MITCH RYAN TURNS 92 TODAY!

Mitch Ryan, the veteran actor of film, TV and stage has turned ninety-two years old today! He made his film debut in his twenties in the Robert Mitchum cult classic, Thunder Road (1958), returned to the stage and then didn’t make another film until his appearance as Shorty in the Lee Marvin classic, Monte Walsh (1970). Naturally, it was his work in that underrated western that made him the subject of my intense interest. In fact, here’s a story  that I’ve never told publicly before that I think says volumes about the man’s character.

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Mitch Ryan and Jack Palance in MONTE WALSH.

I had attempted to interview him several times over the years but the attempt was often in vain. Lee Marvin’s lawyer, David Kagon, knew Ryan and contacted him for me while I was in Kagon’s office. Ryan was polite but firm. He said he had to honor Pam Marvin’s wishes and not speak to me.
Okay, flash forward a few years and I’m still working on the book and attempting more interviews. I don’t recall how but I came in contact with Ryan again. This time, however, he was infinitely more receptive and agreed to a phone interview. The result was one of the most revealing and useful interviews I ever got as he was a great friend to Marvin throughout the remainder of his life. Our talk can be read in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank and it is both impressive and poignantly revealing.
After the book came out, Jeff Mantor invited me to a Q&A Book signing at his legendary store, Larry Edmunds Bookshop on the dirty boulevard of Hollywood. He encouraged me to invite a celebrity who knew Marvin to help sell books. Not many of my interview subjects were still around but when I asked Mr. Ryan…..

Mitch Ryan at the Larry Edmunds book signing enthusiastically shows off his prized possession.

 

What a guy, huh? I’m telling ya, not just a wonderful actor but a true mensch. We dined at Musso & Franks before the signing (on my publisher’s dime) and had a wonderful time at the signing itself. I can’t say enough about this great man so happy birthday, Mitch, and here’s to many more. You’re aces in my book! And thanks to your help, it’s a NY Times bestseller!
– Dwayne Epstein

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LEE MARVIN’S BEST MOVIES? NOT EVEN CLOSE!

Lee Marvin’s best? That’s a pretty subjective concept. After all, one man’s meat is another man’s poison but still and all, some things along such lines are pretty obvious.  “The 5 Best Lee Marvin Movies” is the title of a recent blog entry I came across by chance on the web and the concept is the subject of this blog.
I’m not really big on chiding other writers but the author’s choices leave much to be desired. The title alone is somewhat irksome: “The 5 Best Lee Marvin Movies.” Why only five? Wouldn’t ten be more appropriate for such a lengthy career? And his choices! If you can’t see the link I included above, here’s what he chose:
5. The Wild One
4. The Big Heat
3. Cat Ballou
2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
1. The Dirty Dozen
Can you see the problem I had with the choices that were made? Three of the five are not even Lee Marvin movies in the strictest sense. Marvin had supporting roles in The Wild One, Big Heat and Liberty Valance. Granted, they were great scene-stealing roles, but supporting roles, nonetheless. They are all better known as Marlon Brando, Glenn Ford & John Wayne movies and Lee Marvin would be the first one to say it. All the films (and more) are of course recounted and detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank, by the way. It also includes Marvin’s input into these roles as well as what he thought of each of them.
While I applaud the effort made in the end to encourage others to seek out Marvin’s films, doing so by this list would make someone wonder what’s the fuss about Lee Marvin since he apparently was merely a villain in the 1950s & 1960s. The author barely recognized the fact that Marvin was a major star in the 1960s & 1970s.
I’m not and never have been a fan of “Best Lists,” which is why there isn’t any on this blog site. However, if one were to attempt a list of Lee Marvin’s best, here’s a good start, at least in terms of what might make someone a fan. Consider the following a sort of starter kit. If after viewing these films, you’re still not a fan, then you never will be.
– Dwayne Epstein

The Professionals, 1966.

Point Blank, 1967

Monte Walsh, 1970

Emperor of the North, 1973

The Big Red One, 1980

 

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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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