LEE MARVIN MAKES LIKE……JERRY LEWIS TELETHON??

Just because I spent nearly 20 years researching Lee Marvin for my book Lee Marvin Point Blank, does not mean I’ve seen everything about him, as I recently discovered this little gem of him which is eerily reminiscent of the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

Lee Marvin, yes, Lee Marvin in the early morning hours of the WHAS telethon.

Anyone not old enough to remember the Jerry Lewis Telethon to benefit those stricken with Muscular Dystrophy, is missing out on a hard-to-explain show business phenomenon the likes of which we’ll probably never see again. Every Labor Day, Jerry Lewis would stay on the air for 22 hours while he begged for money to help his kids. In between were local and major business people, novelty acts, Broadway acts, community volunteers, lots of Vegas acts and literally the biggest names in show business (John Lennon, anyone?). My friends and I looked forward to it every year for one specific reason: Come 3: 00 in the morning, Jerry would get really weird, nasty, snarky and hilarious. “Gimme the damned check and get the hell of the stage,” was said more than once by the King of Comedy. With our dark senses of humor, my friends and I loved it! But I digress..

Jerry Lewis with one of Jerry’s kids on the annual Jerry Lewis Telethon aired every Labor Day.

This clip below was something I recently came across and was quite surprised to see Lee Marvin making like Jerry Lewis. Apparently, it was from 1959, around the time that Marvin was doing “M Squad” and my guess is he was talked into it by his agent, Meyer Mishkin, who always was looking to raise Marvin’s profile where ever and whenever possible. Know as the WHAS Crusade for Children, it still exists to this day as one of the longest running telethons in broadcast history. Named for the station’s call letters out of Louisville, Kentucky, and benefitting local children stricken with Cerebral Palsy and the like, it began in 1954, serving Kentucky and southern Indiana.
In watching the clip, you gotta give Marvin his props. He’s smooth and likable with the kids on live TV and even though he has a cheat sheet binder, he can hold his own with Jerry Lewis any day. It’s dated, it’s blurry and clunky, but watch to the end and the kid with the glasses and bowtie. Hey it’s live TV. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein

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HAPPY HEAVENLY BIRTHDAY, TOSHIRO MIFUNE

The first of April is known to most folks as April Fool’s Day (or Easter this year!) but to some observant film fans it also the birthday of Lee Marvin’s favorite co-star, Toshiro Mifune. Lee Marvin Point Blank readers are well aware of Marvin’s feelings for Mifune.

Original release ad for HELL IN THE PACIFIC, Marvin & Mifune’s only film together.

Marvin’s affection for Mifune was rare for a man of his generation and despite the difficult circumstances during their one project together, their friendship grew and lasted until Marvin death in 1987.
Mifune was a legend in the Japanese film industry, due largely to his collaboration with director Akira Kurosawa. He achieved the rarely seen success of international celebrity in the burgeoning film market of the postwar years, including a handful of American films despite his inability to speak English. It did not matter as his appeal required no words. As Lee Marvin famously said of Mifune: “This guy hypnotizes you with his genius. Those eyes! The battered samurai warrior standing alone, not wanting outside help.”

(L-R) Toshiro Mifune, Lee Marvin, Michele Triola and Mifune’s wife, Sachiko Yoshimine.

Of the one film they made together, Hell in the Pacific is given it’s just due in Lee Marvin Point Blank. Other sources for its production are detailed in director John Boorman’s memoir, Adventures of a Suburban Boy and Stuart Galbraith’s IV mammoth tome, The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune.  Personally, I found it to be a noble failure as both allegory and filmmaking. Upon the heavily edited version released to theaters at the time, Marvin himself felt the same way but, despite it’s reception,  it remained on of his personal favorite films. It’s not without its merits, chief among them being the two actors’ presence and the eye-popping cinematography of Conrad Hall.

(L-R) Cinematographer Conrad Hall (seated), Lee Marvin, director John Boorman and Toshiro Mifune on location during HELL IN THE PACIFIC (1968).

While Galbraith and Boorman give wonderful accounts of the rigorous production, both seem to lack insight into the one element that seems to accompany any Lee Marvin project, and that is humor. Thanks to exclusive interviews with Lee’s first wife, Betty Marvin and his career-long agent, Meyer Mishkin, I was able to secure several hilarious anecdotes to put in my book that would have been lost to time had they not agreed to open up to me.
Still in all, Hell in the Pacific is worth viewing, if only for the powerful presence of both Marvin and Mifune, two actors at the top of their game in a film personal and important to them both. Watch it again for the great Mifune’s heavenly birthday and when Marvin shouts out “Come and get it!” raise a sakazuki in the great man’s honor.
– Dwayne Epstein

Director John Boorman’s 2003 memoir, Adventures of a Suburban Boy.

