WEIRD LEE TV MOST FANS MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT

Since TV as a medium has expanded in immeasurably weird ways over the past few years, here are some equally weird and lesser known TV appearances….with Mr. Marvin, of course, that might best be described as weird Lee TV.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, when Lee was at his most popular, not many big movie stars appeared on TV, unless it was a talk show appearance to plug a film. Lee did that too, but he was also not above appearing fairly regularly on say the odd Bob Hope comedy special. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know that he was about to walk on stage of The Flip Wilson Show when he was hit with the Palimony Suit that made headlines through out the 70s. Just one of the many weird Lee facts one can discover in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Lee Marvin with Bob Hope in the early 70s on one of the legendary comedians many TV specials for NBC.

If the concept of Marvin appearing on a Bob Hope Special seems difficult to wrap one’s head around, imagine seeing him make an appearance on the old Ed Sullivan show! He did, believe it or not, following the release of Paint Your Wagon. Since it was released successfully as a single, he sang ‘Wanderin’ Star’ backed by the Harvard Glee Club. Not surprisingly, he also went out and got soundly drunk afterward.

Hamming it up in a 70s sketch with Bob Hope and Pat Boone.

It would be hard to imagine some of his contemporaries, such as Marlon Brando or Charles Bronson, being willing to do such antics, yet, Marvin did it with gusto. In fact, his turn as gangster ‘Mad Dog’ Marvin on a Bob Hope show is especially hilarious. I don’t think the same could ever be said of Brando or Bronson.
Marvin was also not above other TV appearances, such as hosting and narrating a documentary on the Marines in WWII, or another documentary focusing on American ingenuity.
Possibly the strangest of all, especially since he was a major boxoffice star at the time, was this one from 1977, just in time for the holiday season of TV specials. Personally, I would have loved to have seen the tribute to the banjo as pictured in the ad below. Now THAT would be something to see……

Old TV Guide ad promoting a Gene Kelly variety show special featuring…wait for it… Lee Marvin!

 

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THE ARCHIVES: MY FILMFAX INTERVIEW W/ ROBERT J. GURNEY, JR

Anyone who knows me knows that with precious few exceptions, I am no fan of the science fiction genre. So, with that in mind, I’m the last writer wiling to research, interview, and write up a piece on an unsung Sci-Fi filmmaker. Enter Filmfax Magazine. You never know what you might learn and enjoy being a professional writer and writing for Filmfax is the best example of that. I had recieved a call from the peridocal’s managing editor, Mike Stein (terrific guy, by the way), telling me such an unsung filmmaker has made his presence known and wanted to speak with Filmfax. It concerned a recent book that had incorrectly stated one of his films was not meant to be a comedy, despite the laughs it garnered from audiences upon its release.
I thought it over, and eventually figured, what the hell, might even be a little enlightening on some level. I was still very much researching  Lee Marvin Point Blank at the time but needed to keep my actually writing chops up. Besides, I needed to pad my resume’ as well as my bank account as best as I could. Keep in mind, this was back in 2002, and my ability to navigate the digital highway, was tenative at best. Any research was done the old-fashioned, i.e. my local library. Not only had I not heard of Robert J. Gurney, Jr. neither had any of the stalwart genre fanatics I knew, personally. The intrigue was rising.
Turns out, Gurney was living in Marina Del Rey and had a voice like a late-night FM  radio announcer with a Southern drawl. Upon meeting with him, I discovered he was a sweet, unassuming, older gentleman with a razor-sharp memory definitely worthy of Filmfax’s auspices, beyond what his valid complaint was. The complaint, by the way, was also a natural lead for the article. Better yet was discovering his life story included eye-opening personal anecdotes with the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Marlon Brando, Roger Corman, AIP’s exectuives Sam Arkoff & Jim Nicholson, a future mutli-Oscar winning cinematographer named Conrad Hall,  and the genesis of some groundbreaking films still in dire need of rediscovery. My favorite example being Gurney’s long-lost late 50s thriller, Edge of Fury. He had a print he had not seen since its release, and because I knew someone who could transfer it to VHS, we were able to watch this strange little thriller together as I took notes on his reactions. Those are the times I love my job. So, posted below, in its entirety, is my eye-opening interview with writer/director/producer and thought-provoking racontuer, Robert Gurney, Jr.
Oh, one more thing. According to Google, at the age of 92, Gurney is still with us, but my contact information for him is long gone. If anybody who reads this knows how to get back in touch with him, please let me know. In the mean time, I give you my cover story interview with Mr. Gurney from Filmfax, 2002. Enjoy…..

