FEBRUARY 2021 ON TCM

February 2021 is upon us and so is a new list of watchable films for interested Lee Marvin fans. Unfortunately, they are only showing one actual Lee Marvin film for February 2021, but there are a couple of interesting highlights to consider, as well. All times are PST so set your DVRs accordingly…

AVALANCHE EXPRESS (1979): Tuesday, February 2nd, 4:45 am. 

Old style advertising artwork for AVALANCHE EXPRESS, which was infinitely better than the film.


Lee Marvin heads an all-star cast of Robert Shaw, Maximillian Schell, Linda Evans, Horst Bucholtz, Mike Connors and Joe Namath in this Cold War thriller that’s part dated spy film and part creaky disaster film. Marvin had been off-screen for a few years and he effect is jarring as he looked infinitely older than his mid-fifties. The production was fraught with disaster itself, including the untimely death of both the film’s director Mark Robson and costar Shaw. Readers of LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK discovered the truth behind the finished film and the input of filmmaker Monte Hellman. Like any Lee Marvin project, though, it’s still worth viewing. 

THE RISE & FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND (1960): Friday, February 5th, 6:30 am. Dashing Ray Danton stars as the title character in this classic genre film that also proved to be the film debuts of both Dyann Cannon and Warren Oates. The Marvin connection? The film was directed by Budd Boetticher, known largely for his cult westerns starring Randolph Scott, his contribution to Marvin’s filmography gave the actor’s career a major boost. As he told yours truly in an exclusive interview, “I directed a couple of westerns and they typecast me as western director. After Legs Diamond they called me a gangster director. Go figure.” Check it out and see how veteran filmmaker put his touch on the tommy guns and molls entry.


IN COLD BLOOD (1967): Monday, February 15th, 5pm.

IN COLD BLOOD writer/director Richard Brooks (behind the camera) and cinematographer Conrad Hall behinds Brooks.


Writer/director Richard Brooks brought this Truman Capote true-crime thriller to the screen with bone-chilling reality. Shot on actual locations by Conrad Hall in stark black & white and starring Robert Blake and Scott Wilson as Dick and Perry, the Marvin connection had been recounted here the last time TCM aired the film. Watch it again but by all means, leave the lights on!

THE PAWNBROKER (1965): Wednesday, February, 17th, 6:45 pm.  
Marvin won his only Oscar for Cat Ballou (1965) but the odds on favorite that year had been Rod Steiger who plays this film’s title character. As concentration camp survivor Sol Nazerman, Steiger gives an emotionally powerful performance as a New York City pawnbroker grappling with his memories of the camp. He seemed a shoo-in for the Best Actor statue but we all know what happened that night. Marvin’s wife had other plans, Marvin himself had a plan for Steiger and the cherry on the sundae happened after the show at a nearby traffic light, all recounted in LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK. So, watch The Pawnbroker and see for yourself who was more deserving of the award that year. 

Lee Marvin backstage after winning his Oscar.



In other TCM news the Star of the Month is the great John Garfield and that alone makes for wonderful viewing. Check listings for film titles and times. So there you have February 2021 on TCM. Until next month, stay safe and enjoy classic movies!

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ROBERT SHAW & THE ILL-FATED AVALANCHE EXPRESS

Robert Shaw would have been 91 years-old last Thursday, August 9th. Sadly, he never lived beyond the age 51, dying shortly after completing principal photography on Avalanche Express, his sole costarring credit with Lee Marvin.

Old style advertising artwork for AVALANCHE EXPRESS, which was infinitely better than the film.

The old-fashioned Cold War spy thriller left Robert Ludlum and John LeCarre nothing to worry about.  Shaw played a Russian master spy defecting to the west with KGB chief Maximillan Schell hot on his trail. Shaw’s defection is arranged through the auspices of American spy master Lee Marvin who plans to use Shaw as bait to ferret out some old KGB adversaries. Mike Connors, Linda Evans, Horst Bucholtz and even Joe Namath join in on the title train’s cliche’d yarn.

AVALANCHE EXPRESS production stills from the film’s pressbook.

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are well aware of the film’s bedeviled production. For example, veteran director Mark Robson died suddenly, June 20, 1978 as principal photography was near completion, followed two months later by Shaw’s untimely passing from a massive heart attack near his home in Ireland. Producers were left in a quandary about what to do about it as some footage was actually still needed, or in some cases, reshot. Enter maverick filmmaker Monte Hellman, who took over the production in ways only Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know about thanks to an exclusive interview he gave me.

The great Al Hirschfeld’s drawing of the AVALANCHE EXPRESS costars. Can you spot all 3 Ninas?

It proved to be the great Robert Shaw’s last screen appearance as the actor was coming more and more into his own following the success of Jaws (In the role Marvin turned down) and The Sting.
It isn’t widely known but he had actually wanted to be remembered more for his writing than his acting. His play, The Man in the Glass Booth earned him a Tony Award and an Oscar nomination for the performance of his Avalanche Express costar, Maximilian Schell. The loss of Shaw’s talent can never be fully measured.
As for Lee Marvin, he had not made a film in 3 years but came out of semi-retirment just to work with Shaw. He was not disappointed as the two men got along wonderfully, making Shaw’s passing even more tragic for Marvin. He was in Ireland shooting scenes for The Big Red One when he got the news. He said at the time: “In leaving Ireland I am leaving a piece of my heart with Robert Shaw and his family.”
-Dwayne Epstein

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