POINT/COUNTERPOINT: LEE MARVIN & MICHELE TRIOLA

Point/Counterpoint, a periodic sketch that was part of Saturday Night Live’s regular news parody, Weekend Update, was always a favorite for me and my friends. The idea was a satire on an actual segment of the perennial Sunday night CBS news show, “60 Minutes.”  Liberal journalist Shana Alexander would debate conservative journalist James Kilpatrick on a given hot topic subject of the day. In the late 1970s, one of the hottest was the raging palimony suit making daily headlines in newspapers all over country.

Fragments from news services depicting the daily occurrences in court during the infamous Marvin v. Marvin palimony suit.

I don’t know if Alexander and Kilpatrick ever tackled the subject but if they did, as much as they sniped at each other, it was playful compared to the version on Saturday Night Live. Jane Curtin’s opening salvo was snarky but falls flat compared to what her on air rival Dan Ackroyd opens with. I believe it was the first time on Point/Counterpoint that Akroyd used his now infamous opener: “Jane, you ignorant slut!”
The roar from the live audience was deafening. However, it could not compare to the reaction from myself and other teenage boys watching in a buddy’s living room. Seriously. The hoots, howls, catcalls and foot stomping must have woke the neighbors that long ago Saturday night. So much so, it was hard to hear the rest of Ackroyd’s dialogue that came so fast and furious we couldn’t keep up. Thankfully, with repeated viewings, I’ve heard it many times and it sill amazes me the way words and phrases like “dried out slunk meat,” and “rapacious swamp cow,” just tumbled so quickly and viciously out of his mouth. Didn’t matter if he was wrong or right on the subject. The imagery he created boggles the mind.
Saturday Night Live is about to premiere its 45th season in a few weeks and despite its decades of controversy (some ongoing) it would be real tough to beat this gem from the 1979 season. So, with that in mind, re-enjoy Point/Counterpoint…if you dare!
Oh, and if you want to know the REAL outcome of the controversial trial, never mind other versions. Check out Lee Marvin Point Blank. The documented facts will amaze you. Read it….if you dare!
– Dwayne Epstein

Jane Curtin & Dan Aykroyd confront each other on SNL’S Point/Counterpoint.

 

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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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MICHELE TRIOLA: MEN’S MAGAZINE CONTACT SHEETS

In researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank, it was mandatory that I deal with the relationship between Lee Marvin and his pariah, Michele Triola, whether I like it or not. In doing so, one comes across a pretty strange array of, shall we say artifacts? I would check Ebay regularly (among other sources) for any rare or hard to find info on Lee and came across the above entitled items for sale. Naturally intrigued, I bid on and won it, but when I questioned the buyer of its origins, he was very mysteriously evasive. In other words, I have no idea if any of the images ever saw the light of day or even who the photographer was, for that matter. The contact sheet was undated so any time frame is purely conjecture. I’m pretty sure it was before she met Lee Marvin on the set of Ship of Fools in 1964. I’d venture a guess that the pictures were taken in the very late 50s or early 60s.

“Oh hi, Lee. Yes, I was just going to call you and…Oh hold on. I have Glenn Ford on the other line….”

Please forgive the attempted humor in the first caption. I just couldn’t help myself. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank will of course get the reference but others probably won’t. In that case, read the book to find out.
Which reminds me of something else I’d like to point out. Several reviewers stated that I was unduly and unnecessarily cruel in my assessment of Ms. Triola and to that I say they should have done the research that I did as that is where the assessment comes from. I didn’t get a chance to interview her, although I made several attempts to do so. Readers know the comments and stories concerning Michele Triola came directly from interviews I conducted with individuals with firsthand knowledge of her and her relationship with Lee. People such as Lee’s palimony lawyer, David Kagon, stuntman Tony Epper, business manager Ed Silver, and many others, all went on the record about her and I found it interesting that even though they may not have known each other, they all told similar ribald tales about her. Want to know what they were? Read the book. In the mean time, feel free to check out the contact sheets below….
– Dwayne Epstein

Contact sheet for unknown Men’s Magazine featuring Michele Triola.

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