Artist Harley Brown rendered the cover art for the Oct/Nov 2002 issue of Filmfax featuring my interview with filmmaker Robert J. Gurney.

Artist Harley Brown rendered the cover art for the Oct/Nov 2002 issue of Filmfax featuring my interview with filmmaker Robert J. Gurney.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 1.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 1.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 2.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 2.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 3.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 3.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 4.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 4.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 5.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 5.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 6.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 6.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 7.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 7.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 8.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 8.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 9.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 9.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 10.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 10.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 11.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 11.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 12.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 12.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 13.

Robert Gurney Filmfax interview, page 13.

 

 

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MY FAVORITE FILM FIGHT SCENES, PART 1OF 5

If working on Lee Marvin Point Blank has taught me anything, it’s shown me the value of a good fight scene. The medium is called motion pictures for a reason and outside of a good car chase, few things have had as lasting an impact on filmgoers as a well done fight scene. Like all film fans, I of course have my own favorites and for different reasons of each. So, in no special order of preference other than chronological, here are mine, some well known, some obscure, but all worthy of a second look….

1.  ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES1938

James Cagney (center) shows the Dead End Kids how to play basketball.....or else!

James Cagney (center) shows the Dead End Kids how to play basketball…..or else!

Thanks largely to my mother, I’ve been a film fan my enitre life and when it comes to classic films, Warner Brothers is my favorite studio, with James Cagney being my favorite actor in their stable. My being born in a Brooklyn tenement may have had something to do with it.
A dancer by training, Cagney was short, wiry, full of energy and, as contracted by the studio, constantly punching out taller actors in his films. They were often one punch altercations, which is why the basketball game in Angels With Dirty Faces remains one of his best fight scenes. Certainly not a fight scene in the traditional sense, but when you see the way he forces the Dead End Kids to play by the rules, it’s a well-choreographed example of a terrific one-man brawl.
Legend has it the Dead End Kids didn’t like most of their male co-stars and consequently played many tricks on the majority of them — Bogart and Reagan being prime examples. The rare exception was Cagney whom they all liked, as he did in return — with the exception of Leo Gorcey — and it certainly showed on screen. Just a great, timeless sequence in a wonderful film.

2. The Treasure of Sierra Madre – 1948
2Madre

When Lee Marvin was interviewed by Playboy Magazine in 1969 (quoted extensively in Lee Marvin: Point Blank) he spoke at length and with great knowledge on the extent of believable fight scenes in films. Topping his list was the barroom brawl in the beginning of The Treasure of Sierra Madre.
A film remembered mostly for its great performances, themes of greed, and oft-quoted dialogue (“We dun’t need any steenkin’ badges!,” “Fred C. Dobbs don’t say nuthin’ he don’t mean!”), it also contains one of the most brutal fight scenes ever. Tim Holt and Humphrey Bogart confront Barton MacLane about the money he cheated from them. The result is a lengthy, nasty fight, artistically filmed, in which no man is willing to give in, nor politely walk away until the bitter end. If you haven’t seen it, by all means do and you’ll see what I mean. If you have seen it, see it again and remember how remarkably rendered it is, even compared to anything seen today in movies.

3. Red River – 1948

Director Howard Hawks (center) works out the details of REd RIVER'S climatic fight with John Wayne (left) and Montgomery Clift (right).

Director Howard Hawks (center) works out the details of RED RIVER’S climatic fight with John Wayne (left) and Montgomery Clift (right).


