drinking during the making of the film?
R: He may have been but not that I could see.
D: He did taper off a lot towards the end of his life.
R: As I say, he looked very, very frail. He was very gingerly getting in and out of chairs and so on. He was obviously very weak but he had a lot of energy and his spirits were good. He was very popular and very well-liked. We had a good time on the rare moments we had to talked together.
D: Do you recall any of the conversations?

A fragile looking Lee Marvin (left), according to costar Robert Vaughn, and toplined costar Chuck Norris in DELTA FORCE.

A fragile looking Lee Marvin (left), according to costar Robert Vaughn, pictured with costar Chuck Norris in DELTA FORCE.

R: I do not.
D: Do you recall when the last time you saw him was?
R: I think it was the last time because he died shortly after that.
D: Yeah, that was his last film. Well, thank you very much for your time, Mr. Vaughn.
R: It was my pleasure.

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