Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are well aware of the coverage each of Marvin’s films are given, but some times, a source is discovered AFTER publication, such as SHOUT AT THE DEVIL assistant producer, Tony Klinger.
I became acquainted with Tony Klinger via social media and it turns out, he could not have been nicer or more forthcoming in detailing the experience of working with Lee Marvin. I came in contact with him thanks to another social media source, Paul Rowlands. Paul runs a wonderful blog entitled Money Into Light which I highly recommend. In fact, he interviewed me, as well, not longer after the book came out, which you can read at this link.
When Paul interviewed Tony in January 2012, I discovered his great story about working with Lee after the book was finished. Tony spoke with me about it as well, but since he put it so succinctly when he spoke with Paul Rowlands, I can reprint it here with Paul’s kind permission and my additional graphics. Enjoy….
Paul Rowlands: How was working with Lee Marvin?
Tony Klinger: I have to admit a real preference for real people who don’t pretend to be something they’re not, and Marvin particularly fell into that category. A real man’s man, and what you saw on the screen was pretty much what you got. He was more than a bit scary, like a volcano ready to explode. One time, for SHOUT AT THE DEVIL, we were filming the sequence when the battleship Blucher was going to be discovered and blown up. It was an immense sequence involving a plane flying over that we had re-built from the original designs from the First World War, a Vickers Gun Bus. It was a real feat of engineering, and we had to build two of them and get certificates of air-worthiness before we could use them. It was a push-me plane, with the propeller at the rear of the cockpit and seats for two. The whole thing was very difficult since the reason the Vickers Gun Bus had not been widely used by the British in that War was because they weren’t too great. We had another problem at the time, and that was the rumour going round the farming community near to the river Umzimbubu, or was it the Niafu? Anyhow, I know it translates as The Watering Place for the Hippopotamus, and these farmers believed that when we were going to blow this ship up, which was a full-scale replica, it was going to be a nuclear explosion!
Lee Marvin had the day off because, in the movie, his character was supposedly somewhere else during this action sequence, but he felt we didn’t have enough extra sailors to play the Germans. Many rumours have also flown about regarding Lee’s legendary drinking capacity, but up to this point he had never drunk when he was working. I was stationed at a corner on a dusty road leading to the field of vision surrounding the battleship, with the intention of keeping it clear, and I wasn’t ready for Lee suddenly driving around the corner, dressed as a German sailor. I put my hand up to halt Lee’s progress, and he got out of his car somewhat erratically. I realised that this wasn’t a day he was called to work, and noticed his hands were full of a large case of beer, and that half the bottles were already consumed:
‘You can’t go to the set now Lee, you’re not supposed to be in these scenes.’ I said this as politely as I knew how. He looked at me with those rheumy eyes, and it was as if I was transported into a surreal version of his film CAT BALLOU (1965). He wasn’t smiling.
‘Are you going to try and stop me?’ he asked. I thought about where this was going, and despite my being a fit, strong and younger man, I wasn’t keen on a physical attempt to stop Lee.
‘No, Lee. They’re filming and you aren’t supposed to be in it.’
‘I know that. I can be another extra. I figure there aren’t enough. I can bend low and be polishing some brass work, and keep my head down’, he insisted, miming the action he was keen to undertake. I smiled and tried to shepherd him back to his car, but he was big and strong, and wasn’t enthusiastic about moving. We stood looking at one another. ‘You’re a nice kid’ he said. ‘But if you don’t get out of the road right now, I am gonna put you on your ass!’. He said it quietly, but with definite menace. My mother had always insisted you never hit the talent in the face, as it will affect the next day’s filming, and she also insisted, when I was in the school boxing team, that I shouldn’t get hit in the face. At this moment I remembered her words and weighed up the chances: either he decks me, or I manage to punch him and potentially ruin filming the next day. Discretion being the better part of valour, and Lee being awfully tough, I decided the only thing I could do was wave him through.
As he was driving through to the set, I got on my radio to the director, Peter Hunt, to tell him that Lee had insisted on being an extra, at which point Hunt proved to me why his name was perfect except for the first letter of his surname, as he berated me for encouraging Marvin to come to the set.And that’s why, if you look closely at the extras down below, as the plane flies over the battleship, the German sailor with some white hair sticking out from his cap is Lee Marvin.