GORKY PARK: MARVIN’S LATTER DAY BRILLIANCE

Gorky Park (1983), director Michel Apted’s adaptation of the popular Martin Cruz Smith thriller, was not well-recieved when first released but it may be worthy of re-evaluation. There are several reasons I say this but the main reason, is of course, Lee Marvin’s performance.

Lee Marvin as Jack Osborne in Michael Apted’s GORKY PARK.

It was not only one of the actor’s last films, it would be the last time he would play a classic villain, as he had earlier in his career. I don’t want to give a spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the film (which I highly recommend) so simply the premise will suffice here. It’s a complicated ‘whodunit’ in which Soviet-era police detective Arkady Renko (William Hurt) is tasked with finding who is responsible for the three mutilated bodies found in Gorky Park. There are several suspects and among them is shady American businessman, Jack Osborne (Marvin). To Marvin’s credit, as good as he looks in uniform, he looks even more impressive in the dapper expensive suits his character wears.  Watch the way he carries himself, as well. The brilliance mentioned are the touches the actor adds that are clearly not in the script. Dressing after a day at the sauna, he uses the back of his index fingers to straighten his collar and expensive tie he admires in the mirror. Then there’s the way he dallies the cat-and-mouse dialog with adversarial Hurt.

(L-R) Lee Marvin as Jack Osborne, William Hurt as Russian police detective Arkady Renko and Ian Bannen as Renko’s superior.

I genuinely believe it’s one of Marvin’s best performances that creates a through line of sorts to his career. Think of Paul Newman as the idealistic lawyer Anthony Lawrence of The Young Philadelphians (1959), and then the tragic alcoholic Frank Galvin of The Verdict (1982). There are other such examples to be made but I like to think that in Jack Osborne’s wilder youth he was not unlike the dapper yet violent Vince Stone of The Big Heat (1953). See Gorky Park and judge for yourself, of course.
As for the film, I was fortunate enough to interview British director Michael Apted for Lee Marvin Point Blank and his insights as to the films success and/or failure is on the money, as well as the fascinating anecdotes about its production. So check it out again wherever possible and give Lee Marvin’s performance a second look. I think you’ll pleasantly surprised.
– Dwayne Epstein

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FOR THE RECORD: ADDITIONAL LEE MARVIN VINYL SOUNDTRACKS

Since records are making such a comeback, I thought I’d post images of the remainder of my Lee Marvin vinyl soundtrack collection. First up, the four record set of The Iceman Cometh, the eventful filming of which is detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank. The album consists of the entire audio of the film, a pamphlet about the play and this really impressive original cover art. Trying getting all that on CD!

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The Iceman Cometh Soundtrack cover

In 1976, Marvin made two films for drive-in fodder studio AIP as they attempted to class up their stable. Much money was spent on Shout at the Devil but the soundtrack was an inexplicable French release. …..

Maurice Jarre’s score for the film is melodic but certainly not on par with his more impressive work for David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia & Dr. Zhivago, or evern Richard Brooks’ The Professionals. The best reason for listening? Lee Marvin & The Barflies rendition of “Shagging O’Reilly’s Daughter.” It just has to heard to be believed…

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Shout at the Devil soundtrack cover

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Shout at the Devil soundtrack back cover

 

Lastly, James Horner’s score for Michael Apted’s Gorky Park, a decent film worthy of rediscovery, if only for Marvin’s wonderful performance as Jack Osborne and Horner’s haunting “Tubular Bells”-like main theme…..

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Gorky Park Soundtrack

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UNPUBLISHED QUOTES FROM LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK

 

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Lee Marvin on the cover of Parade Magazine

Only son and eldest child, Christopher Marvin: He had an effect with a lot of things, like the way he held a glass. He always had that and you see all those people doing that stuff now. He had that kind of trademark in the movies… But he was a real tender gentleman, too. He and I had some real delicate time as well; soul-searching stuff, working together with my father, which I really admire. I appreciated it. I don’t think very many people really have that.

L.A. Times film critic Charles Champlin: Marvin was an interesting man. In some ways, a tragic figure. You always had the feeling about Lee Marvin that there was more work that should have been done…Cat Ballou of course was just a classic piece of film acting and film making, really…. I also have one of those memories of Lee Marvin explaining in Stanley Kramer’s Ship of Fools how he never made it in baseball because he couldn’t hit a curve. That’s my memory…

Cult film director (Two-Lane Blacktop [1971]) Monte Hellman & uncredited director of Avalanche Express (Point Blank, pp. 213-214): He was a very conscientious actor. He was fun to work with. I think of him as a movie star and he had tremendous ease with what he did. He was just really easy and fun to work with. I admired him a lot. I really loved watching him.

Cult director Sam Fuller: He was a no-bullshit guy. Behind his rough-tough guy appearance was a soul as sensitive as the one of a poet. I really regret not having done more films with him. A real pro. Never got in your way. Enhanced every shot with his incredible physique and talent. We never had one mean word or bad feeling between us…. I feel privileged to have worked with him and to have known him.

Director Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter), The Chronicles of Narnia) and Gorky Park: He was a real joy. He’s one of my best memories of working with actors in my whole career. Anything I think I could add to increasing his esteem in the world of film acting, I would love to do because I think he was a terrific actor…This generation, probably never heard of him. It’s frightening. I loved Point Blank. I always liked watching him. I thought that was a terrific piece of work…. I always liked him from the very beginning.

 

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