GENE HACKMAN TURNS 90-YEARS OLD!

Gene Hackman, a perennial favorite of mine since I first saw The French Connection (1971) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972) in theaters, has reached his landmark 90th birthday. That’s right, as of January 30th, the legendary ‘least likely to succeed’ Pasadena Playhouse alum, who has won two Oscars and countless other accolades, enters his 9th decade but is still appreciated the world over. According to this People.com article the love for Hackman among film fans runs deep.
Having costarred with Lee Marvin in Prime Cut (1972), I never did get to interview him for Lee Marvin Point Blank which of course, is a damn shame.

Original ads for PRIME CUT featuring Marvin, Hackman, Sissy Spacek and Angel Tompkins.

It’s not for lack of trying, however. Before the days of the internet is when I did the bulk of my research and in my attempts to contact him via his agent I was was told Mr. Gene Hackman was not interested. Once I interviewed others involved in Prime Cut, such as Greg Walcott and Angel Tompkins, I could understand Gene Hackman’s reticence. The stories I got, especially from Walcott, explains why Hackman may have refused my invitation.

Lee Marvin as Nick Devlin and Gene Hackman as Mary Ann go head-to-head in director Michael Ritchie’s PRIME CUT.

Hackman was obviously not happy with the film, having just made The French Connection and on the brink of major stardom. Also, it seems very unlikely that he and Marvin, got along during the film, despite both men being ex-Marines. Why you may ask? Well, if you read my book you’d figure that out pretty quickly.

All that aside, Gene Hackman is and always will be one of my favorite actors. So for that I say HAPPY 90th BIRTHDAY, MR. HACKMAN AND HERE’S WISHING YOU AT LEAST ANOTHER 90 MORE!
– Dwayne Epstein

TIME magazine’s review of PRIME CUT. I especially love the comment about Sissy Spacek. Critics!

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SUPERSTARDOM: LEE MARVIN & THE LADIES

The Harvey Weinstein scandal being the main topic of conversation these days, such behavior is actually not that revelational among the power brokers and others who have reached a level of superstardom in show business. The term ‘casting couch’ is one of the oldest cliches in Hollywood, and as Claudette Colbert once famously said, “The casting couch? There’s only one of us who ever made it to stardom without it, and that was Bette Davis.”
So what does any of this have to do with Lee Marvin? Well, in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank the subject of sexual harassment never became an issue in my research, despite Marvin’s tendency towards boorish behavior on the occasion of some drunken episodes as detailed in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank. He could be loutish and embarrassing at times but thanks to his breeding, he always managed to pull himself back from the abyss. As his lawyer David Kagon said to me: “Lee Marvin was a truly Victorian character, particularly when it came to women. He always treated women extremely courteously. I never heard him use a word that you’d want to use, at that time, to qualify for usage in polite society when a woman was present. He always treated them very, almost as if he were Victorian. He was the kind of guy that would open a door for a woman. He’d stand up.”
Due to the kind of films he made, Marvin had little interaction with many of the actresses of the day. When he did, the results were unsurprisingly similar.  Basically, Marvin’s treatment of his female costars as he ascended into superstardom fell into three categories: Younger costars were protected in a fatherly way while veteran costars were given the utmost respect. The third category? Well, that was a rare category that may have fallen to more women had he worked with more women.

CAT BALLOU costar Jane Fonda learning some valuable lessons from veteran Lee Marvin.

His Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou catapulted him to stardom but during production, his treatment of the opposite sex didn’t change. In fact, costar Jane Fonda didn’t always see eye-to-eye when they made the film but in retrospect she wrote in her autobiography: “The producers had us working overtime day after day, until one morning Lee Marvin took me aside. ‘Jane,’ he said, ‘we are the stars of this movie. If we let the producers walk all over us, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, you know who suffers most? The crew. The guys who don’t have the power we do to say, ‘shit, no, we’re working’ too hard.’ You have to get some backbone, girl. Learn to say no when they ask you to keep working.’ I will always remember Lee for that important lesson.”
Following Cat Ballou, Marvin worked with the mostly all-male cast in the now classic rugged western, The Professionals. An exception to the testosterone-driven cast was Europe’s Claudia Cardinale…..

Claudia Cardinale and Marvin in Richard Brooks’ THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

By all accounts, Marvin’s relationship with the Italian film star was, as the title suggested, strictly professional and for Marvin that meant respectful.
A good example of how he treated a younger actress is his relationship with Sissy Spacek during the making of Prime Cut. As she is quoted in her memoir about her film debut:

Sissy Spacek and Lee Marvin in PRIME CUT.