Author/Historian Stuart Galbraith’s massive 2001 tome, The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune.

 

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LEE MARVIN BIOPIC CAST POSSIBILITIES: PART I

When I first began working on Lee Marvin Point Blank, the idea of a biopic never occurred to me, but since it made the NY Times Bestseller List, a biopic now seems like a natural follow-up. So, with that in mind, why not consider the possibilities of a biopic cast?
Who could play the lead is a great topic of conversation already explored in two previous blog entries. However, it might be interesting to consider the important supporting characters in Lee Marvin’s life and work for a biopic cast. Granted, readers of the book never knew the individuals personally that I wrote about, but through various photos and anecdotes, I think it’s possible to get a handle on some of these folks.

First up, there’s Lee’s career-long agent, Meyer Mishkin.

Lee Marvin & career long agent Meyer Mishkin.

“Little Mish,” as he was called in the business, was dwarfed by the six foot-three Marvin but as the actor’s friend, mentor, advisor and father figure, the wise little fella was the only one capable of keeping Marvin in line. So, with that in mind, there are several choices to consider. The most obvious to my mind, are the likes of Seth Rogan or Jonah Hill. Heck, if he were not so Italian looking, Joe Pesci would be worthy.

Actor Paul Giamatti

However, Paul Giamatti (who despite his name looks much less Italian), comes on as a strong candidate having played similar parts in the past (Cinderella Man, Love & Mercy, Straight Outta Compton, etc).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An even stronger candidate is an actor who was actually once a client of Meyer Mishkin’s back in the 1970s, around the time he won the Oscar for Best Actor.  I spent the day with Mishkin interviewing him about his time with Lee Marvin. At one point, I asked him if having this actor as a client, with all his well-known scandalous behavior at the time of drug abuse and DUI arrests was worst or better than Lee Marvin was as a client. The bemused Mishkin just rolled his eyes. The actor?

Meyer Mishkin’s former client, Richard Dreyfuss.

 

Richard Dreyfuss hasn’t done much acting over the last few years and at 70, he’s quite a few years older than Giamatti, but personally, I think he would jump at the chance at playing his former agent and career builder.

Next up for consideration, based on what I wrote about in my book, would be Lee’s first wife, Betty Marvin. I got to know her as well and could humbly add that we got to be friends. The best words to describe her would be funny, understanding, independent, wise and self-sacrificing, at least in terms of her husband and children. Many actresses today could fill the role expertly.

Betty and Lee Marvin early in their marriage.

Several come to mind, of course, such as Laura Dern, Julianne Moore, Jessica Chastain, Kristin Wiig, Laura Prepon, Vera Farmiga, Gwyenth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, and the like.

However, once again there are two stand-out possibilities. First, Joan Allen, an actress of whom the very first time I remember seeing her in a film, reminded me of Betty Marvin in so many ways.

Multi-Oscar nominated actress, Joan Allen.

She’s taller than average like Betty, bears a resemblance and conveys similar personality traits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other possibility is probably and even stronger candidate than Joan Allen based on the same attributes. Remember the late 1990s ABC sitcom Dharma & Greg? Well, the break out star of that show, Jenna Elfman, is my pick.

Dharma & Greg’s Jenna Elfman.

She’s built very much like Betty was in those days and has the quirky sense of humor, as well.

As to the other woman in Lee’s life around that period of time, there’s the juicy role of one Michele Triola.

Marvin and his ‘last minute date’ Michele Triola at the Oscars after he won Best Actor for Cat Ballou.

By all accounts from my research she was fun to be around in a bawdy kind of way, at least when it came to her relationship with Lee. Apparently, she was also cunning, vindictive and fame-hungry at any cost. To be blunt, the kind of character any actress would love to portray. The likes of Carla Gugino, Rachel Weisz, Marisa Tomei or Helena Bonhma Carter come to mind.

From my research, and having seen her play a similar role in American Hustle, I’d add Amy Adams in the mix as a strong candidate.

Hotter than hot actress, Amy Adams as Michele Triola?

To my mind, there is another strong possible candidate as far as this generation of actors are concerned. I don’t know if she has the acting chops to pull it off but she has also played someone similar on the sitcom That 70s Show, and that’s Mila Kunis.

Current headline maker, actress Mila Kunis.

There are other important roles to fill, such as Lee Marvin’s family, his co-workers/friends, etc., but I’ll have to leave that for Part II. As Johnny Carson used to say, more to come. But until then, feel free to add your own thoughts in the comment section below.
– Dwayne Epstein

 

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