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.

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LEE MARVIN & THE LADIES: ROMANCE?

The allegations against Harvey Weinstein are far from being considered a ‘romance’ but what is it called if flirtations or mutual feelings develop between costars? For Lee Marvin, who only had true romantic leads opposite female costars in only a handful films, the known results of a possible romance are three, based on my research. Of course, there may even be more as Marvin knew the meaning of discretion. As Betty Marvin told me, he was known to have fallen off the fidelity during their marriage but it was never anything one would consider a romance.
Who were the known three? Well, Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know with as much details as I was able to get.

Co-star Barbara Luna at the time she appeared in SHIP OF FOOLS.

Prior to my research, most Lee Marvin fans only knew the version of how he an Michele Triola met on the set of Ship of Fools based on what she told the media leading up to the palimony suit. The truth, however, as witnessed by such participants as Barbara Luna and friend Ralph O’Hara, is VERY different and exclusively documented in my research.

Lee and Michelle shortly after they began dating during SHIP OF FOOLS.

Then of course there’s the amazing Angie Dickinson. I was extremely fortunate enough to spend the day with her during my research and the results were fascinating. She worked with Lee more than any other actress, and to my mind, that was no accident (M Squad, The Killers, Point Blank, Death Hunt, and several Bob Hope TV specials).

Lee and Angie in THE KILLERS, their first film together.

I can’t really add anything here to what I already wrote in the book, other than the surprising results of an interview I considered a holy grail and was forewarned about by the A&E Biography producers. It was how I finally met her in-person and was told she wasn’t very forthcoming for their purposes. Naturally, that made me a little reticent when I finally sat down with here, especially since I wasn’t sure if there were aspects about her life & career that may put her off, such as the JFK assassination that happened just prior to The Killers. Believe it or not, she did indeed open up about that period, at least to the extent that it had to do with the project and Lee. Everything that she told me went in the book, or later, posted here in a previous blog entry. The only thing I can add is what Christopher Marvin told me off-the-record that I can now post here. He volunteered the following encapsulation: “Angie and my dad…WOW!” He didn’t elaborate of course, but truth be told, I  didn’t think he had to.
Lastly, there was a costar who proved to be not only Lee Marvin’s one true moment of onscreen romance, but even more so offscreen. Marvin went out of his way to get the actress to agree to costar with him and when she relented after he came to Paris, the results were true sparks in front of and behind the camera…

Contact sheet images of Jeanne Moreau and Lee Marvin while making MONTE WALSH.

The images from onset candid photographs included here tell the story better than any words can possibly convey. The look on Lee’s face as he talks to her, the way she brushes  his hair back, even the fact that they are completely oblivious to director William Fraker walking behind them, says volumes.

Jeanne Moreau brushes Marvin’s hair back while they speak.

MONTE WALSH director William Fraker walks behind Marvin & Moreau completely unobserved.

Costars such as Mitch Ryan and others were aware of the chemistry between the two stars, as were some of Marvin’s closest confidantes. In fact, when Marvin surprised his associates by announcing his marriage to Woodstock’s Pam Feeley after the film wrapped, the biggest surprised was that it wasn’t Moreau. According to Mitch Ryan, they actually discussed it but as Ryan said, Marvin didn’t want to move to Paris: “Can you see me living in Paris?” he told him.
Since Moreau proved to be his most romantic leading lady onscreen, and their scenes together are some of the best in the film, it does make you wonder: What would have happened if he had more romance onscreen than gunplay? Sadly, we’ll never ever know.
– Dwayne Epstein

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LEE MARVIN PASSED ON THIS DAY IN 1987

It doesn’t seem possible but on this day in 1987, Lee Marvin passed away at the premature age of 63. I’m often asked if I ever met him but since I began the project in 1994  I missed out on that possibility by a number of years. Writing about the end of life and his final days proved quite a challenge, as one would imagine. Luckily, I was able to speak with seveal people close to the actor at the end of his life, incldudng son Christopher, good friend Ralh O’Hara and Marvin’s Monte Walsh co-star, Mitch Ryan who visited Marvin in the hopsital the day he died. The end result was a different, detailed, and largely overlooked version of his passing then what was reported in the media at the time. Lee Marvin Point Blank’s firsthand account of the actor’s death differs from say, the article below, published in the now defunct L.A. Herald-Examiner in both major and minor ways…
EXAMINER-OBIT1

 

EXAMINER-OBIT2

 

Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank may have noticed some minor discrepancies in the above obituary, such as the fact that Marvin never had to pay any nominal fee to Michele Triola or that his sciatic nerve was not severed from the wound he sustained on Saipan. These are of course minor comapred to the write-up done in People Magazine a week or two later. Once again, readers will not the differences….
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The tabloid-style periodical meant well but it is not known for its accuracy.

Perhaps the best way to remember the actor at the time of his passing was what he said of himself. Marvin became good friends with Dr. Harry Willner when the actor gave his Emmy-nominated performance in People Need People, based on Willner’s pioneering research with group therapy on injured veterans. Willner invited Marvin to his symposium of experts on the existence of evil. The actor was flattered and did give a brief statement at the event. As Willner writes in the intro to his book on the subject, Facing Evil, Marvin was scheduled to return, but alas, his passing made that impossible. Below is the dedication to Facing Evil…..
SALADO

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