“I loved working with Lee Marvin, and he was actually very protective of me. But he was a prodigious drinker, and he warned me to avoid him when he was inebriated. When we first met on location, I blurted out, ‘Lee, you have the greenest eyes!’
‘Yeah,’ said Lee. ‘And whenever you see them turn blue stay away from me.’
“It was true. When he’d had a few too many, his eyes turned ocean blue and everybody gave him a wide berth. But mostly he was a good guy, and very professional….I was so caught up in the filming I hardly noticed the battles going on behind the scenes. [Director]  Michael Ritchie was constantly fighting with the powers that be over the tone of Prime Cut. Michael wanted it to be more of a camp satire; the studio wanted a straight gangster thriller. Lee Marvin shared the director’s vision for the film and it led to some tense moment  on location.”
Spacek is right when she said there were some fights during production, but incorrect when she said Ritchie and Marvin shared the film’s vision. In fairness, she readily admits to hardly noticing the battles going on. Lee Marvin told it plain to journalist Grover Lewis in Rolling Stone magazine shortly after the film came out: “I’ve made some mistakes I wish I hadn’t. One of them was working with Michael Ritchie on Prime Cut. Oh I hate that son-of-a-bitch. He likes to use amateurs because he can emotionally dominate them. That chick in Prime Cut, she would’ve sucked my cock on camera if Ritchie’d told her to. One night, I wanted to rehearse a scene and he didn’t want to, so he pretended to get sick. I said, ‘shit fire, Michael. ‘ll get you a fuckin’ doctor.’ Nothing worked with that guy, and the picture just fell apart before we even got started. ” The film’s other female star, Angel Tompkins, concurred with Sissy Spacek’s assessment of Marvin. Clearly, his respect for women was maintained, despite his opinion of the film’s director. As to the handful of other female costars he worked with…

(L-R) Elizabeth Ashley, Kay Lenz and Lee Marvin in GREAT SCOUT & CATHOUSE THURSDAY. Lenz told this author wonderful anecdotes about working with Marvin.

(L-R) Roger Moore, Barbara Parkins and Lee Marvin in SHOUT AT THE DEVIL. Playing Parkins’ father, Marvin was just naturally fatherly towards the actress.

Linda Evans and Lee Marvin in AVALANCHE EXPRESS.

Then there is that rarest of third categories, of which only one is actually known. Well, maybe two if you count an extra during a film. Okay, three if you want to be speculative. To put it another way, Lee Marvin was protective and respectful to his leading ladies. However, there’s absolutely no evidence that he was abusive in any way, but was he ever romantic? Stay tuned…..
– Dwayne Epstein

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PRIME CUT COSTAR GREGORY WALCOTT ON LEE MARVIN

'cut':RitchieThe 1972 film Prime Cut remains one of the strangest of Lee Marvin’s career and one that has developed quite a cult following over the years. Marvin and director Michael Ritchie (pictured above holding camera) did not get along at all, and the Calgary, Canada location was loaded with strange and interesting anecdotes (See Lee Marvin Point Blank, pp. 191-193). Veteran character actor Gregory Walcott costarred with Marvin as a deranged henchman called “Weenie,” shown above tangling with Marvin. Walcott had some interesting thoughts about his costar not included in the text.

Gregory Walcott: “He was a strange person. I wouldn’t know from one day to the next how he was going to be. Kind of like a Jaguar I used to own. Drives great when it drove but I never knew if it was going to start the next moment. He was a strange dichotomy. I remember I had lunch with my agent one day in a restaurant on Sunset Blvd. Lee came in with his agent, Meyer Mishkin. He saw me there, came over, and sat down. He talked for a while, shaking hands. Just delightful, you know? He was great, with his white teeth shining. Then, about a year later, I went down to Tucson on a film. By then, he had moved Tucson with his wife, Pam. He came into a restaurant on that day, saw me and just said, “Oh, yeah,” and just walked right passed me. He was a strange mixture of man.”

 

In this picture below from Walcott’s collection, during the film’s production in Canada (the sunflower field in the films’ finale were actually flown in from Kansas) the sequences shot in a local flophouse included actual transients as extras. When asked to pose with some of them, Lee Marvin had no problem with the request
prime Cut bums

 

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