John Wayne probably did more fight scenes than any other actor and a personal standout was the climax in Red River, which remains so for several reasons. I am indeed a fan of his films, and although entertaining, many of his fights scenes are either too long & comical for their own good  such as The Quiet Man & McLintock!, or wildly uneven to really be believable  as in The Cowboys & The Sons of Katie Elder.
   The fight scene climaxing Red River, is the exception that works wonderfully for a myriad of reasons. The film’s story line — a sort of western version of Mutiny on the Bounty — had the fight building from the start, and when adopted son Montgomery Clift and Wayne finally square off, it looks to be a one-punch duel.
Wayne was the very image of macho male dominance, while the closeted Clift would come to symbolize the vulnerable and sensitve rebel of the 1950s. It was a grduge match of seperate agendas which by definition seemed to doom Clift. Early in the fight Wayne even says to Clift, “Won’t anything make a man out of you!” After Wayne’s first few punches, the audience is amazed to see Clift not only get up, but knock Wayne on his equally surprised ass. It’s a great moment (despite the film’s ridiculous summation) that we’ve been waiting and hoping for and when it happens, it’s worthy of whoops and hollers!

4. The Adventures of Don Juan – 1949

Errol Flynn (or most likely his stunt double) leaps to adversary Robert Dougas in the thrilling climax of the sword fight THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN.

Errol Flynn (or most likely his stunt double) leaps to adversary Robert Dougas in the thrilling climax of the sword fight THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN.

Few actors can actually be said to be synonomous with a given genre, but in the case of Errol Flynn, he owned the once popular genre of swashsbucklers. Attempts to revive the genre over the years have not faired well simply because there are no Errol Flynns left in the world. He had style, panache, a devilish grin and a manly physique that was perfectly suited for period costumes. I was a huge fan of most of his films that have aged better than the actor’s reputation. All are worth viewing but a personal favorite for me was his last great attempt at the genre, The Adventures of Don Juan. He makes fun of his public image throughout the film but when it came to the expected sword fight finale he is unparalled. Not a trained fencer but a naturaly gifted athelete, even in the twilight of his greatness, Flynn delivers with such memorable dialog as “The sword is too good for a traitor. You die by the knife!” The expansive sets, Oscar-winning costumes and eye-popping color would distract from the viewing in the hands of lesser actors  –Stewart Granger and Cornel Wilde come to mind — but to the underrated Flynn, he fits in and towers over the proceedings as no one else ever did. When it came to actually delivering the goods, he proved to be downrigth vicious! Along with Robin Hood it is undoubtedly his best work.
5. On The Waterfront1954

Marlon Brando as ex-pug Terry Malloy (left) taunts Lee J. Cobb's crooked union boss John Friendly (right) into a fight into a nasty street brawl.

Marlon Brando as ex-pug Terry Malloy (left) taunts Lee J. Cobb’s crooked union boss John Friendly (right)  into a nasty street brawl.

The repressive 1950s were marked by several social phenomona, not the least of which was the notorious blacklisting of suspected Communists in the film industry. Volumes have been written about it as well as the way in which On the Waterfront played a role in the dark proceedings. Director Elia Kazen had named names before thr House Un-American Activities Commitee and rumored to have made Waterfront partly as an explanation for his testimony. To bring praise upon the informant, in this case Marlon Brando’s character of Terry Malloy,  the supposedly once close relationship between the two men was forever shattered by the blacklist as Brando never spoke to Kazan during the film unless he had to. Whether any of those things are true is still speculative. What remains is the effect of this documentary-style film.
The film climaxes with a brutal fight between Brando’s Terry Malloy and Lee J. Cobb’s John Friendly, which is equal parts symbolism and realism. Why is it on this list? Brando, arguably the greatest actor who ever lived, is impressive, but that’s not the reason. It’s all about Lee J. Cobb. A primal force of nature, Cobb never got his worthy due as an actor, other than essaying the original stage role of Willy Loman in Death of Salesman. Self-conscious about both his size and non-existent hairline, the bewigged Cobb seems to be angry at Brando’s character in the film but even more bitter over his role in cinema’s pecking order. He bites, kicks, punches and scratches Brando in the scene. When Terry Malloy fights back, John Friendly sends in his goons to finish the job.
In short, it isn’t the beating Brando withstands that makes the scene a favorite. It’s the astonishing brutatlity of Cobb that puts the classic film on my favorites list. Besides, Brando gets beaten up all the time but Cobb, he’s the stand out!

Next installment, a few surprises!

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