ANNIVERSARY OF DEATH: MY MEMORY OF LEE MARVIN’S PASSING

The anniversary of someone’s death is never a fun subject to deal with no matter who it is. However, since this blog is dedicated to the life, work, and legacy of Lee Marvin, deal with it I must. To put it bluntly, on August 29th, 1987, Lee Marvin passed into eternity at the premature of sixty-three.
I have of course blogged about it previously, in fact pretty much every year this blog has been in existence (here, here, and here for example) I’m not a fan of such as things as I’d much rather celebrate the man’s life, not his passing, as I said. Be that as it may, it must be done and that’s when I realized, I actually hadn’t written about my own memory of his passing. Well, this being the anniversary of his death, here it is.
I was working in New Jersey as a waiter at the Sandalwood Inn Restuarant which was connected to the Holiday Inn — Exit 8A off the Jersey Turnpike, if you’re in the neighborhood. Anyway, I was just about to start my shift when the bartender gave me a copy of the Trenton Times to peruse. She then asked, “Aren’t you a Lee Marvin fan?” The paper was open this particular page…

Page of the Trenton Times heralding the passing of Lee Marvin.

I find it interesting that for reasons I still don’t recall that after all these years, I’ve still kept that particular clipping that informed me of this death. Keep in mind, this is almost a decade before I started work on the book.
My thoughts of his passing? I was saddened by it but not as much as I was by the passing of say, Steve McQueen or John Lennon several years prior and a mere month apart.
It did stay with me and certainly resonated. Once I later took on the project, I quickly discovered the effect his passing had on some folks, especially those closet to him, such as Mitch Ryan, Ralph O’Hara, first wife Betty Marvin and son Christopher. The stories they told had me empathizing with their loss in a way I never had before, especially Ralph O’Hara. I won’t repeat the poignancy of their loss, except to say you can read their accounts in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
I still wonder why I kept that clipping. Foreshadowing? Perhaps. I do know one thing for sure. he left us way too soon. It’s cliche’ but true: So long Lee. We hardly knew ya.
– Dwayne Epstein

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LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK: PEOPLE AND PLACES, PART I

Before Lee Marvin Point Blank was even published in 2013, the people and places it showed up with surprised even me. For instance, publisher Tim Schaffner sent an advance review copy to publicist Mike Phillips who chose to waste no time in digging in, even if it meant taking it along to his work out….

Publicist Mike Phillips shares the advance copy with fellow gym members.

Once it did come out, I was quite gratified to see where and with whom it showed up. Of course, how one reads it is entirely up to the reader. take for instance Lee Marvin fan, Bill Consolo, who seems to have found a Hebrew version….

Bill Consolo reads what appears to be a unique copy of Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Of course, even some celebrities have taken to help promote the book. When I did a book-signing at Larry Edmunds Bookshop, I was fortunate to have Mitch Ryan, Lee Marvin’s Monte Walsh costar, agree to appear….

Mitch Ryan, clearly excited to get his copy of Lee Marvin Point Blank.

At the same book signing, and much to my surprise, I finally got to meet up with veteran stage, film and TV actor, Ron Thompson. He had a dual role in one of my favorite films, American Pop, playing both Tony and Tony’s son, Little Pete. Ron and I became friends via Facebook and we had talked about meeting up a few times. His appearances at the book signing and later, his favorable opinion (third from the bottom) of my work was one of the most rewarding personal experiences I’ve had thus far.  While he was there, he received his own surprise as the lady who accompanied Mitch Ryan was an old friend of Ron’s that he had not seen in years! See what can happen when you come to one of my book signings!
-Dwayne Epstein

(L-R) Author Dwayne Epstein, American Pop’s Ron Thompson and his long lost friend, Claudette Sutherland.

 

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LEE MARVIN’S LUMP-IN-THE-THROAT MOMENTS, PART 1

A recent thread on Facebook gave me the idea for this blog entry concerning ‘lump-in-the-throat’ moments. Due to the kind of films Lee Marvin made, that kind of emotional impact on audiences were not always readily apparent. However, in researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, it did indeed become apparent when having to happily watch and/or rewatch all of his performances. He actually had several such lump-in-the-throat moments in his career and to my mind, there are a couple on both film and television, even within the realm of such genres as war film and westerns. Go figure. First up, on screen….

The look in Jeanne Moreau’s eyes as she gazes into Lee Marvin’s speaks volumes in this scene from Monte Walsh.

Although he was disappointed with the way the studio tampered with director William Fraker’s final cut, Marvin has said that the elegiac western Monte Walsh remains one of his favorite films. Probably because the film’s poignant message of an aging cowboy with nowhere to go still packs a punch. The message is quietly stated by costar Jack Palance, who tells Marvin, “Nobody gets to be a cowboy forever, Monte.”
A personal relationship with costar Jeanne Moreau may be another reason the film resonated for Marvin. In one scene in particular, without giving away the ending, he had never been more touching. He simply absorbs the moment and allows us to feel what he is feeling and it works every time. The film then quickly shifts moods into a thrilling climax involving Mitch Ryan but again, no spoilers here. See it for yourself and you be the judge.

The poignant climax to The Big Red One with Lee Marvin as the unnamed sergeant and a frail, young concentration camp survivor.

Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One, an epic and episodic WWII memoir remains one of Lee Marvin’s best performances and for my money, should really have been his cinematic swan song. He’s a wizened, old war horse throughout the film but a powerful and amazing climax involving a liberated concentration camp culminates with the most impressive, stoic performance that Marvin has ever given. Once again, no spoilers. Simply see it for yourself and make your own judgment. I dare you not to be moved by it.
– Dwayne Epstein

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